I was reading some interesting things about Ricky Romero yesterday. It sounds like Romero is frustrated these days. Frustrated with his own performance, frustrated with the team’s performance and frustrated with some of the fans frustration with him. Romero took to Twitter and vented some of his frustration. Which is the norm these days. And as the club’s ace, Romero is expected to be one of the club’s leaders. While I didn’t find anything he said offensive or upsetting, some folks did, hence the media attention that story received. The question being asked by many is, should Romero have just gone about his business and not vented his frustration to the public. Romero, in my opinion, did just fine. I say let him blow off some steam. Let him be a vocal player on this club. Former ace Roy Halladay rarely said anything out of character, he was a ‘quiet’ leader apparently. Pat Hentgen also didn’t seem to be that vocal with the media. Hentgen didn’t seem to shy away, but was never that controversial. Juan Guzman seemed talkative, but also seemed fairly reserved. Dave Stieb on the other hand, was not necessarily quiet. Stieb let his emotions show. As fans, we knew when #37 was having a rough day, or was upset by a small strike zone or a non-call by an umpire.
I often wonder what kind of damage control the Blue Jays might have had to do if Twitter and Facebook were around when Stieb was pitching. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing Stieb at all. I liked watching Stieb on the mound, I found him engaging and entertaining. I liked his passion and determination out on the field, but most of all, I like his winning. Who knows, maybe Stieb would have steered clear of Twitter. I guess we’ll never know. I suppose there is a whole generation of Jays fans who didn’t get to see Stieb in action, which is too bad (although thank god for YouTube!). It was a blast to watch the club’s first real ‘Ace’ perform every five days or so. And yes, Stieb was the Blue Jays’ first ace, and in my opinion is still the best pitcher Toronto has ever produced.
Now, I know some of you right away will smirk and throw out names like Roger Clemens, Jack Morris, Dave Stewart and David Cone…..that’s fine. Those are all good pitchers, Hall of Famers even. But in my opinion, those guys aren’t ‘real’ Blue Jays. The guys I already mentioned – Halladay, Hentgen, Guzman – those are ‘real’ Blue Jays. Those guys were not brought in as hired guns to help put a team over the top. Those guys were developed and groomed by the organization. Jimmy Key was another. Including Stieb, those guys toiled for years north of the border in obscurity, while others played out their careers in big U.S. markets. Of those guys that I consider to be ‘real’ Toronto Blue Jays, Dave Steib was and is ‘the man’. Stieb is the #1 ace of this franchise to date. Roy ‘Doc’ Halladay is close and put up some tremendous numbers as a Blue Jay, but Stieb is still the best pitcher this franchise has ever put out on the mound. The stats back me up on this claim. Stieb leads the club in wins (175), ERA (1.42), games started (408), innings pitched (2873.0), complete games (103), shutouts (30) and strikeouts (1658). Stieb is 2nd in club history in WHIP (1.24), and 4th in appearances by a pitcher (439). Some amazing numbers when one considers that both Roy Halladay and Pat Hentgen won Cy Young Awards while with the Blue Jays.
Those stats tell the story of Dave Stieb as a Blue Jays pitcher, but what not everyone realizes is that his stats stand up against the best of his era. Yet he is rarely mentioned as one of the best pitchers in that era. Those ‘hired guns’ I mentioned – Clemens, Morris, Cone and Stewart – all had pretty good careers, hall of fame numbers some say. Stieb belongs in that conversation. Here is how the numbers break down –
Wins – 1. Clemens (354) 2. Morris (254) 3. Cone (194) 4. Stieb (176) 5. Stewart (168)
ERA – 1. Clemens (3.13) 2. Stieb (3.44) 3. Cone (3.46) 4. Morris (3.90) 5. Stewart (3.95)
Shutouts – 1. Clemens (46) 2. Stieb (30) 3. Morris (28) 4. Cone (22) 5. Stewart (9)
Complete Games – 1. Morris (175) 2. Clemens (118) 3. Stieb (103) 4. Cone (56) 5. Stewart (55)
Games Started – 1. Clemens (707) 2. Morris (527) 3. Cone (419) 4. Stieb (412) 5. Stewart (348)
Strikeouts – 1. Clemens (4672) 2. Morris (2478) 3. Cone (2668) 4. Stewart (1741) 5. Stieb (1669)
WHIP – 1. Clemens (1.172) 2. Stieb (1.245) 3. Cone (1.256) 4. Morris (1.296) 5. Stewart (1.355)
All in all, I would say Stieb’s career numbers hold up pretty good against these five starters. More than pretty good in my opinion! Also take into consideration that Clemens played 24 seasons, Morris played 18 seasons, Cone played 17 seasons while Stewart & Stieb played in only 16 seasons. Based on these numbers Stieb belongs in the conversation with these guys. Why isn’t he mentioned more often among the elite pitchers of his era? Maybe one reason is that he never won a Cy Young award, which is usually a good argument for being omitted from that ‘elite’ status…. except for the fact that neither Jack Morris nor Dave Stewart have a Cy Young on their mantel. Stieb was on the 1992 World Series winning Blue Jays roster so it can’t be that he doesn’t have a ring (although, he did not pitch in the series because of injuries). Stieb was a big game pitcher….I remember, like many Jays fans, how close he came time and time again to recording the first no-hitter in Jays history. In 1988, in consecutive starts nonetheless, Stieb had no-hitters broken up in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and two strikes. In 1989 Stieb had a potential perfect game broken up with two outs in the ninth inning. Like many Jays fans, I agonized over how close Stieb had come to achieving a career milestone. Like those same Jays fans, I was elated when it finally did eventually happen. I have that moment etched in my memory, Stieb pointing up to the press boxes in Cleveland on September 2, 1990 when he pitched the first no-hitter in Jays history. I get shivers seeing the replays of #37 putting his hand to his cap in relief and seeming disbelief that it had actually happened, as teammates engulfed him on the mound.
As a Blue Jays pitcher, Dave Stieb’s stats are untouchable. #37 is and was the #1 pitcher in Blue Jays history. Why isn’t he mentioned more when it comes to elite pitchers of his era! Only Jack Morris won more games in the entire decade of the 1980’s! Is it because he played way, way up north in the frozen tundra of Toronto? Maybe his ultra competitive attitude on the mound rubbed people the wrong way? Stieb was a 7-time All-Star and The Sporting News’ pitcher of the year in 1982. Who knows for sure, but it is not right. Call me biased, I am a huge fan of #37 (for starters, I have over 40 autographed Stieb cards), but the numbers speak for themselves. Dave Stieb deserves to be mentioned with the rest of the elite pitchers of his era. He was an elite pitcher. I mentioned earlier that Twitter would maybe have been a bad thing for a personality like Dave Stieb. Having thought about it and having looked at the numbers, maybe Twitter and Facebook would have benefited #37. Maybe a few choice tweets or status updates from #37 would have gotten Stieb a bunch of attention from the baseball world. Maybe a few of those tweets would have gone viral….maybe there would eventually be some focus on the numbers this guy put up over a great career.
Maybe then #37 would be mentioned in the same breathe as Cone, Stewart, Morris and Clemens. Until then, us Dave Stieb fans will shake our heads and relive those memories of #37 leading this club out of expansion status to eventual back-to-back World Series champions.