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I will try to get another book review up in the next day or two. In the meantime, since we're in the silly season, what better silliness to contemplate than the Blue Jays' horribly-named "Level of Excellence"?

Currently, there are five members:

George Bell
Dave Stieb
Joe Carter
Cito Gaston
Tony Fernandez

Certainly all worthy of being honoured for their contributions to the team, in my opinion; while none of these players should go into the Hall of Fame in my opinion, they were all excellent players in considerable time with the club.

Who else would everyone like to see inducted? Personally, I would like to see Tom Henke honoured. A mavelous player, and apparently a gentleman of the old-fashioned kind, I think that the fans have very warm memories of Henke.

Beyond Henke, there aren't too many I would like to see added. Jimmy Key is certainly an option, and I suppose you could have an Ernie Whitt love-in, but "Excellence" is a bit much for Ernie.
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Craig B - Wednesday, December 18 2002 @ 06:12 PM EST (#100858) #
Can someone please give me some writing lessons? That was awful.
_Sean - Wednesday, December 18 2002 @ 06:43 PM EST (#100859) #
Hmm. Apparently tax lawyers get infected by reading the income tax act and regular bulletins, so their writing skills turn to muck. Turn to your neighbourhood friendly as-yet-untainted-by-practicing lawyer with a liberal arts education for writing lessons. :P

I'd agree that Henke was certainly good enough, long enough to go in.

I'd also make the claim that Roberto Alomar was spectacularly good during his Blue Jay tenure, despite its relative brevity, so much so that he should be put up. [see, Craig--you can find ways not to use semi-colons poorly. The same applies to the repetitive use of phrases--just follow my lead] -)

Carlos Delgado should surely be put up there once he retires, even if this is his last year in a Blue Jay uniform.
Coach - Wednesday, December 18 2002 @ 07:00 PM EST (#100860) #
My memory really does play tricks, but I'm pretty sure they inducted Pat Gillick last year, which was overdue. I second the nominations of Henke and Alomar; the latter spent five full seasons in Toronto and is worthy of HoF consideration, so if the unfortunate spitting incident is keeping him off the SkyDome wall, that's a shame. People have unreasonable expectorations.

Delgado will be automatic; he'll own a lot of team records and is a great guy in the community. Jimmy Key deserves it, too. Though I'm not a fan, Tom Cheek is the iron man of radio and represents every Blue Jays era. How about Paul Beeston?

Names like "Level of Excellence" always make me wonder -- what alternatives did they reject?
Coach - Wednesday, December 18 2002 @ 07:38 PM EST (#100861) #
Afterthoughts -- among the guys who belong on the "Level of Really Popular but Not Quite Worthy Players" are Whitt and Martinez (Buck gets points for his terrific broadcasting work.) Also: Kelly Gruber, Lloyd Moseby, Jesse Barfield, Jim Clancy, Pat Hentgen...

The "Level of Truly Great Players Who Weren't in Toronto Long Enough" includes Clemens, Winfield, Molitor, Rickey, Cone, Morris, and others. Promising careers that were cut short (like Duane Ward's) could go here. A few players might fit on both my "just missed" lists: Fred McGriff and Devon White come to mind.

Least favourite all-time Blue Jays? Excluding a few characters who weren't here long enough to matter, my nominations begin and end with Joey McLaughlin and Gord Ash. If John Cerutti doesn't go away soon, he will move into that elite company.
_Ian Gray - Wednesday, December 18 2002 @ 08:33 PM EST (#100862) #
Can I be the first to speak in favour of an Ernie Whitt 'love-in?' Sure, he wasn't a great player, but he was a solid player for the Jays throughout their eighties run of well, uh, entertaining near-excellence, was the last original Jay still with the team when he left in 1990 and is, apparently, a very nice guy. Or so I've been told.

I dunno. At the risk of unleashing a firestorm of criticism, I'm inclined to say that being inducted to the Level of Excellence (God, that's a terrible name) should be not be entirely wrapped up in on-field excellence - which I'll freely admit Ernie falls a significant way short of - but rather a recognition of what a given player or executive or, God help us, broadcaster, meant or means to the fans of the team. And I honestly can't think of anybody who embodied the eighties Jays more than Whitt.

All of that said, I'd also like to see Key, Henke and Alomar added to the...guys, can we come up with an alternate name? Like, oh, I don't know, the Wall of Fame. Or Ring of Honour. Or Ring of Fame. Or Wall of Honour. Or anything, really. I don't have any good ideas, obviously, but the current name is awful. Tangent aside, I think most of the names mooted here would be good additions to any collection of honoured Jays.
_jason - Wednesday, December 18 2002 @ 08:35 PM EST (#100863) #
I think Joe C will have an outside chance at the HOF. Certainly not a 1st ballater but he is comparable in a lot of ways to Kirby Puckett.
_Jordan - Wednesday, December 18 2002 @ 08:50 PM EST (#100864) #
Henke is a shoo-in, and I'm surprised he hasn't made it already; he certainly ought to be among the next nominees. You could fashion an argument that no Jays pitcher was as important to the franchise's development as Henke. The closer's role in the early-to-mid-'80s was the team's sucking chest wound, pulling the club down like a millstone. Instantly upon his arrival, he turned it into an armour-plated strength. Henke was unflappable, automatic and incredibly reassuring to teammates and fans alike. He's my unofficial 1985 MVP.

