Toronto Blue Jays

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Template:MLB infobox Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays are a Major League Baseball team based in Toronto, Ontario, notable for being the first team from outside the United States to win the World Series. They are in the Eastern Division of the American League.

They are the only remaining Canadian-based team in the Major Leagues after the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington, D.C. to become the Washington Nationals after the 2004 season.

Franchise History

Growing pains (1977-1984)

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. Snowflakes were seen during the game.

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.

Getting competitive (1985-1991)

1985 saw Toronto winning their first championship of any sort: the first of their five American League East division titles. 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 (ALCS), 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 (and so far only) 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 34 home runs. Dave Stieb had back-to-back starts in which he lost a no-hitter with 2 out in the 9th inning; one was a potential perfect game.

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 replaced 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 ALCS, 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 in 1991. Once again, however, they fell short in the postseason, losing to the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS, 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.

The glory days (1992-1993)

After the 1991 season had ended, the Blue Jays acquired pitcher Jack Morris, who had led the Twins to victory in the World Series by pitching a 10-inning complete game shutout in Game 7 and had been named the Series MVP. The 1992 regular season went well, as the Jays finished four 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 deficit, scoring four 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 then 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 Jays reliever Mike Timlin fielded Otis Nixon's bunt, throwing to Joe Carter at first 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, seven 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 World Series 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 crown.

Post-World Series letdowns (1994-2001)

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 Guzmán 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 S. 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.

File:JaysLate90s.jpg
Blue Jays logo (19972002).

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 José 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.

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 offensive 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. In addition, six other players hit 30 homeruns, an outstanding feat. Jose Cruz, jr., Shawn Green, Tony Batista, Darrin Fletcher, Shannon Stewart, and Brad Fullmer all contributed to the powerful heart of the lineup.

On September 1 2000, Rogers Communications Inc. purchased 80% of the baseball club with the Labatt Brewing Company Ltd. maintaining 20% interest and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce relinquishing its 10% share.

Buck Martinez, a former catcher and broadcast announcer 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 of general manager Gord Ash, who had taken over from Pat Gillick following the 1994 season.

The Sabermetric regime (2002-current)

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 sabermetrically aware GMs in the game. During the off-season, the team traded or let go several regular players, including Alex S. Gonzalez, Paul Quantrill and closer Billy Koch.

2002: Year of transition

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.

2003: A spectacular preview of the future

The 2003 season was 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, which had been broken and went unnoticed for several months.

File:JaysEarly2000s.jpg
Blue Jays logo (2003).

Despite their hitting successes, poor pitching continued to plague the team. Only two of the starting pitchers on opening day - Halladay and Cory Lidle - 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 four pitchers of the rotation then included Halladay, Lilly, Miguel Batista from free agency signing, and Pat Hentgen.

After the spectacular turnaround in May 2003, which helped the team trail just few games behind the wildcard occupant Boston Red Sox, team performance 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 were in third place in divisional standing. The Jays also announced that a new logo and new uniforms would be used as of January 1, 2004.

2004: Annus horribilis

The 2004 season was a disappointing year for the Blue Jays right from the beginning. They started the season 0-8 at Skydome and never started a lengthy winning streak. Much of that is due to the injuries of All-Stars Carlos Delgado, Vernon Wells and Roy Halladay among others. Although the additions of starting pitchers Ted Lilly and Miguel Batista and reliever Justin Speier were relatively successful, veteran Pat Hentgen faltered throughout the season and retired on July 24. Rookies and minor league callups David Bush, Jason Frasor, Josh Towers and others filled the void in the rotation and the bullpen; however, inconsistent performances were evident. Most starting pitchers do not pitch further than the sixth inning; the thus overused bullpen contributed to frequent relinquishing of early scoring leads.

File:JaysCurrent.jpg
Current Blue Jays logo (2004–present).

The offense was no better due to the injuries of Wells, Delgado, Catalanotto and others. Five different catchers were used: Greg Myers, Bobby Estalella, Kevin Cash, Gregg Zaun, and rookie Guillermo Quiroz. Myers was injured in a collision at home plate early in the season and was out for the season; Estalella was called up, but quickly became injured as well; and Zaun landed the regular catching responsiblility for the rest of the season. Cash continued to struggle from an offensive standpoint and would be moved in the offseason. The highly-tauted Quiroz was promoted from the minors near the end of the season.

The once highly-regarded slugger Josh Phelps was limited to playing against lefthanded pitching and was traded to the Cleveland Indians for first baseman Eric Crozier.

With the team struggling in last place and mired in a five-game losing streak, manager Carlos Tosca was fired on August 8, 2004 and was replaced by first-base coach John Gibbons through the end of the season. The Jays' trying year also affected long-time radio announcer Tom Cheek, who had to break his streak of calling all 4,306 regular season games since the franchise started playing 1977 in bereavement of his father. Cheek had to take more time off later to remove a brain tumor, by the end of the season, Cheek only called the home games.

