The city of Toronto has longed for a Championship team and the sports talk radio shows as well as television channels remind us daily of the ‘glory’ days. The glory days for the hapless Maple Leafs were 45+ years ago. The Toronto Raptors have never really had any. Remember the Vince Carter debacle? How about the football Argos? Although they have won CFL championships, they are always 4th or 5th fiddle in Canada’s largest city. Toronto FC has a loyal fan base; yet their apparent incompetence emulates the other Toronto pro teams. Lastly, we have the Blue Jays. For the Jays, it’s been a twenty year drought from the playoffs. Twenty years ago was also the last time they won the World Series. Yes, the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s were definitely the glory years for the Jays. People still talk about where they ‘were’ for both 1992 and 1993 World Series wins and Tom Cheek’s “Touch ‘em all Joe” still gives me goose bumps. For the first World Series, I was at my part time job closing a restaurant. We had the game on the radio and eagerly awaited the final out. In 1993, I was at home watching the game with my brother and recall jumping for joy. Yes, those were fantastic times and the City of Toronto as well as Southern Ontario (If you ask someone from Toronto, they would probably say,”Southern Ontario” who?) ache for a Championship team. This past autumn, the NHL locked out the players and the Jays were ending a disappointing season. The off-season looked bleak until AA pulled off a coup from the Miami Marlins. The trade and players involved have been well documented. The city and local sports radio were buzzing with the excitement of having the likes of Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and others on the Jays. Then came the signing of Melky Cabrera and the future looked brighter. Furthermore, AA traded highly regarded prospect Travis D’Arnaud (who has now been traded twice for Cy Young award winners) and others to the lowly Mets for R.A. Dickey and his personal catcher, Josh Thole. The oddsmakers in Las Vegas now have the Blue Jays as favourites to win the World Series. In magazines and on-line, most people predict them to either win the division or at the very least a wild card berth. The hype is here and I am hoping they succeed.
Truthfully, I have not always been a big believer in AA. This past winter has changed my mind and I would like to see the Jays’ Glory Years return. The time is right as the Leafs fired the fiery Brian Burke and the circus that surrounded him. Burke’s plan never brought a Stanley Cup to Toronto. In fact, they never even made the playoffs. Burke did a lot of talking and that was about it. The Blue Jays had a GM who talked a lot too. His name was J.P. Riccardi and he also promised brighter days. We all recall how that worked out. They had mediocre and underachieving teams. Riccardi also was the culprit of some bad contracts. J.P. signed big names, unfortunately, they were either past their prime (Frank Thomas) or were over-hyped (B.J. Ryan). Let’s not forget the Alex Rios (who finally has become the player we all hoped he would be) and Vernon Wells. The Wells contract could arguably the worst contract signing in baseball history. Or even pro sports. Which leads us to Alex; he somehow convinced another GM (Angels) to take Vernon Wells. Alex’s shrewd trades and hoarding of young talent has served him well. How else could he manage to pull off that trade with Miami?
This year, the home opener sold out in less than ten minutes and ticket sales are up. Can the Blue Jays get over three million in attendance? They did it from the year the SkyDome was opened until 1993. The strike of 1994 was the beginning of lost interest and honestly, I believe it will never be as big as the 1990’s. There are way too many other things people can do with their money. This is no slight against the Jays as Toronto will always be a hockey town first. However, if the Leafs are #1, why can’t the Blue Jays be 1a?
In the early ‘90’s, Cliff Fletcher was the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs and of course, Pat Gillick was the architect of the back to back World Series Championships. Both made trades that turned a franchise around or for the very least, put them over the top. Gillick’s acquisition of Robbie Alomar and Joe Carter was legendary. His signings of Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor helped the Jays immensely. Fletcher made the lopsided, ten player deal with the Calgary Flames. The big prize was Doug Gilmour. To this day, people still talk about those trades. Will AA’s deal with the Marlins be talked about like the aforementioned deals? It will depend on what happens this season and beyond. If the Jays somehow (am I hoping) win the World Series this year, then AA will be a part of Toronto sports lore forever.
Thanks for reading and Go Jays Go! (Less than a month for the season opener!!!)