Blue Jays: All-Time 25-Man Roster, Part One Rotation
It’s been a tough couple of weeks for Blue Jays fans. Not only did they watch hopelessly as their team fell painfully short of the postseason, but a couple of all-too-familiar foes find themselves on the doorstep of the World Series.
It’s a time like this that Jays’ supporters should remember that the future is bright with many young stars under team control for the next several years.
This period also presents us with the ability to look back on the rich history that is Blue Jays baseball. This is part one of the Blue Jays’ all-time roster, starting rotation.
Blue Jays Starting 5: Roy Halladay
There was zero hesitation on my part in putting Halladay at the top of this staff. Just thinking about his dominant run in blue gets me fired up, and emotional. Simply put, “Doc” was the Jays’ heart and soul for a decade-plus. As great as his stuff was, Halladay’s durability was truly special.
He led the league in complete games seven times, including five years in a row. Four times Halladay had more innings pitched than anyone, he finished top-5 in Cy Young voting seven times and won it in 2003.
As impressive as his numbers are, Roy Halladay was class personified on the mound. The respect he had amongst the players, managers, fans, and everyone else around baseball was palpable and he’ll always be remembered fondly by Jays’ nation.
In addition to being known for his relentless competitiveness and his fiery personality, Dave Stieb also became famous for his near-miss no-hitters. Four times Stieb carried a no-no into the ninth inning. He does remain the only Jays pitcher to finish the job, holding the Yankees hitless on September 2nd, 1990. Similarly, here Stieb comes close to claiming the top spot on this fictional starting staff.
One of the first great pitchers in Blue Jays history, Stieb played 14 of his first 15 seasons in Toronto and even came back for a short stint in 1998 after four years out of baseball. He made seven All-Star teams, won the 1985 ERA crown, and led the AL in innings pitched twice.
After facing two, tough right-handers, made-up all-time teams will have to deal with the calm, cool lefty, Jimmy Key. My favourite pitcher as a young fan learning the game, Key always seemed to be in control, no matter the situation.
This is not a purely sentimental selection, however. Key had the AL’s lowest ERA in 1987 (2.76) a year in which he finished second in Cy Young voting. He spent nine seasons in Hogtown, earned three All-Star appearances, and topped 200 innings six times.
Key rose to the occasion when it mattered most, excelling during the Blue Jays run to the World Series in 1992. He won two games and only surrendered a single run over 12 playoff innings.
Say what you will about Roger Clemens’ temperament or his lack of tenure, but you can’t say much about his production. Two seasons, two Cy Young Awards, two years leading the league in strikeouts. He also led the AL both years in ERA, ERA+, and FIP. He had the lowest WHIP in 1997 and the lowest HR/9IP in 1998.
Toronto was the perfect stopover for Clemens for him to get his career back on track. After two sub-par (by his standards) seasons to end his tenure with Boston many speculated that the “Rocket” was done. He heard the haters loud and clear and parlayed his strong performance with the Jays into a career that would somehow last another decade.
Perhaps more than any other pitcher in this rotation, Pat Hentgen had to really work hard to accomplish all he did. A fifth-round pick out of Fraser High School in Michigan, Hentgen broke out during the 1993 season with a 19-9 record, a 3.87 ERA, and a sixth-place finish in CY Young voting.
Hentgen continued his strong showing in the strike-shortened 1994 season, earning his second All-Star nod. Hitters started to figure him out the next season, as his ERA ballooned to 5.11 and he led the AL in hits and earned runs.
Some adjustments were made, and Hentgen found himself atop many a leaderboard over the next two seasons. He led the league in complete games (10), innings pitched (265.2), and HR/9 (0.7) in 1996 on his way to capturing the Cy Young award, the first time a Blue Jays pitcher won. He also led in complete games, innings pitched, and shutouts in 1997 and earned his third All-star appearance.
The Blue Jays have been blessed with many great starting pitchers over their history, but these are the best five, in my opinion. Stay tuned as this series on the All-time Jays roster continues.