|Table of contents|
2 Players of note
3 External links
The Toronto Blue Jays came into existence in 1976 after a vote by the American League owners. The franchise was originally owned by Labatt Breweries, Imperial Trust and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. The Blue Jays played their first game ever on April 7, 1977 against the Chicago White Sox. They won 9-5, led by Doug Ault's two home runs.
The Blue Jays fared poorly in both 1978 and 1979, losing over 100 games in each of those seasons. 1979 was highlighted by shortstop Alfredo Griffin being named co-Rookie of the Year in the American League. 1980 saw Bobby Mattick take over the role of manager from Roy Hartsfield, the Blue Jays' original manager. 1981 was the strike season, and the Blue Jays improved their winning percentage but still finished in last place in the American League East in both halves of the season.
Toronto's first solid season came in 1982 as they finished 78-84. Their pitching staff was led by starters Dave Stieb, Jim Clancy and Luis Leal, and the outfield featured a young Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield. In 1983, the Blue Jays compiled their first winning record, 89-73, finishing in fourth place, 9 games behind the eventual World Series winners, the Baltimore Orioles. The Blue Jays' progression continued in 1984, finishing with the same 89-73 record, but this time in second place behind another World Series champion, the Detroit Tigers.
1985 was Toronto's first championship of any sort. The Blue Jays featured strong pitching and a balanced offense. Their mid-season acquisition of relief pitcher Tom Henke also proved to be important. They finished 99-62, two games in front of the New York Yankees. The Blue Jays faced the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship series, and took a 3 games to 1 lead. However, Kansas City won three consecutive games to win the series 4-3, on their way to their first World Series championship.
The Blue Jays could not duplicate their success in 1986, despite an excellent season from right fielder Jesse Barfield, who hit 40 home runs. 1987 saw the Blue Jays lose a thrilling division race to the Detroit Tigers by 2 games, after being swept in the final series by the Tigers. The Blue Jays finished with a 96-66 record, second best in the major leagues, but to no avail. George Bell was named MVP of the American League. In 1988, Toronto again finished 2 games behind, this time trailing the Boston Red Sox. The season was highlighted by Fred McGriff's American League leading 34 home runs. Dave Stieb had back-to-back starts in which he lost a no-hitter with 2 out in the 9th inning.
1989, which saw the opening of the Jays' new retractable-roofed home, SkyDome, also marked the start of an extremely successful five-year period for Toronto. Early in the season, in May, management fired Jimy Williams and replace him with hitting instructor Cito Gaston. The club had a 12-24 record at the time of the firing, but recorded a 77-49 record under their new manager to win the American League East by 2 games. In the divisional series, Rickey Henderson led the Oakland Athletics to a 4-1 series win. In 1990, the Blue Jays again had a strong season, but as in 1988, ended up 2 games behind the Boston Red Sox. Dave Stieb pitched his first and only no-hitter, beating the Cleveland Indians 3-0. During the offseason, the Blue Jays made one of the two biggest trades in franchise history, sending shortstop Tony Fernandez and first baseman Fred McGriff to the San Diego Padres for outfielder Joe Carter and second baseman Roberto Alomar. This would prove to be an excellent trade, as the Blue Jays again won the division. Once again, they fell short in the postseason, losing to the Minnesota Twins, who were on their way to their second World Series victory in five years. Toronto became the first club ever to draw over 4,000,000 fans in one season.
