I was talking with a friend yesterday about the Phillies and their amazing pitching rotation, headed by Clif Lee and Roy Halladay. This inevitably got us talking about the Blue Jays (being Halladay fans, Toronto fans and both of us being Canadian). My buddy said that losing Halladay was the biggest blow the Jays have experienced in our time (let's say the last 20 years).
Letting a perennial Cy Young candidate go for a "rebuilding" trade isn't that bad, especially given that we aren't going to win any time soon in the AL East. It hurts, but I wouldn't really call it a big blow. So what is the biggest blow to the Jays over the past 20 years? In my eyes, it would be the promise of greatness that was never met. I'm talking about two players in specific, both of whom started playing for the Jays at the same time. After their rookie years, I was deluded into thinking we might have the cornerstones of the franchise.
I'm talking about Eric Hinske and Josh Phelps. Hinske is widely known now as a utility player and journeyman with stops in Boston, NY, ATL and PIT to name a few. Most people won't even know Josh Phelps.
Hinkse won Rookie Of The Year in 2002. Here are his stats:
99 Runs, 38 Doubles, 24 HR, 84 RBI, 13 Steals, 77 Walks, .845 OPS and 119 OPS+
In 2002 Phelps only played the 2nd half of the season, showing up for 74 games. He still managed to finish 6th in ROY voting, even with the winner being on the same team and playing half a year. In those games:
41 Runs, 20 Doubles, 15 HR, 58 RBI, .309 AVG, .925 OPS, 138 OPS+
If you look at his first half year and his next full year, here are the full season averages:
98 Runs, 38 Doubles, 35 HR, 124 RBI, .866 OPS, 123 OPS+
These guys were rookies capable of playing 3B, 1B, C, DH and even some field if needed. They were young and they could mash. I mean are you kidding me? I'd love for Elias to look up the stats and find me another team in the last 20 years that had 2 rookies with these stats in the same years.
Sadly, Phelps completely fell off the map. He played 3 seasons with Toronto but couldn't keep up his torrid place and became a backup nobody after 4 seasons. Hinske has had flashses of greatness and has had several clutch hits for various teams. He is a respectable ball player, but is nowhere near the guy he was in his first few seasons with Toronto.
The failure of these two players to launch themselves into greatness is the biggest blow in my time as Jays fan. I don't ever remember being so excited by a team (other than the Championship teams) that we had. I was sure we were going to become a great team once we got pieces to surround these budding stars. Sadly, the "stars" never became stars and the pieces were few and far between.
With NY and Boston perennial big spenders and contenders, I fear that I won't be excited by a Jays team for years to come.