Phil Niekro, Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and Rickey Henderson are Hall of Famers that once suited up for the Toronto Blue Jays. And Roberto Alomar will, of course, have his day in Cooperstown this summer.
But in the club’s 34-year history, a number of other legends were also rumoured to be coming to Toronto. Part of the fun of being a baseball fan is playing the “What if?” game, and it’s interesting to think about how the Jays would have fared with the following players on their roster:
In her book, “Foul Balls”, Alison Gordon writes that the Jays “avidly” chased Carlton Fisk when he became a free agent following the 1980 season. “The papers were full of breathless reports on the possibility of the Red Sox star coming to Toronto,” she writes.
It’s hard to picture a 33-year-old “Pudge” catching the Jays’ abysmal 1981 staff. But there’s no question, he would’ve been the biggest acquisition in franchise history to that point and landing him might have helped attendance in a strike-shortened season that saw the Jays record a woeful 37-69 record. It’s also interesting to note that Ernie Whitt, who started his big league career playing behind Fisk in the Red Sox organization, was faced with the idea of being replaced by Fisk in Toronto.
Larry Millson reports in “Ballpark Figures: The Blue Jays and the Business of Baseball” that prior to the 1984 season, the Jays coveted closer Goose Gossage. Their pursuit was inspired by the late-inning ineptitude of Joey McLaughlin and Randy Moffitt that had cost the Jays far too many games in 1983. When Gossage signed with the San Diego Padres, however, the Jays signed reliever Dennis Lamp as consolation.
If the Jays had signed Gossage, it’s unlikely that they would’ve been able to catch the Detroit Tigers in 1984. But if they Jays did ink Gossage, they probably wouldn’t have dealt Alfredo Griffin and Dave Collins to Oakland for closer Bill Caudill after the 1984 campaign.
No, he’s not a Hall of Famer, but in March 1977, Stephen Brunt reports in “Diamond Dreams: 20 Years of Blue Jays Baseball,” that the Jays had an opportunity to swap veteran hurler Bill Singer to the Yankees for Ron Guidry, a budding pitching prospect at the time.
“I knew Billy Martin wanted some veteran players and I knew he didn’t like Guidry – because I came from over there,” Gillick told Brunt.
Unfortunately, Jays president Peter Bavasi vetoed the deal, telling Gillick that Singer was the only marketable player the Jays had.
Guidry, of course, went 25-3 with a miniscule 1.74 ERA in 1978. He would end up spending his entire 14-year career with the Yankees. Singer, on the other hand, would win just two games in 13 starts with the Jays in 1977, before retiring from baseball.