Of course, the Blue Jays gained some talent due to their struggles, consistently getting high draft choices. The core of this team lied in their young outfield; each starter in their outfield was just 25, and their starting pitching. Their offense was led by George Bell, who was a rule 5 draft pick before the 1981 season from the Phillies, Jesse Barfield and Lloyd Moseby. 33 year old catcher Ernie Whitt held was the anchor to their pitching staff and a Cox favorite. Remember Whitt was brought over to the Atlanta Braves the year Cox was hired as manager. Barfield (.289, 27, 84), Bell (.275, 28, 95) and Moseby (.259, 18, 70) provided the middle of the order power they needed. But, the lineup was deeper. 1B Willie Upshaw (.275, 15, 65) and Whitt (.245, 19, 64) lengthened the order and they had good table-setters in Damaso Garcia and Tony Fernandez.
This team also had a very deep group of reserves. Veterans Al Oliver, Jeff Burroughs, Garth Iorg and Buck Martinez provided leadership on the bench. They had young future stars who broke into the big leagues in Cecil Fielder, Maunel Lee and Kelly Gruber. Later on in the season, they brought back outfielder Cliff Johnson, part of the 1983-84 Blue Jays, in a trade from the Texas Rangers. Johnson hit 22 HR in 1983.
The pitching staff was led by Blue Jays icon Dave Stieb, who at 27 pitched to a 2.48 ERA. His 14-13 record was a result of losing a lot of close games matched up against the other team's ace. Jimmy Key, who had pitched in 63 games as a reliever in 1984, made his MLB debut as a starter going 14-6, 3.00 in 32 starts and 212 2/3 IP. Doyle Alexander won 17 games. 1985 also saw the emergence of Tom Henke, who was awarded to Toronto as a compensation pick from the Texas Rangers prior to the season. He saved 13 games in 28 appearances and pitched to a 2.03 ERA.
The Blue Jays won their first AL East title in 1985, beating the New York Yankees by 2 games. They took the eventual World Series Champion Kansas City Royals to 7 games in the ALCS, before losing. Very often this team get overlooked, mostly because they didn't make the World Series. They had the talent to win it all that season, and stayed an AL force for years after. They were better than .500 every year until they eventually won the World Series in 1992 and 1993. Cox was replaced by Jimy Williams in 1986 and Cito Gaston took over in 1989. While Gaston gets a lot of the credit for bringing the World Series to Toronto, it was Cox who brought respectability to the franchise. Cox turned a new and struggling franchise to a competitor in the AL as good as the Royals, Yankees, Red Sox or Orioles. The Toronto Blue Jays made their transformation in 1985.