Alomar deserves it -- he deserves it for the Eckersley homer alone -- but I don't see it happening till he retires, if then. I just don't think the fans will forgive him: not just because of the spitting incident, not just because he fled as a free agent when the team was on the way down, not just because he sat out his last games as a Blue Jay to maintain his .300 average, but also because Jays fans tend to eat their young: they're unusually tough on the team's charismatic young stars when things go badly (cf. Kelly Gruber, George Bell, Carlos Delgado). Alomar is the author of much of his unpopularity in Toronto, but the fans need to grow up a little too.

I'll also second the nomination of Jimmy Key, surely the most underrated Blue Jay pitcher ever, and Paul Beeston -- how would the franchise's history have been different had he not taken an ill-fated job with the Commissioner's Office? But I see no further nominees other than those still in uniform, with Delgado at the top of the list. But since he's likely not to inhabit said uniform past 2004, he might not qualify. The sad reality is that few players will likely be with this club, or any club, long enough to qualify for franchise recognition anymore.

Names like "Level of Excellence" always make me wonder -- what alternatives did they reject?

Section of Merit
Row of Recognition
Area of Non-Suckitude
Gee, They Weren't Terrible
Everyone Except Joey Hamilton
The Rutles

It's a peculiarly Canadian character flaw, IMHO, to try to downplay greatness and de-emphasize one's accomplishments, and nothing says that better than "Level of Excellence." It's the excuse-me swing of honours, trying so hard not to be "American" that it loses the best of what Americanism has to offer, the impact and magnetism inherent in praising one's best. There's nothing wrong with a "Toronto Blue Jays Hall of Fame" -- heck, they should go ahead and create one, set it up in the souvenir shop near Gate 10 and have classes full of kids take guided tours. If you want to display the retired numbers along the outfield concrete balustrade, call that the "Wall of Fame." This is not rocket science, it's simply recognizing that it's okay to use terms like "greatness" when describing individual contributions. Maybe if the Ricciardi adminsitration ever gains full control of marketing, we'll see some progress.
_Keith L. - Wednesday, December 18 2002 @ 10:56 PM EST (#100865) #
My memory really does play tricks, but I'm pretty sure they inducted Pat Gillick last year, which was overdue.

We did, when Seattle was in town.
Craig B - Thursday, December 19 2002 @ 09:26 AM EST (#100866) #
guys, can we come up with an alternate name? Like, oh, I don't know, the Wall of Fame. Or Ring of Honour. Or Ring of Fame. Or Wall of Honour.

Ring of Fire!

Everybody, all together now...

[I went down, down, down and the flames went higher...]

BTW, thanks Keith for clearing that up. I must have looked at an old list... it's weird because I remember one game of that series vividly. I was going to go but I left work early that day to go home instead, and I watched on TV. That was the game where Woodward hit three home runs and Prokopec blew the game in the ninth.
Dave Till - Thursday, December 19 2002 @ 09:36 AM EST (#100867) #
Some thoughts on the Wall of Excellence:
  • I think the Jays created the "Wall of Excellence" so that they wouldn't have to retire anyone's number.
  • It still seems wrong to see 37 on anyone's uniform other than Stieb's; other 37's include Tim Crabtree, Brian Bowles, and the immortal Randy St. Claire. And when are they going to update Stieb's banner to include his comeback?
  • Did they leave room on Fernandez's banner, just in case he comes back one more time?
  • It's strange that they put Gillick in, but not Beeston. Were they assuming that J.P. was about to jump ship, and hoping they could lure Pat back to Toronto (he still has a home here)?

I really liked Jordan's rejected alternatives, and offer these other rejects:

Wall of Acceptability
Wall of Players Richard Griffin Couldn't Write Bad Things About
Guys We Didn't Trade To The Yankees
Wall of Players Interbrew Would Not Have Been Able To Afford
We Got a Bargain Deal on Large Chunks Of Blue Cloth, So What The Hey

Suggestions for further enshrinees: Henke definitely should go up, and possibly Key. Beeston should go up, and Tom and Jerry almost certainly will go up when they retire. I agree that Ernie was a symbol of the 1980's Jays ("Er-nie! Er-nie!"), but he wasn't really good enough. Alomar was good enough, but he abandoned ship.

Under no circumstances should Roger Clemens be allowed anywhere near the Wall of Excellence, unless they hire him to clean the banners or something.
_Geoff North - Thursday, December 19 2002 @ 10:12 AM EST (#100868) #
Was Olerud good enough while he was with the Jays? He was there just about as long as Carter, and always had a better OPS. I wonder if his RBI's and such from that period would have been better if he'd hit as a number 3 hitter. I've always liked John Olerud - he's always seemed like one of those players, that while not obviously a superstar, can make any team better. A real professional hitter. I'd like to see Olerud in the Hall of Fame before Carter.
_Jordan - Thursday, December 19 2002 @ 10:46 AM EST (#100869) #
It's a tangential relationship only, but since we're kind of talking about Blue Jays marketing, I have to drop this in here.

[Rant]So Ricciardi was scheduled to appear on the FAN 590 in Toronto to talk about the Jays, the Winter Meetings, the trades and acquisitions, and the team's direction --- and they bumped him at the last minute because the Colorado Avalanche fired Bob Hartley. They pre-empt the General Manager of the city's major-league baseball team -- a team whose games they actually broadcast -- to speculate about a hockey coaching change in Denver. Unbelievable. What a bush-league operation.[/Rant]
Coach - Thursday, December 19 2002 @ 11:14 AM EST (#100870) #
Geoff, if Olerud gets inducted, maybe Gaston will resign in a huff, which I would consider two improvements. Cito never liked that kid; not intense enough, didn't pull everything, and a .473 OBP with "only" 24 HR in 1992 needed immediate meddling, I mean fixing.
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