It’s Time to Retire Tony Fernandez’s Number in Toronto

Tony Fernandez

The Toronto Blue Jays have been a significant part of baseball since 1977. The Blue Jays have stories that include iconic playoff moments from Joe Carter in 1993 to Jose Bautista in 2015. Not to mention two World Series titles and nine playoff appearances. But, there’s more to it than just that- former Blue Jays Fred McGriff and Scott Rolen will become the eighth and ninth players who played for Toronto to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Despite the number, the Blue Jays organization only has two numbers retired. Jackie Robinson’s number 42 retired league-wide; the other is Roy Halladay’s number 32. Many great players have come through this franchise, but none have been a better reflection of their history than Tony Fernandez.

Tony Fernandez’s Accomplishments

Blue Jays Records

Tony Fernandez has set several records during his time with Toronto. He’s the sole leader of five categories; games played (1450), defensive WAR (12.3), hit (1583), singles (1160), and triples (72). Fernandez and Jesse Barfield were the first Blue Jays to win a Gold Glove Award in 1986. Fernandez went on to win another three Gold Gloves in 1987, 1988, and 1989. He remains the only Blue Jay to win a Gold Glove at shortstop. He led the American League three times in putouts, twice in fielding percentage, and twice in assists.

Tony’s Tenure

Tony Fernandez made his debut with the Blue Jays on September 2, 1983, against the Detroit Tigers. It would start his first of four different tenures with Toronto. As a 21-year-old, he became a mainstay in the Blue Jays lineup. The everyday shortstop played a significant role in the 1985 team that won the franchise’s first AL East division title. Furthermore, he was a leader on the team when the Blue Jays went on to win their second division title four seasons later. During his first eight seasons with the Blue Jays, he was a three-time All-Star who won four Gold Glove Awards.

After winning the 1992 World Series, the Blue Jays traded for Fernandez to ensure they would win a consecutive Fall Classic title. In his return, Fernandez played 94 games as he was back at home, hitting .306/.361/.442 with four home runs and 50 RBI. When he returned to the Blue Jays for 1998 and 1999, he had the two best-hitting seasons of his career, earning him his final all-star selection in 1999. In twelve seasons with the Blue Jays, he had a batting average of over 300. It also includes his final season in Toronto in 2001, where the 39-year-old would hit 305.

His Impact with the Blue Jays

Fernandez signed with the Blue Jays in just their third season of existence. As a 17-year-old from the Dominican Republic, he became one of the franchise’s first stars. As a Dominican, he paved the way for other Blue Jays greats from there, including Jose Bautista and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. When he first got good, so did the Blue Jays. At his best, the Blue Jays were contenders in the AL East. In 1990, he was traded with Fred McGriff to the San Diego Padres for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar. Both of which were pivotal pieces in the back-to-back World Series teams. Toronto traded for Fernandez in 1993, which helped them clinch their second World Series. After the 2001 season, he was honored as the fifth member of the Blue Jays Level of Excellence.

Regarding the retirement of numbers, the Blue Jays have been scarce in retiring numbers. Most Hall of Famers playing for Toronto was at their career’s tail end. The one exception is Roy Halladay, who spent 12 of 16 years with the Blue Jays, and his number 32 hangs in the Rogers Centre proudly. Roberto Alomar is the only Hall of Famer who retired as a Blue Jay, but the organization has cut ties with him and unretired his number 12. With no potential Hall of Fame Blue Jays in sight, it will take a long time before the team will retire a third number.

Tony Fernandez: The Number One

Fernandez wore number one in Toronto during all four tenures with the Blue Jays. Ideally, that’s where he batted in the lineup; he was the best defender on the field and usually number one in the mind of Jays fans on the field. Since his retirement in 2001, fifteen members of the Blue Jays have worn that number. However, none have ignited the same amount of excitement as Tony Fernandez. There were talks for the Blue Jays to retire his number upon his death in 2020; the Blue Jays even wore a number one on their uniforms during the 2020 season. Now with the team heading into a new era of contention, it is the perfect time to honor the past and retire number one in Toronto in honor of the late shortstop.

 Players mentioned:

Joe Carter, Jose Bautista, Fred McGriffScott Rolen, Jackie Robinson, Roy Halladay, Jesse Barfield, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Roberto Alomar