September 20, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
When Willie Upshaw singled to drive in Dave Collins and Rance Mulliniks in the third inning of the Toronto Blue Jays’ 7-3 win over the Seattle Mariners at Exhibition Stadium 39 years ago today, he became the first Blue Jays player to record 100 RBIs in a season.
By my count, it’s a feat that has since been replicated 44 times by Blue Jays players over the years.
Inspired by the anniversary of Upshaw’s 100th RBI, I decided to take a deeper look at the 100-RBI seasons of Blue Jays players.
Here are some fun facts:
-Outfielder George Bell was the first to have multiple 100-RBI seasons for the Blue Jays. He reached the century RBI mark in 1986, 1987 and 1989.
–Joe Carter and Carlos Delgado are tied for the most 100-RBI seasons in Blue Jays’ history. They each had six 100-RBI campaigns. Carter knocked in 100 in four straight seasons from 1991 to 1994 and then again in 1996 and 1997. Delgado drove in 100 runs in six consecutive seasons from 1998 to 2003.
-Delgado’s 145 RBIs in 2003 are the most in a season by a Blue Jay. Delgado’s 137 RBIs in 2000 are the second-most, while his 134 RBIs in 1999 are tied with Bell’s output in 1987 for the third-most.
-The Blue Jays have had five players whose primary position was third base have 100-RBI seasons: Kelly Gruber (1990), Ed Sprague (1996), Tony Batista (2000), Troy Glaus (2006) and Josh Donaldson (2015).
-The Blue Jays have had four players whose primary position was first base enjoy 100-RBI seasons for them: Upshaw (1983), John Olerud (1993), Delgado (1998 to 2003) and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (2021). I’m not sure whether to include Edwin Encarnacion on this list. The only year he drove in 100 runs and played more first base (79 games) than DH (55) was 2013.
-The Blue Jays have had a 100-RBI season from a player at every position on the diamond except for catcher (and pitcher, of course). The first and third basemen have been noted above.
Shortstop: Bo Bichette (2021)
Centre Field: Vernon Wells (2002-03, 2006)
Left Field: George Bell (1986-87, 1989), Joe Carter (1991-94, 1996-97) (Note: Carter played as much right field as left field with the Blue Jays)
-There have been 15 seasons in Blue Jays’ history where they have not had a batter drive in 100 runs in a season. The longest streak came in the franchise’s first six seasons, from 1977 to 1982. They also failed to have a 100-RBI hitter for four seasons from 2017 to 2020.
Forgotten 100-RBI Seasons
Here are some 100-RBI seasons by Blue Jays players that you may have forgotten about:
Ed Sprague, 1996
Sprague took over at third base for Kelly Gruber in 1993 and helped the Blue Jays win their second consecutive World Series. But it wasn’t until 1996 that he became one of the centerpieces of the Blue Jays’ offence. Until that year, the closest he had come to 100 RBIs was 74 in 1995. In 1996, Sprague not only drove in 101 runs, but also belted a career-high 36 home runs.
Brad Fullmer, 2000
Acquired by the Blue Jays from the Montreal Expos on March 16, 2000 as part of a three-way trade that saw the Blue Jays send David Segui to Texas and the Rangers deal Lee Stevens to the Expos, Fullmer enjoyed a career season in 2000. Batting fifth and serving as the Blue Jays’ primary DH, the then 25-year-old socked 32 home runs and racked up 104 RBIs. But his 104 RBIs were only good enough for third on the high-scoring Blue Jays that season behind Delgado (137) and Batista (114).
Troy Glaus, 2006
On December 27, 2005, the Blue Jays landed Glaus from the Arizona Diamondbacks, along with Sergio Santos, in exchange for Orlando Hudson and Miguel Batista. Glaus had already established himself as an elite slugger with the D-Backs and Angels. He’d spend just two seasons with the Blue Jays, but in his first campaign with them, he connected for 38 home runs and had 104 RBIs and was named to the American League All-Star team. His 104 RBIs were two behind Vernon Wells for the time lead.
Adam Lind, 2009
In his first full season with the Blue Jays, Lind belted 35 home runs and recorded 114 RBIs as a DH and left fielder. In hindsight, that season set the bar too high for Lind. Blue Jays fans always expected more out of him. He’d suit up for five more seasons with the Blue Jays, but he wouldn’t knock in more than 87 runs in any of them.