Monday, August 10, 2015

How Long It's Been: The Toronto Blue Jays Made the Playoffs


Just in case any fans of those pesky Toronto Blue Jays are getting cocky about having swept the Yankees this weekend, to close with within a game and a half of 1st place in the American League Eastern Division -- 3 games in the loss column...

Let me remind you that these were the 3 biggest games your franchise has played in, literally, a generation.

You last played a postseason game on October 23, 1993. Most of us remember it well. Joe Carter hit a home run. Since then:

* The most games you've won in a season is 88, in 1998, which still put you 26 games behind the Yankees.
* The closest you've come to a Playoff berth was in 2000, 2 games behind the Boston Red Sox to the AL Wild Card.
* The closest you've finished to 1st place was also in 2000, 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees.
* Your only finish as high as 2nd place was in 2006, with 87 wins, which still put you 10 games behind the Yankees, and 8 games behind the Detroit Tigers for the Wild Card.
* Also, since topping out at 4,057,947 fans in your World Championship season of 1993, then an AL record, an average of 50,098 per game, you've dropped off dramatically. You only got 19,173 per game in 2010. Even now, you're averaging just 29,544 -- a gain of just 217 per game from last season.
* Don't even get us started on those predictions that you would make the Playoffs last season, or even win the Pennant. It's not easy for National League pitchers to adjust to the AL. And Jose Reyes is one of the most underperforming players of his generation.

From 1985 to 1993, you were a model franchise. Since 1994, you've been, if not a joke franchise, then, at the most, an irrelevant one.

What's more, you still have to play the Yankees another 10 times this season. Don't think you're going to take all 10 -- and you may have to, in order to make the Playoffs.

Because you haven't proven yourselves good enough yet.

You haven't proven yourselves good enough since October 23, 1993. How long has that been?

*

The Jays had 3 future Hall-of-Famers: Rickey Henderson, Roberto Alomar and Paul Molitor. They had 5 others who aren't far from HOF worthiness: John Olerud, Joe Carter, Jack Morris, Dave Stewart, and a rookie named Carlos Delgado. (I've advocated Morris' election for years, Stewart should also be considered, and I wouldn't be surprised if Delgado did.) Plus All-Stars (not necessarily that season) like Alfredo Griffin, Tony Fernandez, Devon White, rookie Shawn Green, Juan Guzman, Pat Hentgen and Duane Ward.

Who have the 2015 Jays got that's worthy of eventual HOF consideration? At this writing, Jose Bautista has 272 career home runs (and it seems like at least 50 of them have come against the Yankees), but he's got just 1,166 hits, and a lifetime batting average of .256. If he was 30, he might have time to get up to 450 or more home runs; everybody known to be clean with that many, who is eligible, is in. He turns 35 in October. He's probably not going to get to 450. He's not going to get into the Hall. Troy Tulowitzki? He'll be 31 in October, and his defense isn't so good that it overcomes his hitting stats. He's 29 and didn't become a big-league starting 3rd baseman until he was 27, so forget it. David Price? He's about to turn 30 and he hasn't yet won 100 games: He's 97-55. Mark Buehrle? Probably has the best chance, but not yet a great one: At 36, he's 211-157. No, this Jays team doesn't measure up to a champion.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks did not exist yet. They, the 1st-year expansion Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies, the team then known as the California Angels, the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers had yet to win a Pennant. The Braves since they moved to Atlanta, the Marlins, the Diamondbacks, the Angels, had yet to win a World Series. All of those facts have now changed.

Of the 28 teams then in Major League Baseball, 19 have moved into new ballparks; the only ones that haven't are the Jays, the Baltimore Orioles, the Boston Red Sox, the Kansas City Royals, the Oakland Athletics, the 2 Chicago teams (the Cubs and the White Sox) and the 2 Los Angeles area teams (the Dodgers and the Angels).

