The Toronto Blue jays have a long history of exciting young talent coming up to the big leagues amidst a ton of fanfare. From Tony Fernandez, to Lloyd Moseby, to Jesse Barfield, Carlos Delgado, Shannon Stewart, and on and on.
But nothing seems to compare with the combined hype for this new group of kids now taking the city by storm. Their performances, at least early on, suggest that the expectations heaped upon them seems warranted, and in some cases, might even have been low.
The late Roy Halladay; all star pitcher, two-time Cy Young winner, former Blue Jay and Phillie, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this week. He made it into Cooperstown in his first year on the ballot, receiving 85.4 percent of the votes from the 425 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Over 16 seasons, Halladay had 203 wins and just 105 losses, with a 3.38 lifetime ERA and tossed a very impressive 67 complete games.
From all accounts of those who knew him, Halladay was the consummate professional. He possessed all the qualities of the top athletes…talent, drive, commitment. But Roy had that bit extra. His focus to his sport, to his craft, was unsurpassed. It was widely reported that “Doc” could be prickly on the days he pitched, and was known to hold teammates to that same standard. But there was no denying Roy’s love and respect of the game, and the will to be the best he could be every time he took the mound.
Almost constantly, professional sports teams are faced with situations that are pointed to by the fans and media as “defining moments”. Sometimes this rings true, while others are just the next moments in a series of important decisions that teams are faced with on the road to improvement and, ultimately, the top of the championship mountain.
Which brings us to the Blue Jays and Marcus Stroman. Stroman has been a unique entity in his tenure as a Blue Jay. He brings a blend of talent and swagger to the mound each and every time, utilizing the motivation that somewhere along the road someone told him he wasn’t big enough to compete at baseball’s highest levels.
It is a brave new world we are seeing unfold across professional hockey with the number of potential free agents-restricted and unrestricted- that have hit the open market. The salary cap, which was supposed to help curb spending by certain teams, and to create a more balanced, competitive league, might actually be doing the opposite. You now have situations where teams can build a good team through wise drafting and shrewd trades, but often won’t be able to keep them together long enough to actually win the Stanley Cup.
Gone are the days of the Chicago Blackhawks, who won two Cups before they were forced to break up the band. Now, teams like Toronto and Winnipeg are facing the potential of having to dismantle very good rosters long before they have won anything significant.
1993. Seinfeld was at the peak of the TV mountain. Jurassic Park was turning CGI cinema on its collective ear. The Montreal Canadiens won their 24th Stanley Cup, and became the answer to the trivia question: “When was the last time a Canadian team won the Cup?”
And the Toronto Blue Jays won their second World Series. The last Toronto “top four” sports franchise to even appear in a final.
Also of note, on Nov. 4 1993, the Toronto Raptors were born. They would start playing in the NBA the following year. Yesterday’s championship parade is testament to how far this franchise has come.
I wasn’t always a Blue jays fan. A native Winnipegger, I grew up in Boston in the 60’s, and became a huge Red Sox fanatic….which formulated my angst at a young age as my beloved Sox tempted and let me down more times than I could count. From Bill Buckner to Bucky “Freakin’ “ Dent, my soul was tormented year after year until 2004….glorious 2004…when the ghost of Babe Ruth was finally exorcised in perfect, sweet irony in beating the hated Yankees.
As the years went by, and the Sox started winning championships with alarming regularity, I found that my desire to support the team lessened each time they won. It was almost as if they had become the juggernaut that everyone loved to hate, rather than the New Yorkers.