Which Blue Jays Squad is the Greatest?

April 21, 2020

               Source: Mike Blake/Reuters

 

43 Seasons. 7 playoff appearances, 6 American League East Division titles, 2 World Series championships. What Toronto Blue Jays team was the best in franchise history? I will tell you who and why, as well as give you my top 5 and what arguments can be made for the other four:

 

  1. 1992: 96-66, 1st World Series Championship

  2. 1993: 95-67, 2nd World Series Championship

  3. 1985: 99-62, 1st AL East Division Title

  4. 2015: 93-69, 1st ALDS Series Win

  5. 1987: 96-66, Missed Playoffs Due To Late-Season Collapse

 

YOU CAN MAKE AN ARGUMENT FOR:

 

1993: 95-67, 2nd World Series Championship

 

Although this pitching staff was not near as deep as the year before, the 1993 team had arguable the deepest offensive lineup in the franchise's history. Led for the 1st two-thirds of the season by "WAMCO" (White-Alomar-Molitor-Carter-Olerud) this team could score runs by the buckets and do it in all different ways. They only had 1 player (Joe Carter) with 30 or more home runs, but led by being the 1st team in 100 years to having the top 3  leaders in batting average on the same team led by John Olerud who won the batting title hitting .363 while flirting with .400 for much of the season. 

 

Management even added the best lead-off hitter of all time and stolen base king Rickey Henderson to play in left field making the batting order even deadlier down the stretch and into the post-season.

 

The starting rotation was still solid, when giving quality starts would be all they needed to line up for a win with that crazy offense. This would also be the one and only season that Duane Ward would be the team's closer with Tom Henke having moved on in free agency, saving 45 games which to this day is still a single-season club record and was nothing short of lights out.

 

They would once again win both the American League Championship series and World Series in 6 games apiece, as this time they knocked out the Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies to win it all for a 2nd straight year capped off by Joe Carter's walk-off 3-run home run in the bottom of the 9th of Game 6 marking also to this day only the 2nd time that has happened in World Series history.

 

Winning back-to-back was not the expectation but experience was this team's best friend as no other club was able to overtake them when it was all said and done.

 

1985: 99-62, 1st AL East Division Title

 

To this day, the 1985 Blue Jays still hold the record for most wins in a single regular season in club history en route to winning the 1st American League East division title and playoff appearance in year 9 of the franchise.

 

They had a lot of balance with both pitching and hitting like the 2 World Series Championship teams did, led by manager and Hall of Famer Bobby Cox who steered the team in the right direction to put them over the top and get into the postseason, edging out the New York Yankees by just 2 games when they played each other at the old Exhibition Stadium on the final weekend of the season and the famous catch by left fielder George Bell going to his knees celebrating arms raised up in the air.

 

It would end disappointingly however, as they blew a 3-1 series lead in the ALCS to the Kansas City Royals which labeled the franchise as "chokers" in the upcoming years following this heartbreaking letdown until squashing that label twice after finally winning it all in '92 and '93.

 

Although it did end in bitter disappointment, any longtime Jays fan that can remember will never forget memories of the "Drive of 85".

 

2015: 93-69, 1st ALDS Series Win

 

This would mark the 1st time in over 2 decades since Joe Carter's walk-off home run in 1993 that the Toronto Blue Jays did the following: Make the playoffs, clinch an American League East division title, win 90 games and finish with a better record than the New York Yankees whom just like the very 1st time they won the division 30 years prior was the team they needed to beat and finish ahead of in order to get over the hurdle of what was by far the longest playoff drought in the franchise's history.

 

They had the best starting rotation since then, picking up ace David Price at the trade deadline for the 1st such move since getting Cone in '92. Offensively this team was a juggernaut featuring "The Big 3" of RF Jose Bautista, DH Edwin Encarnacion and 3B Josh Donaldson in the middle of the order that all had roughly 40 home runs and 110 RBI's led by Donaldson who would become just the 2nd player in club history to win the American League MVP.

 

This would also mark the 1st time the Blue Jays would play in the American League Division Series, an extra round of playoffs that was added just after their '92 and '93 runs. It didn't start so well losing the 1st 2 games at home to the Texas Rangers but would find a way to win the 2 down in Arlington, bringing it home for a Game 5 victory that featured the craziest and wildest 7th inning most remembered for the Jose Bautista "Bat-Flip" 3-run home run winning their 1st postseason series since '93 only to lose in 6 games ironically also like 30 years prior to the Kansas City Royals.

