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An expansion franchise, the club was founded in Toronto, in 1977. Originally based at Exhibition Stadium, the team moved to the SkyDome in 1989. In 2004, the SkyDome was bought by Rogers Communications who renamed the venue to Rogers Centre. They are the first and only team outside the United States to win a World Series, the first team to win a World Series in Canada, and the fastest AL expansion franchise to win a World Series (winning in their 16th year, beating the Kansas City Royals' record by one year). With the fellow Canadian franchise Montreal Expos moving to Washington, D.C. after the 2004 season, and becoming the Washington Nationals, the Blue Jays are currently the only MLB team outside the U.S.
The Toronto Blue Jays came into existence in 1976 as one of two teams slated to join the American League for the next season (the other being the Seattle Mariners). Toronto had been mentioned as a potential major league city as early as the 1880s, and had been home to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League from 1896 to 1967. The San Francisco Giants were considering a move to the city until the team was purchased by Bob Lurie in 1976. However, the Giants' abortive bid was enough that the city renovated Exhibition Stadium, home of the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts, to accommodate baseball.
The franchise was originally owned by Labatt Breweries, with Imperial Trust and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce as minority owners. The name "Blue Jays" came about when the team held a "name the team" contest. "Blue Jays" was one of the choices and was chosen by majority owners Labatt Breweries because "Labatt's Blue" was (and still is) its main brand of beer. Labatt Breweries hoped that the team name would be shortened to "Blues" in popular parlance, thus achieving crossover free advertising. Its hopes were dashed when the fans of Toronto almost immediately started referring to the team as the "Jays." It was very likely that the new team would have worn blue in any case; blue has been Toronto's traditional sporting colour since the Toronto Argonauts adopted blue as its primary colour in 1873.
The franchise's first employee was Paul Beeston, who began work in 1976 as the vice president of business operations. Beeston would later serve as president of the Blue Jays and MLB. Before the team's inaugural season in 1977, Peter Bavasi was chosen as the general manager, and Pat Gillick was assistant general manager.
1977–1994: The Pat Gillick eraEdit
The Blue Jays played their first game on April 7, 1977, against the Chicago White Sox, before a home crowd of 44,649. They won the snowy affair 9–5, led by Doug Ault's two home runs. That win would be one of only 54 of the 1977 season, as the Blue Jays finished in last place in the AL East, with a record of 54–107. After the season, Gillick became general manager of the team, a position he would hold until 1994.
In 1978, the team improved their record by four and a half games, but remained last with a record of 59–103. In 1979, after a 53–109 last place finish, shortstop Alfredo Griffin was named American League co-Rookie of the Year. In addition, the Blue Jays' first mascot, BJ Birdie, made its debut in 1979.
In 1980, Bobby Mattick became manager, succeeding Roy Hartsfield, the Blue Jays' original manager. In Mattick's first season as manager, although they remained at the bottom, Toronto almost reached the 70-win mark, finishing with a record of 67–95, a 14-win improvement on 1979. Jim Clancy led with 13 wins and John Mayberry became the first Jay to hit 30 home runs in a season.
In the strike-divided season of 1981, the Blue Jays finished in last place in the American League East in both halves of the season. They were a dismal 16–42 in the first half, but improved dramatically, finishing the 48-game second half at 21–27, for a combined record of 37–69.
Under new manager Bobby Cox, Toronto's first solid season came in 1982 as they finished 78–84. Their pitching staff was led by starters Dave Stieb, Jim Clancy and Luis Leal, and the outfield featured a young Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield. 1982 was also the Blue Jays first season outside the bottom, as they finished sixth in the East out of seven teams.
In 1983, the Blue Jays compiled their first winning record, 89–73, finishing in fourth place, 9 games behind the eventual World Series champions, the Baltimore Orioles. First baseman Willie Upshaw became the first Blue Jay to have at least 100 RBIs in a season.
The Blue Jays' progress continued in 1984, finishing with the same 89–73 record, but this time in a distant second place behind another World Series champion, the Detroit Tigers. After 1984, Alfredo Griffin went to the Oakland Athletics, thus giving a permanent spot to young Dominican shortstop Tony Fernández, who would become a fan favourite for many years.
