Blue Jays: All-Time Roster Part Two, Battery and Infield

Graeme Wallace
TORONTO, ON - MAY 23: Josh Donaldson #20 of the Toronto Blue Jays makes the play and throws out the baserunner in the third inning during MLB game action against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Rogers Centre on May 23, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Josh Donaldson
TORONTO, ON - MAY 23: Josh Donaldson #20 of the Toronto Blue Jays makes the play and throws out the baserunner in the third inning during MLB game action against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Rogers Centre on May 23, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Josh Donaldson /
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Now comes the hard part. 44 years of Blue Jays baseball have gifted us fans with a plethora of great players. Picking a roster’s worth of them was never going to be easy.

No matter what I’m going to be leaving some pretty great players off of the list, and that’s okay. You can’t make everyone happy, and this is supposed to be fun. So, I’m going to have fun with this and pick the players I feel deserve it.

I should preface this by saying I’m not including any of the young stars. Their careers are just starting, and they’ll be included in future lists like this.

Battery

This could be a tough call, but, for me, it’s a cinch. Ernie Whitt was the Jays catcher throughout the 1980s and was a leader on some very good ball clubs. He achieved an OPS+ of over 100 every year from 1983-1989 and hit at least 11 homers in each of those seasons.

Whitt was a productive hitter, but his work with the pitching staff can’t be ignored. Five times during his tenure the Blue Jays finished with a team ERA under 4.00, including a franchise-low 3.31 in 1985, Ernie’s lone All-Star season.

Ernie Whitt Blue Jays
UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1989: Ernie Whitt #12 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on during batting practice prior to the start of a Major League baseball game circa 1989. Whitt played for the Blue Jays from 1977-78 and 1980-1989. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

There are several options for backup. Pat Borders, Russell Martin, and Darrin Fletcher are all good candidates but I’m going in another direction. Whitt averaged 126 games played during his prime so a good teammate who won’t whine about playing time is what I’m looking for.

Who could fit that bill better than Buck Martinez? Known for his self-deprecating humour, Buck would be fine with getting into a game or two a week. His vast knowledge and understanding of the game would help him serve as an extra bench coach as well.

Infield

There are a few viable players who could fill the first base position. From “The Crime Dog” Fred McGriff to John Olerud to the current standard of Vladmir Guerrero Jr., Toronto has had many gifted first-sackers.

The best of the bunch, however, is Carlos Delgado. Known for his smooth, uppercut swing and million-dollar smile, Delgado hit 336 of his 473 career homers for the Jays, a club record. Three times Carlos exceeded 40 home runs in a season, and he hit at least 30 eight years in a row from 1997-2004.

Carlos Delgado Blue Jays
Carlos Delgado of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a solo home run in the second inning against the Texas Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington, TX, on 06 August 1999. Delgado added a second solo homer in the seventh and a third in the eighth. AFP PHOTO PAUL BUCK (Photo by PAUL BUCK / AFP) (Photo by PAUL BUCK/AFP via Getty Images) /

Now, I know I stated earlier that the young stars of the franchise will be left out this time. That doesn’t mean I can’t include a veteran who was on the team this past season. Marcus Semien had not only the best season by Jays’ second baseman but one of the best by any second baseman, ever.

His 45-homer, 102 RBI, 7.1 WAR, 115 runs scored masterpiece has put him squarely in the conversation for the most sought-after free agent on the market.  In this reality anyways, Semien is immortalized in Blue Jays history.

If I had to name my favourite player in Blue Jays history, it would have to be Tony Fernandez. I was lucky enough to meet Tony, in his prime, at a summer camp one year. He was so happy, so generous with his time, and a great teacher of the game. The picture I have of him is one of my prized possessions.

Fernandez won four straight Gold Gloves from 1986-1989 and was voted an All-Star in three of those seasons. Although his trade to the San Diego Padres set the stage for the 1992 World Series run, he was able to re-join the team for the 1993 dash to the title.

Tony Fernandez
TORONTO – 1987: Tony Fernandez of the Toronto Blue Jays bats during an MLB game at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, Ontario, Canada during the 1987 season. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Third base also provides many great choices. Kelly Gruber was a fan favourite with his aggressive approach to the game and his mullet-style haircut. Troy Glaus was a big-time free agent signing in 2006, but his Jays tenure lasted just two seasons.

Josh Donaldson was also here for a good time, not a long time. His arrival in 2015 sparked the Blue Jays to back-to-back ALCS appearances. His performance in his first season in Toronto was a tour de force. He led the league in runs scored, RBI, and total bases on his way to becoming to second Jays player to win AL MVP.

He followed that up by finishing fourth in MVP voting with a 37-home run season in 2016. Despite missing 49 games the next year, Donaldson still launched 33 more bombs in 2017. Things soured between the star third baseman and the franchise over the next year and he was dealt to Cleveland.

For the utility infield spot, I went with Aaron Hill, who failed to consistently match or live up to the promise he showed during his breakout 2009 campaign. The 286., 36 HR, 37 doubles, 108 RBI gem he put up is by far his best season. However, Hill enjoyed a solid six-year stretch with the club.

Next. Blue Jays: Mets reportedly approached Mark Shapiro to fill President vacancy. dark

He only played 16 games at shortstop in his career, something he’ll get more of a chance at as this team’s primary utility infielder.

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