 

This was a season that put the Blue Jays back on the map in Toronto sports giving the city a buzz for baseball that an entire generation of fans had never seen before.

 

1987: 96-66, Missed Playoffs Due To Late-Season Collapse

 

After finally getting over the hump to get into the postseason in 1985, the team had a trend where they won the division every other year and would miss it on every even-numbered year, until finally getting in on one in 1992 which pushed them over the top and won the World Series.

 

The Boston Red Sox won the East in 1986, 1988 and 1990 while the Blue Jays took it in 1985, 1987, 1989 and 1991. Wait, except for the year that they did and then didn't. This 1987 team is tied for the 2nd best regular season record in franchise history behind only the 99-win '85 team 2 years prior with 96 wins, tying them with the '92 team that won their 1st World Series and better than any other team in the club's history that made the postseason; even the '93 team that won their 2nd World Series Championship.

 

So what happened? Why did they miss the playoffs? In what was known as the "Collapse of '87" (which many compared to blowing a 3-1 lead in the ALCS known as the "Collapse of 85" and many differed as to which one was worse) this team, led by the 1st-ever Blue Jays American League MVP George Bell was a wrecking machine top to bottom as they were 2 years earlier.

 

They were in 1st place by 3½ games over the Detroit Tigers with a week left to play, then dropped their last 7 games of the season capped off by a sweep in Tiger Stadium on the final weekend of the season, losing the division by 2 games. Of course these are back in the days where only 1 team per division made the playoffs, and only 4 teams in all of Major League Baseball would get in overall, and while to swallow it certainly made you appreciate the times you did get in.

 

It was a bitter ending to what was otherwise a fun season to watch for the Boys in Blue, as yearly frustration started to mount as to when will we finally win it all.

 

THE BEST

 

1992: 96-66, 1st World Series Championship

 

The 1992 team had the best and deepest pitching staff, top to bottom in franchise history both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen. Going into the post-season that year with a rotation of Jack Morris, who became the 1st ever 20-game winner in club history followed by David Cone, acquired just prior to the waiver August 31st trade deadline was an ace himself and one of the best in the game at the time.

Your 3rd starter was 2nd-year hurler Juan Guzman, who when healthy was good as anyone since breaking into the big leagues the year before.

 

Then enter veteran and long-time Blue Jay lefty Jimmy Key, who although he did not get a start in the American League Championship series against the Oakland A's as manager Cito Gaston decided to go with a 3-man rotation for that series, started Game 4 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves and pitched a masterpiece in what would be his final start in a Blue Jay uniform, also getting the win in extra innings relief in the clinching Game 6 going 2-0 as the Jays would go on to win their 1st World Series Championship in franchise history.

 

You have those 4 guys with both Todd Stottlemyre and David Wells in the bullpen, who would have been on a lot of teams rotations top 4 at the time. To top it off you had 2 legit closers in Tom Henke and Duane Ward, a 1-2 punch who once the team was leading a game after 6 or 7 innings it was simply lights out.

 

The offense had a lot of thump in the lineup, as the batting order possessed a great combination of power and speed with CF Devon White, 2B Roberto Alomar, RF Joe Carter, DH Dave Winfield, 1B John Olerud, LF Candy Maldonado, 3B Kelly Gruber, C Pat Borders and SS Manuel Lee. The bottom-3rd of the order was mostly there for its defense, but the 1st 7 hitters in the order could do damage in multiple ways at any time.

 

This team top to bottom was a force to be reckoned with most specifically the biggest strength being their pitching with great defense behind them, featuring a couple of gold gloves in the middle of the diamond (White and Alomar).

 

This team was under a lot of pressure to exorcise demons of the franchise's past before them that "must" and "needed" to win, and they finally delivered.

 

CONCLUSION

 

There is a case to be made on paper and on the field for every one of these 5 teams listed as the best the city of Toronto has ever seen with their baseball team, but in the end when ranked 1-5 fairly or unfairly it was who executed when it counted the most.

 

 

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