Nevertheless, prospects Russ Adams, Gabe Gross, and Alexis Rios provided excitement for the fans. Adams hit his first major league homerun in his second game, in which Gross also earned his own first major league grand slam. Alexis Rios has been regarded among the MLB Rookie of the Year Award candidates; however, his chance of winning the award may have been limited by playing time and the performance of Bobby Crosby of the Oakland Athletics. Rookie pitchers David Bush, Gustavo Chacin and Jason Frasor have also shown promise for the club's future.

On October 2, 2004, the Toronto Blue Jays announced the dismissals of pitching coach Gil Patterson and first-base coach Joe Breeden, effective at the end of the season. One day later, the Blue Jays finished the 2004 campaign with a 3-2 loss against the New York Yankees in front of an announced crowd of 49,948. However, the Jays' annus horribilis continued after the game, when it was announced that former pitcher and current TV broadcaster John Cerutti died suddenly of natural causes at the age of 44.

More losses to the Jays family came in the offseason, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame member Bobby Mattick, the manager from 1980 to 1981 and perhaps the best baseball man in the organisation, suffered a stroke and passed away at the age of 89. Mattick had also served as the Vice President of Baseball Operations for the Jays. A few days after Christmas, the Jays also mourned the loss of former first baseman Doug Ault, who hit two home runs in the team's inaugural game; he was 54.

Rogers Communications, the owner of the Jays, purchased SkyDome from Sportco International in November 2004 for approximately $25 million Cdn (US$21.24 million), just a fraction of the construction cost.

Just days after superstar Carlos Delgado became a free agent after the club refused arbitration, the Jays announced the signing of Manitoban third baseman Corey Koskie, formerly of the Minnesota Twins.

One month after Koskie was inked, the Jays traded pitching prospect Adam Peterson to the Arizona Diamondbacks for corner-baseman Shea Hillenbrand.

2005

On February 2, 2005, several days after finalising the purchase of SkyDome, by Rogers Communications , Rogers renamed the stadium the Rogers Centre. By the start of the season Rogers had upgraded the stadium with a new "Jumbotron" videoboard and added other state-of-the-art video screens around the stadium. Most importantly, the old AstroTurf surface was replaced by the more natural-looking FieldTurf. Owner Ted Rogers also promised a payroll increase to $210 million over the next 3 years, which will allow them to have a team payroll of $80 million per year.

The Blue Jays finished spring training with a 16-10 record. Among the stars of spring training included Gabe Gross who tied the Jays record for most Home Runs in spring training a 8. (the previous record breaker was the long time Blue Jay Carlos Delgado). The Jays were able to translate their success in spring training into a excellent start -- the team led the AL East from early to mid-April and held their record around .500 until late August. The Jays were hit with the injury bug when third-baseman Corey Koskie broke his finger, taking him out of the lineup, but the club was pleasantly surprised with the performance of rookie callup Aaron Hill.

Prior to the All-Star Break, the Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay struck on the shin by a line drive and was placed on the DL. The injury lost Halladay's chance to be the starter in the All-Star game in Detroit. Though Halladay's injury was hoped to be minor, the recovery process was met with constant delays and Halladay would not play a single game in 2005 after the All-Star break.

On July 28, Toronto played in the longest game in franchise history, inningswise, an 18-inning marathon against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Rogers Centre. The Jays won 2-1, after nearly five hours of play.

After Jays management decided to shut Halladay down for the rest of the season in August, it seemed to affect the performance of the Jays. They went on a slump that brought their record under .500 in the beginning of September.

From there, the Blue Jays finished the season 80-82 while receiving glimpses of the future from September call-ups Guillermo Quiroz, John-Ford Griffin, and Shaun Marcum. Marcum made himself noteworthy by posting an ERA of 0.00 over 5 relief starts and 8 innings in September. Griffin hit his first career home run in the last game of the season and ended up going 4 for 13.

Josh Towers stepped up showing largely unseen potential going 7-5 with a 2.91 ERA in the 2nd half of the year and a 13-12, 3.71 ERA season overall, making him arguably the unlikely ace of the Jays rotation with Halladay injured and Chacin faltering some after the all-star break.

On October 9 the Jays, along with their fans, mourned the loss of inaugural broadcaster Tom Cheek, to brain cancer. Cheek, 66, succumed to brain cancer after just over a year-long battle.

Now the Blue Jays face one of their most critical free agency periods in some time. With both young talent and $160 million over the next two years to spend, GM J.P. Ricciardi has more flexibility then he's ever had before to sign free agents and trade for veterans.

Quick facts

Founded: 1977 (American League expansion)
Uniform colours: Blue, white (home), grey (away), black (alternate), red (alternate for Canada Day and other special national holidays).
Logo Design: A stylised white and silver "Jays", with a blue, white and silver blue jay's head pointing leftward in the crook of the letter "J".
Playoff appearances (5): 1985, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993
Official Television Stations: Rogers Sportsnet, TSN
Official Radio Station: CJCL The Fan 590, formerly 1050 CHUM

Baseball Hall of Famers

Current roster

Toronto Blue Jays roster

Minor league affiliations

See also

External links


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