Blue Jays do the right thing honouring Tony Fernandez this season
The Blue Jays will honour a franchise legend throughout the 2020 season, wearing a patch with the number 1 of Tony Fernandez.
The Blue Jays family endured a devastating loss earlier this year when Tony Fernandez passed away at the age of 57 due to complications from polycystic kidney disease. While it won’t help to ease the pain of the loss of a legend, thankfully the organization has decided to take a major step in honouring his legacy with the team.
On Monday the Blue Jays announced that they will wear a #1 patch on their jerseys this season, which of course is the number that Fernandez donned throughout his career in Toronto. And what a career it was.
The Blue Jays signed Fernandez as an international free agent way back in 1979, and he definitely rewarded them for that decision. He was a 5x All-Star, a 4x Gold Glove award winner, and received MVP votes in four different seasons, finishing as high as eighth in 1987. His MLB career spanned 17 years, and he spent parts of 12 of those seasons as a Blue Jay. He finished his career with a slash line of .288/.347/.399 with 94 home runs, 414 doubles, 92 triples, and 844 stolen bases, good for 45.3 bWAR. As a Blue Jay he was even better, slashing .297/.353/.412 over 5900 plate appearances.
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The switch-hitter was often one of the more underrated players on the Blue Jays’ roster, but he was arguably as important to the success of the franchise as anyone. He was there in the eighties when the team was transitioning from a young franchise into a legitimate contender, and thankfully he was back in time in 1993 to collect a much-deserved World Series ring, having missed out in 1992. For those that have forgotten, even in leaving after the 1990 season he made a major contribution to the Blue Jays, as he and Fred McGriff were shipped to San Diego in order to acquire Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter, and it’s hard to imagine back-to-back titles without that pair.
There were all kinds of reasons to like Fernandez, but the fact that he kept coming back always endeared him to my family and I. He ended up having four different stints with the Blue Jays, starting from 1983-1990, returning in 1993 at the trade deadline for a few months and a key post-season contribution, a third time for two seasons from 1998-99, and finally, finishing up his career in 2001 with a 48 game stint. And in case we had forgotten, Fernandez reminded us all of his talent one last time, as he slashed .305/.323/.424 as a 39-year-old over that final run.
The Blue Jays legend is already part of the “Level of Excellence”, so taking this step feels like the right one for a star that was lost far too young. We might remember him for the fact that he’s still the franchise leader in games with 1,450, hits with 1,583, and triples with 72, but I hope you’ll also remember an individual who started the Tony Fernandez foundation (helping disadvantaged kids in the Dominican Republic), and the sincere smile that reflected a very kind soul.