Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Rise of the Toronto Blue Jays

Twenty-two years ago the Toronto Blue Jays were coming off a dramatic World Series victory thanks to a walk off home run by Outfielder Joe Carter.  This team was the talk of baseball, a balanced unit of veterans and young stars hitting their prime.  Winning back to back World Series titles was causing some people to talk about a potential dynasty in the making.  But then, the 1994 Baseball Strike took out those hopes and put the franchise into a tailspin that has lasted over two decades without any playoff baseball in Toronto.

The Toronto Blue Jays is a franchise that has seen many talented players wear their uniform since that 1993 season. Cy Young Award winners such as Pat Hentgen, Roger Clemens, and Roy Halladay; also all-star sluggers Shawn Green, Carlos Delgado, and Jose Bautista to name a few.  Yet they have not found a winning formula to get them back to the postseason until 2015. 

As of August 15th, the Blue Jays are a half game back of the division lead in the American League East and have the third best record in the AL. The opportunity of making it to the postseason is very promising.  The team roster has been going through an evolution for a few years, with the additions of Pitcher Mark Buehrle and Third baseman Josh Donaldson through trades, along with signing Catcher Russell Martin via free agency.  The Blue Jays did not stop there as they acquired all stars before the trade deadline, Pitcher David Price from Detroit and Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from Colorado, signaling to the rest of the league that they are serious about their push towards sealing their spot in the 2015 playoffs.

A lot has changed in the Baseball landscape since the Blue Jays last playoff appearance in 1993:

-Six teams won World Series Championships after two plus decades droughts (Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, and Philadelphia Phillies)

-Two expansion franchises won a World Series in their first appearance on the big stage (1997 – Florida Marlins and 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks)

-Single season record for home runs was broken twice (1998 - Mark McGwire 70, Sammy Sosa 66; 2001 – Barry Bonds 73)

-Ten new members of the 3,000 Hits Club (Derek Jeter, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken Jr, Tony Gwynn, Craig Biggio, Rickey Henderson, Rafael Palmeiro, Wade Boggs, Alex Rodriguez)

-Six new members of 3,000 career Strikeouts Club (Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, John Smoltz)

-Back in 1993 there was no interleague play; in 2015 there is interleague games almost every day of the season

The journey back to the postseason has been a long one for the Blue Jays who have fielded teams with promise but they always seemed to be lacking something.  In years since 1993 the Blue Jays have had Cy Young Award winners (Roger Clemens, Pat Hentgen, and Roy Halladay), Rookie of the Year award winner (Erik Hinske), and players with 40 plus Home Run seasons (Shawn Green, Carlos Delgado, and Jose Bautista).  But not until this year has all the piece been able to match up in order for them to make a playoff run.

The Toronto Blue Jays making the postseason is also good for baseball being the only team in Canada after the Expos left Montreal over a decade ago.  Toronto is a major media market with a fan base in desperate need of a winning ball club.  The home of the NHL’s Maple Leafs and NBA’s Raptors, Toronto has not seen much success in reaching the playoffs from their teams.  The Raptors have never reached the NBA Championship Finals and the Maple Leafs have not won the NHL coveted championship, the Stanley Cup, since 1967.

Many people forget that the Blue Jays have launched the careers of many talented ball players over the years, All-Star Hitters such as Tony Fernadez, Fred McGriff, Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, Vernon Wells, John Olerud, and George Bell.  Also don’t forget about All-Star pitchers such as Jimmy Key, Dave Stieb, Pat Hentgen, and Roy Halladay getting their careers started in the Toronto Blue Jays Blue and White uniforms. 

Toronto has a long standing baseball history and it is exciting to see them on the path back to the postseason.  I say good for the franchise, good for their fans, and getting playoff baseball back in one of North America’s top TV Markets is also not a bad deal for Major League Baseball.  It’s an all-around win-win!

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