Toronto Blue Jays Level of Excellence: What is it and who is in the elusive club?

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays
Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays / Tom Szczerbowski/GettyImages
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A lot of teams around sports tend to honor their teams legends by retiring their numbers, which makes the digits ineligible to be worn by any futures players. 

In the Blue Jays case, they have decided to retire just one number (previously two) and that being Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay.  Starting in 1996 the Blue Jays have decided create the Level of Excellence and have the players' names and numbers displayed on the facing of the upper deck at the Rogers Center, but still the numbers worn by future players.

While we go through a bit of a quiet period over the Christmas Holidays, I have decided to take a look back through the history of the Blue Jays organization and who have received the honors.

George Bell and Dave Stieb (April 9, 1996)

During the home opener for the 1996 season, management introduced the Level of Excellence with the two most valuable Blue Jays of the 1980s in George Bell and Dave Stieb.  The two were easy selections to be the first to go to the 500 Level as Bell was a three-time Silver Slugger with the club and most impressively was the first, and just one of two, AL-MVPs the club has ever produced when he won the award in 1987.  When Bell was named to the Level of Excellence he was the franchise leader in home runs with 202, however he has since dropped to sixth place.

There are now a couple of generations that never got to watch Stieb pitch, but he was truly something special.  He is arguably the best pitcher to ever wear the Blue Jays uniform and the debate between him and Roy Halladay is an enjoyable one.  If you haven’t had a chance to watch “Secret Base” YouTube production on Captain Ahab: The Story of Dave Stieb, I strongly suggest you give it a view as it gives a great breakdown of Stieb’s career and how he was robbed of a few Cy Young Awards in the 1980s. 

Stieb was the ace of the pitching staff for almost a full decade as he made seven All-Star appearances from 1980 until 1990.  He had a six year stretch where he posted a combined 3.07 ERA, throwing a total of 77 complete games ,19 shutouts and had four consecutive seasons of at least 265 innings pitched.  In 1986, Stieb battled through some injuries that saw an outlier in his numbers where he went 7-12 with a 4.74 ERA but rebounded to finish off the decade.  From 1987 to 1990, Stieb posted a 64-31 record with a 3.33 ERA.  The only thing that Stieb did not have during his career was wins, as he helped the team through the building years of the franchise from expansion.  In total, Stieb posted 175 wins over 15 seasons which leads the franchise.  Stieb is still the leader in almost every franchise pitching record, including WAR, innings pitched and strikeouts and is the only pitcher in team history with a no-hitter.