In 1985, Toronto won their first championship of any sort: the first of their five American League East division titles. The Blue Jays featured strong pitching and a balanced offense. Their mid-season call up of relief pitcher Tom Henke also proved to be important. They finished 99–62 (the franchise record for most wins), two games in front of the New York Yankees. The Blue Jays faced the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series (ALCS), and took a 3 games to 1 lead. However, Kansas City won three consecutive games to win the series 4 games to 3, on their way to their first, and only, World Series championship.
With Jimy Williams now the skipper, The Blue Jays could not duplicate their success in 1986, sliding to a fourth-place tie at 86–76. Jesse Barfield and George Bell led the way with 40 and 31 home runs respectively and Jimmy Key and Jim Clancy tied for the team wins lead with 14 each.
In 1987, the Blue Jays lost a thrilling division race to the Detroit Tigers by two games, after being swept on the last weekend of the season by the Tigers. The Blue Jays finished with a 96–66 record, second best in the major leagues, but to no avail. However, George Bell was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the American League, the first and only Blue Jay to be named so.
In 1988, however, Toronto could not duplicate the successes of the previous season, tying the Milwaukee Brewers for third in the division at 87–75. Still, the season had numerous highlights. First baseman Fred McGriff hit 34 home runs, and Dave Stieb had back-to-back starts in which he lost a no-hitter with two out in the ninth inning.
1989–1991EditIn 1989, the Blue Jays' new retractable roofed home, SkyDome, opened in the middle of the season. It also marked the start of an extremely successful five-year period for Toronto. In May, management fired manager Jimy Williams and replaced him with hitting instructor Cito Gaston. The club had a 12–24 record at the time of the firing, but recorded a 77–49 record under Gaston to win the American League East by two games. George Bell's walk-off home run, off Bobby Thigpen, marked the end of the Exhibition Stadium era. The first game at the new stadium took place on June 5 against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Jays lost 5–3. In the 1989 American League Championship Series, Rickey Henderson led the Oakland Athletics to a 4–1 series win.
In 1990, the Blue Jays again had a strong season, but finished in second place, two games behind the Boston Red Sox. Dave Stieb pitched his first and only no-hitter, beating the Cleveland Indians 3–0 in front of a small crowd at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. That is also, as of 2008, the only no-hitter ever pitched by a Toronto Blue Jay pitcher. During the offseason, the Blue Jays made one of the two biggest trades in franchise history, sending shortstop Tony Fernández and first baseman Fred McGriff to the San Diego Padres for outfielder Joe Carter and second baseman Roberto Alomar. The Jays also traded for center fielder Devon White.
Carter, Alomar and White would prove to be effective additions, as the Blue Jays again won the division in 1991, as Carter drove in the division winning run. Once again, however, they fell short in the postseason, losing to the Minnesota Twins, who were on their way to their second World Series victory in five seasons, in the ALCS. In 1991, the Blue Jays became the first Major League club ever to draw over four million fans in one season.
- Team record 1989: 89 wins - 73 losses, W%- 0.549
- Team record 1990: 86 wins - 76 losses, W%- 0.531, 2 games behind Division Leader
- Team record 1991: 91 wins - 71 losses, W%- 0.562
1992–1993: World Series ChampionsEdit
After the 1991 season had ended, the Blue Jays acquired pitcher Jack Morris, who had led the Minnesota Twins to victory in the World Series by pitching a 10-inning complete game shutout in Game 7 and had been named the World Series MVP. To add veteran leadership to their explosive offense, Toronto signed future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield to be the team's designated hitter.
