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

David Corcoran
Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays
Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays / Tom Szczerbowski/GettyImages
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Joe Carter and Cito Gaston (July 30, 1999)

When you are the last player to touch the baseball in both World Series victories there is a good chance you will forever be remembered as a legend.  Joe Carter caught the final out during the 1992 World Series against the Atlanta Braves and then hit the biggest home run in franchise history to win the1993 World Series in the bottom of the ninth in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Phillies.  At the time of his retirement, Carter had just passed Bell by one to take the franchise lead in home runs with 203.  Carter spent seven seasons in Toronto, was named an All-Star five times and added a pair of Silver Slugger Awards. The only season he did not record 100-RBI was the 1994 season that was shortened due to the player strike. 

Accompanying Carter to the Level of Excellence in July 1999 was his manager during his tenure in Toronto, Cito Gaston.  It would be hard to find many managers that had as much major league success that Gaston had in the early part of his career.  Gaston took over for Jimy Williams 36 games into the 1989 season with the team 12 games under .500.  Under Gaston, the club played .611 ball for the remainder of the season and won the AL East pennant.  In Year 2, the Blue Jays took a bit of a step back, but were able to win the AL East pennant in three consecutive seasons from 1991 to 1993.  In total during Gaston’s first five seasons he won four AL East Pennants, two American League Championships and two World Series championships.  The second part of his managerial career was not nearly as strong as the start, but the beginning had cemented him as the top manager in team history.

Tony Fernández (September 23, 2001)

Tony Fernández is the only player that was still playing when he was added to the Level of Excellence. In the finals days before Fernández would go into retirement, the Blue Jays honored him prior to the game on September 23, 2001.  Fernández would come in as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning and collect his final hit at the Skydome with a single before being lifted for a pinch runner.  Fernández played parts of 12 seasons over four different stints with the Blue Jays.  The Dominican-born infielder would win four consecutive Gold Gloves during the 1980s, while being named to four All-Star Games and had a career Blue Jays batting average of .297.  Fernández is still the franchise leader in Defensive WAR, games played, hits and triples.

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