Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.
Toronto Blue Jays Mt. Rushmore
The Toronto Blue Jays began play in 1977 along with the Seattle Mariners. It took the Jays six seasons to escape the cellar, but the team managed to win a division title as soon as 1985. Having competed in the same division as the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox during their entire existence, the Jays have always had tough competition. Their success has been pretty compact with all five postseason appearances in the span of nine years from 1985-93, culminating in back-to-back World Series titles. The Jays have finished above the breakeven mark in 20 of their 38 seasons heading into 2015. Success has been difficult to come by in recent seasons. They’ve won as many as 88 games just once (1998) since the title seasons of 1992-93, and finished in the upper half of the five-team AL East just once in 20 years (2006). Toronto was once the envy of all of other MLB teams when attracting fans. During the team’s heyday in the early 1990s, the Jays topped 4 million three successive seasons. However, since the strike in 1994, attendance hasn’t reached 3 million in a season.
Although he ranks behind Dave Stieb on most of the career lists, Halladay dominated the American League while he was Toronto. He made his debut in 1998, but joined the rotation full-time for good in 2002. From 2002-09, Halladay made six All-Star teams and was in the top five in Cy Young voting six times as well, winning the award in 2003 with 22 wins. Over that span, Doc Halladay averaged 16-7 and 214 innings.
The slick-fielding shortstop made three All-Star teams, won four Gold Gloves and amassed 1,583 hits for the Blue Jays. He’s the Jays’ all-time leader in games and hits, fourth in runs and total bases. Fernandez was traded back to the Blue Jays in June of 1993, and teamed with Alomar to give the Jays one of the best defensive middle infields in baseball. Fernandez rapped out seven hits and nine RBIs in the six-game World Series win over Philadelphia.
The Hall of Fame second baseman essentially launched his Hall of Fame career in Toronto. He spent just five seasons in Toronto, but made five All-Star teams and won five Gold Gloves. He finished sixth in MVP voting three times while with the Blue Jays. He averaged 90 runs and 41 steals in his five seasons and batted .307.
The likeable Carter doesn’t rank in the top five in any category other than RBIs, but no Blue Jays fans will ever forget him jumping with joy after his walk-off home run off Mitch Williams to end the 1993 World Series. Carter anchored the lineup in the No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the batting order for the two championship teams.
Few GMs have had as positive an impact on a franchise as Pat Gillick had in Toronto. The Hall of Famer built the team that captured the back-to-back titles in 1992-93.
The leader in franchise wins, Dave Stieb was the team’s ace throughout the 1980s and made eight All-Star teams.
Tom Henke is the all-time leader in saves with 217.
Carlos Delgado, the catcher-turned-first baseman, leads the franchise in runs, homers and RBIs.
Cito Gaston managed the Jays to their two World Series titles.
Slugger Jose Bautista should hit his way into the discussion before he's through in Toronto.
Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com
Other teams' Mt. Rushmores: