The 10 best Blue Jays teams in franchise history

·9 min read
Joe Carter's 1993 Blue Jays headline the list of the best teams ever fielded by the franchise. (Getty)
Joe Carter's 1993 Blue Jays headline the list of the best teams ever fielded by the franchise. (Getty)

The Toronto Blue Jays have fielded some incredible teams since they came into existence in 1977.

Here are the 10 best squads in Blue Jays history, in no particular order. Unless you agree with it, in which case it is one hundred percent on purpose.

2003

Regular-season record: 86-76

Season result: No postseason berth

Manager: Carlos Tosca

Roy Halladay’s Cy Young season didn’t result in a playoff berth for the Jays, but it was a memorable one in many other ways. The Hall of Famer’s dominance cemented his legacy in team history and led a number of impressive accolades that year. Halladay won the Cy Young award and was named an All-Star in a 2003 season that saw him pitch 266 innings with a 3.25 ERA and a league-leading 6.38 strikeout-per-walk ratio.

Halladay’s greatness was matched by the likes of Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells, who had incredible years at the plate, which included Delgado’s league lead in RBIs, OPS and OPS+ and a second-place MVP finish. He and Wells were All-Stars that year, as Wells led MLB in doubles and hits.

But despite these stellar performances, the Jays lacked consistency. Halladay, then 26, was the only starter in the Jays rotation with a winning record (or an ERA under 4.50, for that matter).

The Blue Jays ended up posting an 86-76 record, third in the American League East. In the days preceding the second wild card for each league, it wasn’t enough to catch up with the 101-win New York Yankees or the 95-win Boston Red Sox.

2010

Regular-season record: 85-77

Season result: No postseason berth

Manager: Cito Gaston

Fourth place in the AL East and 10 games outside of a playoff spot doesn’t look too impressive at first glance. But now, look a little closer.

The Blue Jays hit 257 home runs in 2010, a mark that remained the franchise record until 2021. Behind Jose Bautista’s 54 long balls and 124 RBIs, Toronto’s Rogers Centre was one of the most vibrant ballparks in North America. Six other guys added 20 homers or more, including Wells’s 34 and Edwin Encarnacion’s 21.

On the mound, Ricky Romero led the way with a 3.73 ERA over 32 starts and a young Brett Cecil continued progressing in his sophomore season.

2020

Regular-season record: 32-28

Season result: Lost in wild-card round

Manager: Charlie Montoyo

The abbreviated pandemic campaign gave Blue Jays fans a first taste of a promising new era that is just now hitting its full stride. It also gave the team’s young core a first postseason experience, even if just for a couple of games.

The signing of left-handed ace Hyun-Jin Ryu was the headline of the year. Add that to the continued development of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, along with a Silver Slugger season for Teoscar Hernandez and it’s pretty clear why the 2020 Blue Jays made this list.

Toronto bowed out of the playoffs after a two-game sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, but that year in Buffalo was the beginning of great things.

1987

Regular-season record: 96-66

Season result: No postseason berth

Manager: Jimy Williams

What’s worse than winning 91 games and missing the playoffs? Winning 96 games and missing the playoffs.

The Blue Jays’ heartbreak of 2021 wasn’t the first (and likely won’t be the last) near-miss for the franchise. Back in 1987, before wild cards and when only two divisions existed in each league, the Detroit Tigers captured the AL East title with 98 regular-season wins against the Jays’ 96 — thanks in large part to a collapse in the final week of the season that saw them lose seven games in a row. In the AL West, the Minnesota Twins made the playoffs with 85 wins.

Still, that was a special Toronto team.

George Bell captured his sole career MVP award thanks to 47 homers and his league-leading 134 RBIs, along with a .308 average and .957 OPS. Tony Fernandez wasn’t far behind, winning his second of four consecutive Gold Gloves in addition to hitting .322 with an .805 OPS. Fred McGriff, in just his second major-league season, sported a .881 OPS that signalled great things to come.

Jimmy Key was the Blue Jays’ ace, leading the league with a 2.76 ERA and finishing second in the AL Cy Young race behind Roger Clemens.

1985

Regular-season record: 99-62

Season result: Lost in ALCS

Manager: Bobby Cox

This season earned Bobby Cox a Manager of the Year title, and rightfully so. Even before his team took the field, expectations were sky-high, and Cox made sure to get the most out of all his players.

In addition to young stars such as Bell and Fernandez, the Blue Jays had the consistent production of Jesse Barfield and the speed and steal threat of Lloyd Moseby.