After the 1991 season had ended, the Blue Jays acquired pitcher Jack Morris, who had led the Twins by pitching a 10-inning complete game shutout in game 7 of the previous World Series. The regular season went well, as they finished 4 games in front of the Milwaukee Brewers, with a record of 96-66. They met the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS, winning 4 games to 2. The pivotal game of the series was game 4. The Blue Jays rallied back from a 6-1 defict, scoring 4 runs off reliever Dennis Eckersley on their way to an 11-inning, 7-6 win, to lead the series 3 games to 1. The Blue Jays faced the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. The pivotal game in this series turned out to be game 2, in which reserve player Ed Sprague hit a 9th-inning 2-run home run off Jeff Reardon to give the Blue Jays a 5-4 lead, which would hold up. Game 6, with the Blue Jays leading 3 games to 2, was a very close game. Toronto was one strike away from winning in the bottom of the 9th inning, 2-1, but Jeff Blauser singled in the tying run off Blue Jays' closer Tom Henke. The game was decided in the 11th inning, when Dave Winfield doubled, driving in 2 runs. The Braves would again come within one run in the bottom of the 11th, but reliever Mike Timlin retired Otis Nixon for the final out. The Blue Jays became the first team outside of the United States to win the World Series. Oddly, Morris was acquired in large part for his reputation as a clutch postseason pitcher, but he went 0-3 in the playoffs. However, Morris pitched well in the regular season, becoming the Blue Jays' first 20-game winner, with a record of 21-6 and an ERA of 4.04.
After the 1992 season, the Blue Jays let Dave Winfield and Tom Henke go, but acquired Paul Molitor from the Brewers and Dave Stewart from the Athletics. The Blue Jays had seven all-stars, hitters Devon White, Roberto Alomar, Paul Molitor, Joe Carter and John Olerud, starter Pat Hentgen and closer Duane Ward. In August, the Jays acquired former nemesis Rickey Henderson from the Athletics. The Blue Jays cruised to a 95-67 record, 7 games ahead of the New York Yankees, winning their third straight division title. The Jays beat the Chicago White Sox 4 games to 2 in the ALCS, and then the Philadelphia Phillies, 4 games to 2, for their second straight World Series victory. The final featured several exciting games, including game 4, in which the Blue Jays came back from a 14-9 deficit to win 15-14 and take a 3-1 lead in the series. Game 6 saw the Blue Jays lead 5-1, but give up 5 runs in the 7th inning to trail 6-5. In the bottom of the 9th inning, in SkyDome, Joe Carter hit a one-out, three-run "walkoff" home run to clinch the series, off Phillies closer Mitch Williams. In the regular season, three Blue Jays, Olerud, Molitor and Alomar finished 1-2-3 for the AL batting average title.
Expectations were high for the Blue Jays for the 1994 season, following back-to-back championships, but they slumped to a 55-60 record before the players' strike. It was their first losing season since 1982. Carter, Molitor and Olerud enjoyed good years at the plate, but the pitching fell off. Juan Guzman slumped considerably from his first three years (40-11, 3.28 ERA), finishing 1994 at 12-11 with a 5.68 ERA. 1995 was an even worse season for the Blue Jays, as they finished 56-88 in another strike-shortened season. Three young players, Alex Gonzalez, Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green, did show a lot of promise for the future. 1996 was another mediocre year for the Blue Jays, highlighted by Pat Hentgen's Cy Young Award (20-10. 3.22 ERA). Ed Sprague had a career year, hitting 36 home runs and driving in 101 runs.
The Blue Jays started 1997 with high hopes, as they signed former Boston Red Sox ace Roger Clemens to a $24,750,000 contract. Clemens had one of the best pitching seasons of the 1990s as he won the pitcher's Triple Crown, leading the American League with 21 wins (against 7 losses), a 2.05 ERA and 292 strikeouts. This was not enough to lead the Blue Jays to the postseason, however, as they ended the year 76-86. Cito Gaston, the manager, was fired at the end of the year. Before the start of the 1998 season, the Blue Jays acquired closer Randy Myers and slugger Jose Canseco. Gaston was replaced with Tim Johnson, a relative unknown. The pitching was strong, again led by Clemens (20-6, 2.65 ERA, 271 strikeouts), but the hitting was mediocre, and the Blue Jays finished 88-74, in third place, 26 games behind the New York Yankees, who posted one of the greatest records in baseball history.