The 1992 regular season went well, as the Jays clinched their second straight AL East crown with a final record of 96–66, four games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers. They also went the entire season without being swept in any series. The Blue Jays met the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS, winning 4 games to 2. The pivotal game of the series was Game 4, considered by many to be one of the most important games in Blue Jays history: the Blue Jays rallied back from a 6–1 deficit after seven innings, capped off by Roberto Alomar's huge game-tying 2-run homer off Hall of Fame A's closer Dennis Eckersley in the top of the ninth. This paved the way for a 7–6 victory in 11 innings, a 3 games to 1 lead in the series and an eventual 4–2 ALCS series win.The Blue Jays then faced the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. The pivotal game in this series turned out to be Game 2, in which reserve player Ed Sprague hit a 9th-inning 2-run home run off Braves closer Jeff Reardon to give the Blue Jays a 5–4 lead, which would hold up. After winning Game 3 thanks to Candy Maldonado's ninth inning RBI hit and Game 4 due to Jimmy Key's superb 7 1/3 inning pitching effort in which he retired 15 straight batters (five innings), the Jays could not win the Series on home turf as the Braves struck back with a 7–2 win in Game 5. Game 6 in Atlanta, with the Blue Jays leading 3 games to 2, was a very close game. Toronto was one strike away from winning in the bottom of the 9th inning, 2–1, but Otis Nixon singled in the tying run off the Blue Jays' closer Tom Henke. It was the first run the Toronto bullpen had given up in the series. The game was decided in the 11th inning, when Dave Winfield doubled down the left-field line, driving in two runs. The Braves would again come within one run in the bottom of the 11th, but Jays reliever Mike Timlin fielded Otis Nixon's bunt, throwing to Joe Carter at first base for the final out. The Blue Jays became the first team based outside of the United States to win the World Series. Pat Borders, the Jays' catcher, was the unlikely player who was named MVP after hitting .450 with one home run in the World Series. Oddly, Morris was acquired in large part for his reputation as a clutch postseason pitcher, but he went 0–3 in the playoffs. Morris, however, pitched well in the regular season, becoming the Blue Jays' first 20-game winner, with a record of 21–6 and an ERA of 4.04.
After the 1992 season, the Blue Jays let World Series hero Dave Winfield and longtime closer Tom Henke go but signed two key free agents: designated hitter Paul Molitor from the Milwaukee Brewers and perennial playoff success Dave Stewart from the Oakland Athletics.
In 1993, the Blue Jays had seven All-Stars: outfielders Devon White and Joe Carter, infielders John Olerud and Roberto Alomar, designated hitter Molitor, plus starting pitcher Pat Hentgen, and closer Duane Ward. In August, the Jays acquired former nemesis Rickey Henderson from the Athletics. The Blue Jays cruised to a 95–67 record, seven games ahead of the New York Yankees, winning their third straight division title. The Jays beat the Chicago White Sox 4 games to 2 in the ALCS, and then the Philadelphia Phillies, 4 games to 2, for their second straight World Series victory. The World Series featured several exciting games, including Game 4, played under a slight rain, in which the Blue Jays came back from a 14–9 deficit to win 15–14 and take a 3 games to 1 lead in the series. It remains the highest scoring game in World Series history. Game 6 in Toronto saw the Blue Jays lead 5–1, but give up 5 runs in the 7th inning to trail 6–5. In the bottom of the 9th inning Joe Carter hit a one-out, three-run walk-off home run to clinch the series, off Phillies closer Mitch Williams. This is the only time in the history of Major League Baseball that a team hit a walk-off home run while trailing in the bottom of the 9th inning to win the World Series. The home run is also memorable for late Blue Jays broadcaster Tom Cheek's call:
"A swing, and a belt! Left field! Way back! Blue Jays win it! The Blue Jays are World Series champions as Joe Carter hits a three-run home run in the ninth inning and the Blue Jays have repeated as World Series Champions! Touch 'em all, Joe, you'll never hit a bigger home run in your life!" (Listen to Tom Cheek's historic call)
In the regular season, three Blue Jays - John Olerud, Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar - finished 1-2-3 for the AL batting crown.
- Team record 1992: 96 wins - 66 losses, W%- 0.593
- Team record 1993: 95 wins - 67 losses, W%- 0.586
Expectations were high for the Blue Jays for the 1994 season, following back-to-back championships, but they slumped to a 55–60 record and a third place finish (16 games back of the New York Yankees) before the players' strike. It was their first losing season since 1982. Joe Carter, Paul Molitor and John Olerud enjoyed good years at the plate, but the pitching fell off. Juan Guzmán slumped considerably from his first three years (40–11, 3.28 ERA), finishing 1994 at 12–11 with a 5.68 ERA. Three young players, Alex S. Gonzalez, Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green, did show a lot of promise for the future.
Labatt Breweries was bought by Belgian-based brewer Interbrew (now InBev), making the Blue Jays the second baseball team owned by interests outside of North America. Interestingly, the first was the Blue Jays' expansion cousins, the Mariners, owned by Nintendo.