Dave Stieb led the fray from the mound, as the Jays had four starters in their rotation finish the regular season above 200 innings pitched, all four with ERAs below 3.80. Stieb’s All-Star season saw him lead all of baseball with a 2.48 ERA.

This top-to-bottom efficiency gave the Blue Jays the American League East title. Toronto ended up losing the American League Championship Series to the Kansas City Royals in seven games – a heartbreaking finish for a fanbase that believed this team had what it took to win it all.

2021

Regular-season record: 91-71

Season result: No postseason berth

Manager: Charlie Montoyo

Oh, the "what ifs."

The Blue Jays' nomadic season will certainly live on in baseball lore. The team had three different home cities in the span of a single season and still managed to win 91 games and fight until the very end for a playoff spot.

Guerrero Jr. officially cemented himself as a superstar, Bichette continued to shine, George Springer arrived on the scene (albeit fighting through injuries for a good chunk of the season), Hernandez was a Silver Slugger once again and the Jays broke the franchise single-season home-run record set in 2010.

Rookie starter Alek Manoah turned heads with a 3.22 ERA, all while learning from the eventual Cy Young winner, southpaw Robbie Ray. Jose Berrios got a warm welcome to Toronto while Steven Matz quietly regained his form.

Were it not for a suspect bullpen and all that moving around, who's to say how far this team could have gone?

2016

Regular-season record: 89-73

Season result: Lost in ALCS

Manager: John Gibbons

Encarnacion was the heart and soul of the Blue Jays’ 2016 season, sporting 42 homers and 127 RBIs, followed by reigning MVP Josh Donaldson, whose encore act included 99 RBIs and 37 home runs.

Lefty J.A. Happ finished in sixth place in the AL Cy Young race that year with a 3.18 ERA in 195 innings. A young Marcus Stroman pitched over 200 innings for the first time in his career, beginning a special period of ace-calibre performance.

The Jays fell in the ALCS for the second season in a row, but it was as clear then as it is now that the team was worth writing about.

2015

Regular-season record: 93-69

Season result: Lost in ALCS

Manager: John Gibbons

Two words: Bat flip.

Donaldson’s MVP campaign, Russell Martin’s leadership behind the plate, the R.A. Dickey trade, the David Price and Troy Tulowitzki acquisitions… it all led to that fateful, fabled moment in Game 5 of the ALDS at Rogers Centre against the Texas Rangers.

The Jays lost the ALCS to the eventual World Series champs, the Royals. But Bautista made sure the 2015 season lived on in the annals of baseball history.

1992

Regular-season record: 96-66

Season result: Won World Series

Manager: Cito Gaston

No strangers to heartbreak by this point, the Jays had a chance to redeem themselves from past failures, reaching the World Series for the first time in franchise history to square off against the Atlanta Braves.

The Jays had veteran guys to help navigate the pressure of the moment. Dave Winfield, then 40, joined 37-year-old starter Jack Morris on the team, which also counted on youngsters such as Joe Carter. Key, by then a veteran himself, was also an important part of that starting rotation.

It was a streaky year for the Jays, who won 15 out of their first 20 games, but struggled to keep consistency behind a rather shallow bullpen.

In the end, however, Toronto's offensive prowess shone through all the way to the World Series, where they defeated the Braves 4-2 and brought the Commissioner's Trophy north of the border for the first time.

1993

Regular-season record: 95-67

Season result: Won World Series

Manager: Cito Gaston

It took a walk-off homer in Game 6 to win it all, but the Blue Jays outdid themselves the following year, securing their second-consecutive World Series win in epic fashion.

Carter sent the old SkyDome into a frenzy and became the eternal face of that World Series win, but there were many other contributors to the Jays' repeat, starting with the World Series MVP himself, Paul Molitor, who hit .500 during those six games, including a homer in Game 6. First baseman John Olerud earned his first All-Star nomination that year, and finished third in the AL MVP race.

The starting rotation was led by Juan Guzman and Pat Hentgen, backed by a talented bullpen that included the likes of Duane Ward, Danny Cox, Mark Eichhorn and Tony Castillo.

Honourable mentions

2022: We can't really evaluate a team that hasn't played beyond Spring Training, but it sure looks good on paper.

2006: Second place in the AL East and yet 10 games out of a postseason spot. Thus were the days before the second wild card.

1998: Roger Clemens's second-consecutive Cy Young award — the Jays' third in a row — and a winning season after four years.

1991: The prelude to greatness, in which the Jays reached the ALCS only to lose to the Twins 4-1.

1989: Toronto's very first postseason berth.

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