Rounding Things Out
Designated Hitter – Jose Canseco (1998)
Best Season: (1998) – 46 home runs, 107 RBI, 29 RBI, .237 AVG and .318 OBA
Imagine a team that would start the season with two starting pitchers who each won the last two Cy Young Awards, adding one of them winning it again that season, and also having three hitters collect at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI. That was the story of the 1998 Toronto Blue Jays who finished just two games out of the playoffs.
A story about that season can be for another time, so we’ll get back to this one. One those power hitters was the poster boy for steroids Jose Canseco. Canseco signed a one-year deal in Toronto for just over $2 million for the season and produced at a way higher rate than his contract. Canseco led the team with 46 home runs that season, which currently is the third highest single season mark by a Blue Jay, and was also a career high for him. He was also second on the team with 107 RBI and shockingly his 29 stolen bases finished third on the team.
Canseco would leave after the 1998 season in free agency to Tampa Bay during his tour around the league, as he finished his last eight seasons playing for seven teams.
Starting Pitcher – Frank Castillo (2000)
Best Season: (2000) – 10-5, 3.59 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 104K
Going into the 2000 season GM Gord Ash signed a pitcher with over 200 career games, but couldn’t crack a major league roster the season before. Ash capitalized and signed Frank Castillo to a one-year deal at 375K, which turned out to be a steal of a deal for the Blue Jays and gave Castillo the opportunity he needed to get his career going again.
Castillo cracked the rotation out of Spring Training and while it originally looked like a mistake as after four starts he had a 1-3 record with a 9.00 ERA, he started to turn things around in May. From June 2 on he did not lose another game going 9-0 with a 2.84 ERA. Even with his horrible start to the season, Castillo still finished second on the team in wins and first in ERA among starters.
Castillo would turn his 2000 season into a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract with the Boston Red Sox.
Closing Pitcher – B.J. Ryan (2006-2009)
Best Season: (2006) – 2-2, 38 Saves, 86K, 1.37 ERA and 0.86 WHIP
If you remember B.J. Ryan it is typically for not the happy memories. In 2005, the Blue Jays finished with Miguel Batista as their closing pitcher and while he had 31 saves, he also had a 4.10 ERA which wasn’t anything you’d feel confident in closing out games. Toronto went out and signed All-Star closing pitcher B.J. Ryan to a five year $47 million dollar deal, which at the time was the largest contract signed by a reliever in Major League Baseball history.
As I stated at the beginning, If Ryan is remembered it was more due to his inability to stay healthy. Ryan was around for the four years, but was only really able to play in two of them. In his first season with the Blue Jays he was selected to the All-Star Game as he posted a 1.37 ERA to go with 38 saves. He finished the season averaging almost four and a half strikeouts per walk, and a 10.7 K per nine innings.
Over his tenure with the Blue Jays, Ryan had Tommy John surgery and suffered a strain to his trapezius muscle, which eventually led to the Blue Jays releasing him midway through his fourth year. Ryan would try to work his way back in the Cubs organization, but after a couple weeks he did not feel any healthier and he retired.
So which players do you agree with? Who should have been put on the list? Who did you forget were Blue Jays.