- Team record 1994: 55 wins - 60 losses, W%- 0.478, 16 games behind Division Leader
1995–2001: The Gord Ash eraEdit
Before the 1995 season, Pat Gillick, the longtime Blue Jays general manager, resigned and handed the reins of the team to Toronto native Gord Ash, who would lead the team in its most tumultuous era yet.
In the 1995 season, the Blue Jays proved that they had lost their contending swagger of the past 12 years. Although they had most of the same cast of the World Series teams, the Blue Jays freefell to a dismal 56–88 record, last place in the AL East, 30 games behind the Boston Red Sox. Attendance also tailed off dramatically during the 1995 season, and has never recovered since. During SkyDome's first four-plus seasons, Blue Jays tickets were among the toughest in all of baseball. While attendance suffered throughout the majors in the years immediately after the strike, the dropoff was especially pronounced for the Canadian teams, the Montreal Expos and Blue Jays.
1996 was another mediocre year for the Blue Jays, despite Pat Hentgen's Cy Young Award (20–10. 3.22 ERA). Ed Sprague had a career year, hitting 36 home runs and driving in 101 runs. However, their 74 wins did put them in 4th place, improving over their last place finish in 1995. They improved their record by 18 victories as they played the full 162 game schedule for the first time since 1993.
The Blue Jays started 1997 with high hopes. Not only did the Jays drastically change their uniforms, they signed former Boston Red Sox ace Roger Clemens to a $24,750,000 contract. Clemens had one of the best pitching seasons ever as he won the pitcher's Triple Crown, leading the American League with a record of 21–7, a 2.05 ERA and 292 strikeouts. This was not enough to lead the Blue Jays to the postseason, however, as they ended the year 76–86, with their second last place finish in three years. Cito Gaston, the longtime manager who led the team to 3 division titles and 2 World Series crowns, was fired five games before the end of the season.
Before the start of the 1998 season, the Blue Jays acquired closer Randy Myers and slugger José Canseco. Gaston was replaced with Tim Johnson, a relative unknown but a former Blue Jay. Despite mediocre hitting, strong pitching led by Clemens' second straight pitching triple crown (20–6, 2.65 ERA, 271 strikeouts) sparked the Blue Jays to an 88–74 record--their first winning record since 1993. However, this was only good enough to finish a distant third, 26 games behind the New York Yankees, who posted one of the greatest records in all of baseball history.
Before the 1999 season, the Blue Jays traded Roger Clemens to the Yankees for starting pitcher David Wells, second baseman Homer Bush and relief pitcher Graeme Lloyd. They also fired Tim Johnson during spring training, after Johnson lied about several things (including killing people in the Vietnam War) in order to motivate his players. The Blue Jays had initially been willing to stand by Johnson. A blizzard of questions about his credibility during spring training, however, led Ash to fire him less than a month before opening day. Johnson was replaced with Jim Fregosi, who managed the Phillies when they lost to the Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series. The offense picked up somewhat in 1999, but the pitching suffered without Clemens, as the Blue Jays finished 84–78 in third place. After the 1999 season, the Blue Jays' original mascot for 20 years, BJ Birdie, was replaced by a duo named Ace & Diamond.
On November 8, 1999, Toronto traded star outfielder Shawn Green to the Los Angeles Dodgers for left-handed relief pitcher Pedro Borbón and right-fielder Raúl Mondesí. Green had told the Jays that he would not be re-signing when his contract was up at the end of the year (he wished to move to the west coast).
2000 proved to be a similar season, as the Jays had an 83–79 record, well out of the wild card race but only a slim 4.5 games back of the three-time defending World Series Champion Yankees in the AL East, the first time since 1993 they had contended for the division. Carlos Delgado had a stellar year, hitting .344 with 41 home runs, 57 doubles, 137 RBI, 123 walks and 115 runs. In addition, six other players hit 20 or more home runs, an outstanding feat. José Cruz Jr., Raúl Mondesí, Tony Batista, Darrin Fletcher, Shannon Stewart, and Brad Fullmer all contributed to the powerful heart of the lineup.
On September 1, 2000, Rogers Communications Inc. purchased 80% of the baseball club with Interbrew (now InBev) maintaining 20% interest and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce relinquishing its 10% share.
