MLB

Your Call: Should the Blue Jays retire any more numbers?

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Shane McNeil, TSN.ca
7/20/2011 4:31:08 PM
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The Toronto Blue Jays made history on Tuesday by announcing they would retire Roberto Alomar's number 12, making him the first player to receive such an honour from the club.  

Alomar has been the focal point of many a club celebration this year, as the team celebrates his induction into the Baseball hall of Fame.  

The team unveiled a Hall of Fame banner for Alomar on Opening Day. They will once again celebrate Alomar with a number-retirement ceremony on July 31.  

Now, while a select few Jays alumni have already been enshrined in Cooperstown - Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and Rickey Henderson being the most prominent - those players only made brief stops north of the 49th.  

Alomar is garnering all this attention because he'll be the first player enshrined in a Jays cap, giving him unique status above those players already in the Hall.  

But while Alomar has been dubbed 'arguably the greatest second baseman of all-time' by club president Paul Beeston, does that necessarily make him the greatest Blue Jay of all-time?  

Or to put it another way, are the Jays making their logo's appearance on a Cooperstown plaque the new standard for club excellence?  

The Jays have been honoring contributions to the franchise since 1996 with the 'Level of Excellence.' This has been a means of honouring the great players of Toronto's past, while keeping their numbers in circulation for future Jays players.  

To date, five players have received such an honour: George Bell, Dave Stieb, Joe Carter, Tony Fernandez and Alomar. Factor in long-time manager Cito Gaston and that's six numbers honoured for their contributions.  

So with the Jays elevating Alomar over those five players, have they set a new standard for excellence? Or is this simply the first step in the next stage?  

Alomar has a unique place in the club's history as the first Hall-of-Famer, but when you look at his contributions to the club against the rest of the Level of Excellence, a case could be made for the rest to receive the same treatment.  

Dave Stieb spent parts of 15 seasons in Toronto and holds all the club's pitching records including most wins, strikeouts, complete games and shares the lowest ERA in team history. George Bell remains the only player in club history to win an MVP award and held many of the team's offensive records through the club's first 25 seasons. Few can doubt the longevity of Tony Fernandez who owns the club records for games played and hits.  

Meanwhile, Joe Carter is probably the closest measure of comparison for Alomar's contribution to the club. The two came to Toronto in the same deal in late 1990, the two were perennial all-stars for the Jays and formed the cornerstones of two championship teams. The two are also responsible for a large portion of the indelible moments and images that came with those two championship runs.  

However, while both players' tenures with the Jays was relatively brief, Carter was a member of the Jays for two more seasons than Alomar - who only played in Toronto for five seasons.  

Granted, he was an All-Star every year in those five seasons with five Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger, the 1992 ALCS MVP Award, two World Series rings and set the club record for highest batting average as a Blue Jay. But his five years with the club is less than half the time Fernandez and Bell put in and almost a third of Stieb's Blue Jay career.  

Few will dispute that Alomar's election to the Hall of Fame classifies him as the greatest player to suit up for the Jays, but does that necessarily make him the greatest Blue Jay of all-time?  

Will the Jays open the number-retirement debate to any other current members of the level of excellence? Will they re-consider it when players like Carlos Delgado and Roy Halladay - cornerstone players who did not have the luxury of being surrounded by Championship-calibre rosters - come back to be honoured?  

If Alomar is the new standard, the Jays are not alone in setting a precedent for number retirement.  

Prior to 2008, the Boston Red Sox had strict conditions to number-retirement that included at least 10 years of club service, Hall of Fame induction and the condition that the player retired as a member of the team. The rules have been relaxed in the past three years allowing long-serving Johnny Pesky and Carlton Fisk (who retired with the White Sox) enshrinement on their own facades.  

So, where will the Jays go from here?   Should the Jays retire any other numbers? And if so, who should be next? It's Your! Call.

Roberto Alomar (Photo: Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)
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