Spring Training and the Grapefruit League schedule are almost through, and we are continuing our look at the Top 100 Blue Jays in team history. In the first instalments so far, I looked at players ranked 21-100 and today I’ll look at the next five on the list. This is an opinion based on accomplishments and career stats with the club.
20. Fred McGriff (1986-1990)
The Blue Jays acquired Fred McGriff as a 19-year old prospect from the New York Yankees in 1982. He would display power hitting abilities in the minor leagues which resulted in him becoming a regular in the line-up in 1987. During his rookie year he would hit 20 home runs and then go on a streak of hitting 34+ home runs for three consecutive years after that.
McGriff would receive votes for AL MVP in each season from 1988-1990 and won the Silver Slugger award in 1989 when he led the league with 36 home runs to go with 92 RBI and also led the in OPS (.924). McGriff would become a major piece the San Diego Padres acquired in what has now become the most famous trade in Blue Jays history when he was packaged with Tony Fernandez for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar.
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McGriff only played four full seasons in Toronto, but currently sits 11th on the All-Time list with 125 home runs and finished with a 19.4 WAR, which is 13th in franchise history (among positional players).
19. Paul Molitor (1993-1995)
In his first season with the Blue Jays in 1993, he had one of the greatest single seasons in team history and if you include playoffs it was likely the best season by a Toronto player. Molitor finished second in AL MVP voting which was due to him throwing up a slash line of .332/.402/.509 while posting 37 doubles, 22 home runs, 111 RBI and 22 stolen bases. The regular season had him play in the All-Star Game and win the Silver Slugger Award.
If you can believe it, his postseason was even better. In the ALCS against the Chicago White Sox, Molitor went 9 for 23 (.391) with four extra base hits, which helped the Blue Jays reach the World Series for the second straight season. It was Paul Molitor who scored the winning run on the Joe Carter’s home run to win the World Series. Molitor took home the World Series MVP after going 12 for 24 (.500) with 10 runs scored and six extra-base hits (two doubles, triples and home runs). In total in those 12 playoff games, Molitor hit 10 extra-base hits and went 21 for 47 (.447).
Molitor followed up in 1994 with a slash line of .341/.410/.518 before the Strike shut down the season. Molitor would leave after the 1995 season to finish his career off for his hometown Minnesota Twins. He currently holds the highest career batting average (.315) in a Blue Jays uniform. He also sits 26th in stolen bases while only playing on the team for three years and between his age 36-38 years.
18. Roger Clemens (1997-1998)
If you are wondering how a player that played just two seasons in Toronto could finish so high on the list, ask Raptors fans who is the best player in team history and many will argue Kawhi Leonard. Roger Clemens had the two best seasons of any pitcher and arguably any player in franchise history.
Clemens signed on with the Blue Jays in free agency after already having a Hall of Fame career in Boston. He immediately impressed by throwing a complete game win in his debut, striking out nine and allowing just one run. Clemens would go on to lead the league in wins (21-7), ERA (2.05), complete games (9), shutouts (3), innings pitched (264) and strikeouts (292). Clemens would strikeout at least 10 batters on 14 occasions that first season on route to his first of two Cy Young Awards in Toronto. “The Rocket” was just as good his second season as he won 20-games for the second straight season.
Unfortunately, Clemens would request a trade after his second season and would be shipped to the New York Yankees. Clemens currently holds the Blue Jays record for the highest career winning percentage, along with the top two single season strikeout records.
17. George Bell (1981-1990)
The best Rule 5 pick in franchise history was when the Blue Jays selected George Bell in 1980. Bell would go on to play seven full seasons in Toronto and hit 20 home runs in each of those years except one and had a career year in 1987 when he became the Blue Jays first AL MVP award winner. That season Bell would hit 32 doubles, 47 home runs and a league leading 134 RBI while posting a slash line of .308/.352/.605. To go with his AL MVP, he also finished fourth in voting on two other occasions. Bell won three Silver Slugger awards with the team and was named to two All-Star Games.
Bell left in free agency after the 1990 season just before the real glory years came in Toronto. When he left Toronto, his 47 home run season held up as the highest total until Jose Bautista broke the record in 2010. He currently sits fifth in franchise history in doubles and sixth in home runs.
16. John Olerud (1989-1996)
The Blue Jays selected John Olerud in the third round of the 1989 MLB Draft and he played no minor league games before joining the team for the first time that September when he went 3 for 8 over six games. He became a full-time player the following season, which eventually led to the club being able to trade Fred McGriff to acquire Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar.
Olerud was always a solid hitter, but he took it to a new level in 1993 when he led the league in doubles (54), batting average (.363) on base percentage (.473) and OPS (1.072), which helped him in being named to the All-Star Game and finish 2nd in AL-MVP voting.
Olerud would be the starting first baseman for both Blue Jays World Series victories. During those two postseasons, Olerud posted a batting average of .296 while collecting six extra-base hits and nine RBI. After the 1996 season the Blue Jays would trade Olerud to the New York Mets for Robert Person. Olerud currently holds the sixth best career batting average (.293).
In the next edition, we will see legends from the 1980’s, among a couple others.