Having waited 22 years — the longest playoff drought in North American sports — the Blue Jays had a magic number of two to clinch the postseason heading into this past Friday night. A win versus the Tampa Bay Rays and losses by the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels would end that drought. Blue Jays won 5-3 and the Twins lost 6-4, but the Angels won 8-4. All this meant was the Blue Jays would have to wait another day to end the 22-year spell.
As Blue Jay fans went to bed Friday after the conclusion of the MLB night, they woke up the next morning to a Rogers Sportsnet article, which was later confirmed by MLB.com, saying that the Blue Jays had indeed clinched a playoff berth on Friday night. It didn’t make much sense to anyone since the Angels had won, but the MLB explained it as so; only two of the Angels, Texas Rangers and Houston Astros (all American League west teams) could finish with a 88-74 record for the season, which was the worst record the Blue Jays could finish with if they had lost all their remaining nine games. After the confusion was put to rest, it was confirmed the Blue Jays clinched, ending the long 22 years of no playoffs.
Now, forget about the early 1990’s, the last time the Toronto Blue Jays made the postseason and won back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993. For a majority of Brock University students, they’ve never been alive to see an October baseball game in Toronto, and if you were alive, you were probably too young to remember.
If you grew up a Toronto Blue Jays fan, you probably know that weird anxious feeling you get at the beginning of April. The time of the year when every team begins the season 0-0, giving the Blue Jays the same realistic chance as the other 29 teams to win the World Series. Then mid-July comes and year after year that anxious feeling goes away, because, well, the Blue Jays are no longer in contention for the American League east division.
Personally, I remember my Aprils perfectly. I would sit there watching Roger Sportsnet just to see the Blue Jays season promo commercials, days before the start of the season. Then when 6:50 p.m. would hit on the day of the season opener, I would come running down the stairs from my room and put the television volume on full. With my mom screaming at me to turn the TV down, I would stand with my heart beating faster than it should, and I would not sit down till the first pitch.
Now here we are, in 2015. That anxious feeling that would start in April and die in July is still there. It’s now September! For the first time in my life and for many Badgers, the Blue Jays are heading to the MLB postseason, and you can feel the buzz on campus.
Clinching a playoff berth means the Blue Jays have guaranteed themselves a one-game wild card playoff game. Toronto does hold a small AL east lead on the Yankees, which the Blue Jays could clinch by Tuesday night. This would allow the lone Canadian MLB team to then avoid the win or go home game, and be able to play in a five-game American League Divisional Series. Not to stop there, the Blue Jays have also caught up to the Kansas City Royals for the best record in the AL, which would give them home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
Following the 1993 World Series, the Blue Jays had a 55-60 record in 1994 before the season went on strike on August 11. It was just the start of many frustrating years for the Blue Jays, who have hit 90 wins in a single season for the first time since 1993. Between the years 1994-2014 the Blue Jays have averaged a win total of 77.8.
Most Badgers will remember the great seasons the Blue Jays had from top MLB players (all retired), such as starting pitcher Roy Halladay, first baseman Carlos Delgado and outfielder Vernon Wells. Blue Jay fans will remember when the Blue Jays 2005 off-season spending spree brought in pitchers A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan, along with trades for infielders Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay. That big off-season spending spree never panned out on the field.
The same season those signings and trades didn’t work out, manager John Gibbons had some off-field problems with a couple of the Blue Jays players. This was Gibbons’ first tenure as the team manager (2004-2008), and he was in the news for challenging infielder Shea Hillenbrand to a fight and then, over a month later, Gibbons was in a confrontation with pitcher Ted Lilly that led to punches being thrown, as per reports.
This one season was just one of many struggles the franchise has encountered over the years. In 2012, the team saw multiple pitchers go down with injuries in the span of four days; Brandon Morrow, Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek all went on the disabled list. Both 2006 and 2012 were possible years for the Blue Jays to make the playoffs.
It hasn’t been all dark clouds for the Blue Jays; Jose Bautista, who has become a franchise player since coming here was acquired for a minor league catcher. Edwin Encarnacion was traded for because the Blue Jays were looking to get rid of Scott Rolen. Encarnacion was later put on waivers by the Blue Jays, but was brought back and broke through as a big-time hitter.
This season got off to a rough start, as it saw starting pitcher Marcus Stroman go down with a torn ACL. At the all-star break the Blue Jays had a record of 45-46, but since have had the best record in the league. They traded for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (now on the DL), top starting pitcher David Price, outfielder Ben Revere and a couple pitchers. These moves have really energized the roster and put the Blue Jays in the position some see them as a World Series contender.