In the offseason before the 1999 season, the Blue Jays traded Roger Clemens to the Yankees for starting pitcher David Wells, second baseman Homer Bush and relief pitcher Graeme Lloyd. They also fired Tim Johnson, after Johnson lied about several things (including killing people in the Vietnam war, to motivate Pat Hentgen). Johnson was replaced with Jim Fregosi, who managed the Phillies when they lost to the Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series. The offence picked up somewhat in 1999, but the pitching suffered without Clemens, as the Blue Jays finished 84-78. 2000 proved to be a similar season, as the Jays had an 83-79 record, well out of the wild card race. Carlos Delgado had a stellar year, hitting .344 with 41 home runs, 57 doubles, 137 RBI, 123 walks and 115 runs.
Buck Martinez, a former catcher for the Blue Jays, took over as manager before the 2001 season. The Blue Jays were back under .500 for 2001, finishing at 80-82, with mediocre pitching and hitting. Delgado led the team again with 39 home runs and 102 RBI. After the 2001 season ended, the Blue Jays let go general manager Gord Ash, who had taken over from Pat Gillick following the 1994 season. They also traded or let go several regular players, including Alex Gonzalez, Paul Quantrill and closer Billy Koch. J.P. Ricciardi was named general manager, and was expected to make the lineup younger and faster, to take advantage of the artificial turf at SkyDome. Ricciardi, a former assistant to Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, is known as one of the more sabermetricallyally aware GMs in the game.
The Blue Jays started the 2002 season with slow progress in performance. Buck Martinez was fired about a third of the way through the season, with a 20-33 record. He was replaced by third base coach Carlos Tosca. They went 58-51 under Tosca to finish the season 78-84. Roy Halladay was the team's top pitcher, finishing the season with a 19-7 record and a 2.93 ERA. The hitters were led once again by Carlos Delgado. Ricciardi was credited for dumping Raul Mondesi in mid-season to the New York Yankees to free up his salary, which in turn was used for the off-season signing of Mike Bordick, Frank Catalanotto and Tanyon Sturtze. Promising young players were assigned to key roles, including starting third baseman Eric Hinske and 23-year old center fielder Vernon Wells who had his first 100 RBI season.
The 2003 season has been a surprise to both team management and sport analysts. After a poor April, the team had its most successful month ever in May. The stunning turnaround was achieved mainly by hitting. Delgado took over the major league lead in runs batted in, followed closely by Wells. The middle infield positions remains a gametime decision - Bordick plays short and third, Dave Berg second and third, Chris Woodward short and Orlando Hudson second, with no promising prospect or proven players to start regularly. Minor league call-up Howie Clark entered the mix at third after Hinske underwent surgery on his right hand.
Despite their hitting successes, poor pitching continues to plague the team. Only two of the starting pitchers on opening day - Halladay and Cory Lidle - have pitched well, despite the offseason signing of veteran starter Tanyon Sturtze (assignied to the bullpen in May), Doug Creek and Jeff Tam. Kelvim Escobar and former NBA player Mark Hendrickson were inserted into the rotation with their places in the bullpen filled by waivers Doug Davis and Josh Towers. Trade speculation had focussed on the acquisitions of pitching at the expense of hitters, but in the end the team simply divested itself of impending free agent Shannon Stewart without getting a pitcher in return. Instead Bobby Kielty, another outfielder with a much lower batting average than Stewart's, was obtained from the Minnesota Twins and later traded in November 2003 to the Oakland Athletics for starter Ted Lilly. The top three pitchers of the rotation are set with the return of Pat Hentgen and assuming Kelvim Escobar will sign elsewhere.
After the spectacular turnaround in May 2003, which helped the team trail just few games behind the wildcard occupant Boston Red Sox, team performace slowly retained normalcy as predicted by team management. Roy Halladay won the 2003 American League Cy Young Award and Carlos Delgado was second in voting for the American League MVP although the Jays was in third place in divisional standing.