Toronto Blue Jays
In 1977, the Blue Jays became a member of the American League as an MLB expansion franchise. The club played its first-ever game in April of ’77 against the Chicago White Sox — Toronto won 9-5 in an iconic snow-filled game. The first few seasons of Toronto’s franchise were largely unsuccessful, but general manager Pat Gillick (a now Hall of Famer) began to lay the foundation of the franchise’s first competitive teams.
In 1982, legendary manager Bobby Cox took over the reins in Toronto and led the team to their most successful season at the time, a 78-84 record. The 1980s Blue Jays featured franchise icons like Lloyd Moseby, Jesse Barfield, Tony Fernandez, and Dave Stieb and had several winning seasons. Despite still being in its first few years of the franchise’s existence, they were competing for AL East pennants throughout the late 1980s and pushing towards World Series contention.
After 15 years of growth and surprising success (for a young franchise), the 1992 Blue Jays put Toronto on the baseball map. Toronto’s ’92 squad featured a deep lineup including Dave Winfield, Roberto Alomar, John Olerud, and Joe Carter and workhorse starting pitchers like Jack Morris and Jimmy Key. The squad won 96 games, won the AL East, beat the Athletics in the ALCS, and topped the Atlanta Braves (managed by former Jays manager Cox) in six games in the World Series to bring the trophy outside the United States for the first time.
Just a year later, the Jays were back at it, bringing back franchise icon Tony Fernandez and acquiring some help at the deadline including the fastest man in baseball, Rickey Henderson. The ’93 Jays won one less game than the ’92 squad but, facing the Phillies in the World Series, produced arguably the most memorable moment in Blue Jays (and one of the best in all of baseball) history: Joe Carter’s game six home run in the bottom of the ninth to clinch back-to-back world championships for Toronto.
Following the back-to-back titles, the Jays middled out for over 20 years, flirting with the playoffs but failing to reach them, stuck behind the Yankees and Red Sox. In 2015, however, under a new core of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Josh Donaldson, the team cracked the playoffs for the first time since the ’93 title. After falling down two games to none in the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, the Jays stormed back and, tied 3-3 in the seventh inning of the deciding game five, Bautista launched a pitch into the left-field bleachers and threw his bat in the air, ushering in the current ‘era of the bat flip.’
SP Dave Stieb — 56.9 career WAR (WAR: Wins Above Replacement, a holistic measure of player performance)
SP Roy Halladay — 48.4 career WAR (Hall of Famer)
OF Jose Bautista — 38.2 career WAR
INF Tony Fernandez — 37.5 career WAR
OF Carlos Delgado — 36.8 career WAR
The Jays made the playoffs but were eliminated in the ALCS in 2015, and 2016 — two of the best Jays teams in recent memory. Unable to win with that core, the franchise, under new management in former Indians president Mark Shapiro, elected to rebuild around top prospects Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette. With fellow son-of-former-MLB-star Cavan Biggio, Guerrero and Bichette make up a core of young hitters that are carrying the Jays to their next playoff appearance. The Jays added ace Hyun Jin Ryu in the 2020 offseason and are looking to compete with one of the best farm systems in baseball graduating into the majors in the next few seasons.
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