I’ve been a Toronto Blue Jays fan my whole life. Started cheering for the team when I was four years old, during the 1992 World Series. As the first of back-to-back champions, I was an impressionable kid and simply got on the bandwagon as the local team was finding success. Little did I know, that in 1994, two years after that first World Series Title, things would change forever.
It’s been 19 years since the Toronto Blue Jays made it to the playoffs, and to be completely honest, I can’t remember anything from those Championship years.
In the world of sports they say that a strike affects all 30 or 32 teams in a professional sports league. The main argument always seems to be that every team suffers from the strike. When 1994 came around, the strike changed the landscape of Major League Baseball. The Toronto Blue Jays went from one of the richest teams in the league, to a middle of the pack team.
Meanwhile, the current mega powers the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, seemingly came out as the biggest beneficiaries. In the 18 years since that strike, I’ve found myself wanting the Toronto Blue Jays to be the New York Yankees, in part because of the greatest thing I never saw.
Since the strike in 1994, the New York Yankees have won five World Series Titles (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009) and the Boston Red Sox have won two World Series Titles (2004, 2007) for a total of seven titles in 18 years. Along the way, the Yankees and Red Sox have combined to make 25 playoff appearances, compared to zero by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Taking a deeper look at those 25 playoff appearances, you will notice that the Yankees have made it to the playoffs (let alone the World Series) 16 times in the last 18 years. For this reason, when I say I want the Blue Jays to be more like the Yankees, it isn’t to spend a ton of money, but to rather have high expectations every season.
As we have seen throughout the past 18 years, if the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox fail to win a minimum of 90 games, ownership is quick to rebuild. Conversely, the Blue Jays have gone through several General Managers and managers since Pat Gillick architected those two World Series Championships.
Under the various GM’s and managers, it seemed that status quo was good enough. This was due in large part because fans continued to support the team. But then in 2009, Roy Halladay’s final year as the ace of the pitching rotation, things changed dramatically.
Once again, the General Manager was jettisoned, as assistant General Manager Alex Anthopoulos replaced JP Ricciardi, but more importantly, the fans finally stopped showing up to games. In sports, the best way to send a message to your team is to have the fan base boycott the product.
While attendance has been an ongoing issue the past three years, the fan base itself has also changed. Now, the self labeled ‘diehards’ range in age from 18 – 35. But for all intents and purposes, it seems like most of this current batch of diehards showed up this season. Personally I believe this happened because the Blue Jays went back in time and changed the color of their uniforms to the royal blue of the Championship years.
On the one hand, it is great to see the fan base resurrected. On the other hand, for people like me who have watched this team since we were in kindergarten it seems like a cop out. You can make the argument that the majority of the younger demographic were Yankees and Red Sox fans. That is to say, they hopped off the bandwagon when the going got tough and picked up another team that has ‘potential’ to be great.
But when you get down to the thick of things, the Blue Jays are a team that the real diehards can truly appreciate. Think about it, when the Jays suddenly fall off from being two and a half games out to 12 games out by the trade deadline, will these new fans still be around? Nevertheless, with all this being said, if adding bandwagon fans is the first step to get the Toronto Blue Jays back to the greatest thing I never saw, a World Series Title, I’ll gladly put up with it.