There were 9 teams playing home games on artificial turf: The Jays, the Astros, the Cincinnati Reds, the Minnesota Twins, the Montreal Expos, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Seattle Mariners. Today, only 2 teams do so: The Jays, and the Rays, who didn't start play until 1998.

Baseball had been integrated with black and Hispanic players, but, as yet, there were no Asian players, save for the 1964-65 instance of San Francisco Giants pitcher Masanori Murakami.

Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Bob Feller were still alive. Most of the defining baseball figures of my childhood were now in the Hall of Fame: Reggie Jackson, Tom Seaver, Rod Carew, Johnny Bench, Carl Yastrzemski, Willie Stargell. Mike Schmidt would be elected a couple of years later. (Pete Rose, of course, was ineligible.) A few were wrapping up their careers: 1993 saw the retirements of Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount, Carlton Fisk and George Brett.

Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera had been their journeys up through the Yankee minor-league system. Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz were in the Mariners' farm system. Paul Konerko and Jimmy Rollins were in high school. Jose Bautsita and Albert Pujols were 13 years old, Josh Hamilton was 12, Robinson Cano was 11, David Wright and Dustin Pedroia were 10, Tim Linecum was 9, David Price was 7, Clayton Kershaw was 4, Mike Trout was 2, and Bryce Harper had just turned 1. There are currently 10 players on major league rosters who weren't born yet.

The Jays' manager was Cito Gaston. He is now 71 and retired from an active role in baseball. Current Jays manager John Farrell was a pitcher for the Angels.

Tom Coughlin of the Giants was the head coach at Boston College. Terry Collins of the Mets was the bullpen coach of the Pirates. Alain Vigneault of the Rangers was an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators. Jack Capuano of the Islanders had just started coaching in minor-league hockey. Lionel Hollins of the Nets was playing for the Detroit Pistons. Joe Girardi was the starting catcher for the expansion Rockies. Todd Bowles of the Jets was playing as a cornerback for the Washington Redskins. Derek Fisher of the Knicks was at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. John Hynes of the Devils had just entered Boston University.

The Jays succeeded themselves as World Champions. The other defending World Champions at that point were the Dallas Cowboys, the Chicago Bulls and the Montreal Canadiens. Riddick Bowe was the Heavyweight Champion of the World, although he was about to lose it to the man from whom he took it, Evander Holyfield.

The Olympic Games have since been held in America twice, Norway, Japan, Australia, Greece, Italy, China, Canada, Britain and Russia. Soccer's World Cup has since been held in America, France, Japan, Korea, Germany, South Africa and Brazil.

The President of the United States was Bill Clinton -- who, of course, was married to Hillary Clinton. Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, their wives, and the widows of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were all still alive. George W. Bush was 47, failing as owner of the Texas Rangers, already a 3-times-failed businessman and a once-failed candidate for Congress, and was wondering what he was going to do with his life. Barack Obama was a civil rights attorney in Chicago, who had not yet run for public office. His wife Michelle was running a nonprofit organization.

The Governor of the State of New York was Mario Cuomo; his son, Andrew, now Governor himself, was then Assistant Secretary of Housing & Urban Development. The Mayor of the City of New York was David Dinkins, but he was about to lose the office to Rudy Giuliani; the current Mayor, Bill de Blasio, was then an aide to Dinkins.

The Mayor of Toronto when the Blue Jays last played a postseason game was June Rowlands; the Premier of Ontario was Bob Rae. The Prime Minister of Canada was Kim Campbell, who was left, 2 days after the Carter homer, to take the battering in a federal election because outgoing PM Brian Mulroney was a coward. Jean Chretien would soon be Prime Minister.

The monarch of Canada, and of Great Britain, was Queen Elizabeth II -- that hasn't changed -- but the Prime Minister was John Major. Manchester United had won England's Premier League the previous spring, while Arsenal became the 1st team ever to take both domestic cup competitions: The FA Cup and the League Cup.

Donald Trump was about to marry Marla Maples. Guests at the wedding included Rosie O'Donnell and O.J. Simpson. That's how long ago this was: Not only did The Donald have only 1 wife by this point, but he was still friends with both Rosie and O.J.

Major novels of 1993 included Honor Among Thieves by Jeffrey Archer, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, The Client by John Grisham, Death In the Andes by Maria Vargas Llosa, and Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. Historian Stephen Ambrose published Band of Brothers, immortalizing a U.S. Army unit marching through Europe in World War II.

Major films premiering in the Fall of 1993 included the college football-themed film The Program, the 1976 nostalgia piece Dazed and Confused, the 1960s nostalgia piece A Bronx Tale, Martin Scorcese's film of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, the Jamaican bobsled story Cool Runnings, the sci-fi tale Demolition Man, the Civil War picture Gettysburg, the Notre Dame football story Rudy. a film version of the 1960s sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, and yet another Al Pacino gangster film, Carlito's Way. River Phoenix died of a drug overdose, just 23 years old.

The X-Files, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Animaniacs, The Ricki Lake Show, Frasier, NYPD Blue, Boy Meets World and Grace Under Fire had all just premiered on television. Two days after the Joe Carter homer, The Jon Stewart Show would premiere on MTV. (This is not the same show that Stewart just wrapped up; this one lasted only 2 seasons.) Within days, Diagnosis: Murder and The Nanny would premiere. David Letterman had just moved over from the 12:30 slot at NBC, which was given to Conan O'Brien, to the 11:30 slot at CBS.

The Number 1 song in America was "Dreamlover" by Mariah Carey. Pearl Jam had just released their album Vs. Wu-Tang Clan were about to release their 1st album. Frank Sinatra was just about to release his last great recording, Duets. Elvis Presley's stamp was newly-released. Michael Jackson, in the middle of a world tour, had just been sued, giving us the first public suggestion that his private life was scandalous. The most notable thing any of the ex-Beatles were doing was Paul McCartney releasing a live album titled Paul Is Live -- a play on the "Paul Is Dead" story, complete with a cover photo of him walking a dog on the Abbey Road crosswalk, and a Volkswagen (ahem) Beetle in the same spot as on the 1969 Abbey Road cover, only instead of saying "28 IF," meaning Paul (incorrectly) would have been 28 years old if he had lived to be in the photo, it had a license plate that read, "51 IS," his correct age at the time.

Inflation has been such that what $1.00 bought then, $1.64 buys now. Or, more to the point of the country in question, in Canadian dollars, $1.00 buys $1.49 now.

Personal computers were now everywhere, but most people still hadn't heard of the Internet. There was America Online, but no Netscape, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram. There were mobile telephones, but they were still of the flip-open variety, and roughly the size of the original Star Trek series' communicators.

In the fall of 1993, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat signed the Gaza-Jericho First Accord on the White House lawn, in the presence of President Clinton, and shook hands -- a false dawn, as it turned out. Russia withdrew its last troops from Poland, after 54 years of occupation. A coup in Moscow was turned back by Russian troops, enabling President Boris Yeltsin to stay in power. The Maastricht Treaty took effect, establishing the European Union. U.S. Army Rangers, assisting the food-relief effort in Somalia, engaged Somali terrorists, killing over 1,000 but losing 2 helicopters and 19 men, inspiring the book and film Black Hawk Down. A civil war began in Burundi, and continued to rage in Bosnia and Sri Lanka. The U.S. Congress ratified the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

General Jimmy Doolittle, and Vincent Price, and Bill Dickey died. Niall Horan of One Direction, and Molly C. Quinn of Castle, and Lance McCullers Jr., who has now followed his father as a major league pitcher, were born.

October 23, 1993: The Toronto Blue Jays win the World Series. It's been almost 22 years, and they have never played another postseason game.

Will they do so this season? If the current standings hold, they would still be on the outside looking in. Momentum means nothing if you do nothing with it. Stay tuned.

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