Buck Martinez, a former catcher and broadcast announcer for the Blue Jays, took over as manager before the 2001 season. The Blue Jays were back under .500 for 2001, finishing at 80–82, with mediocre pitching and hitting. Delgado led the team again with 39 home runs and 102 RBI. After the 2001 season ended, the Blue Jays relieved Gord Ash of his duties, ending a seven year tenure.
J. P. Ricciardi, then director of player development under Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, was named the Blue Jays' General Manager and was expected to slash the payroll immediately, in order to stem the tide of red ink. During the off-season, the team traded or let go several popular players, including Alex S. Gonzalez, Paul Quantrill, Brad Fullmer and closer Billy Koch to let talented youngsters such as Eric Hinske and Felipe Lopez get a chance to develop into major leaguers.
2002–present: The J.P. Ricciardi eraEdit
The Blue Jays started the 2002 season with slow progress in performance. Buck Martinez was fired about a third of the way through the season, with a 20–33 record. He was replaced by third base coach Carlos Tosca, an experienced minor league manager. They went 58–51 under Tosca to finish the season 78–84. Roy Halladay, a talented but inconsistent prospect who was no more than a fifth starter who alternated between Toronto and Triple-A during his first three seasons, was relied on as the team's ace and rose to the challenge being the team's top pitcher, finishing the season with a 19–7 record and a 2.93 ERA. The hitters were led once again by Carlos Delgado. Ricciardi was credited for dumping Raúl Mondesí in mid-season to the New York Yankees to free up his salary, which in turn was used for the off-season signing of Mike Bordick, Frank Catalanotto and Tanyon Sturtze. Promising young players were assigned to key roles, including starting third baseman Eric Hinske (who later won the Rookie of the Year Award for this year) and 23-year old centre fielder Vernon Wells, who had his first 100 RBI season replacing Mondesi. Another bright young player was Josh Phelps, a former catcher turned designated hitter, who hit 15 home runs.
- Team record 2002: 78 wins - 84 losses, W%- 0.481, 25.5 games behind Division Leader
The 2003 season was a surprise to both team management and baseball analysts. After a poor April, the team had its most successful month ever in May. The offense was mainly responsible for the stunning turnaround. Delgado took over the major league lead in runs batted in, followed closely by Wells. The middle infield positions remained a gametime decision - Bordick played shortstop and third base, Dave Berg second base and third base, Chris Woodward shortstop and Orlando Hudson second base. Minor league call-up Howie Clark entered the mix as a utility player after Hinske underwent surgery to repair a broken hamate bone in his right hand, which he had tried to play through for the first six weeks.
Despite their hitting successes, poor pitching continued to plague the team. Roy Halladay was spectacular in winning his first Cy Young Award, going 22–7, with a 3.25 ERA, but he didn't get much help from his fellow pitchers, although he had a poor start himself. Rookie Aquilino Lopez was a pleasant surprise out of the bullpen. Kelvim Escobar and former NBA player Mark Hendrickson were inserted into the rotation with their places in the bullpen filled by waiver acquisitions Doug Davis and Josh Towers, who went 8–1 after being called up from Triple-A Syracuse. The closer role was a season-long revolving door, with nobody able to take hold of the reins. Trade speculation had focussed on the acquisitions of pitching at the expense of hitters, but in the end the team simply divested itself of impending free agent Shannon Stewart without getting a pitcher in return. Instead Bobby Kielty, another outfielder with a much lower batting average than Stewart's, was obtained from the Minnesota Twins and later traded in November 2003 to the Oakland Athletics for starter Ted Lilly. The top four pitchers for the projected 2004 rotation would include Halladay, Lilly, free agent Miguel Batista, and the return of Pat Hentgen.
After the spectacular turnaround in May 2003, which helped the team move to just few games behind the wildcard leading Boston Red Sox, team performance slowly returned to reality, as predicted by team management. Carlos Delgado was second in the voting for the American League MVP although the Jays were in third place in their division. The Jays also announced that a new logo and new uniforms would be used as of January 1, 2004.
- Team record 2003: 86 wins - 76 losses, W%- 0.531, 15 games behind Division Leader
The 2004 season was a disappointing year for the Blue Jays right from the beginning. They started the season 0–8 at SkyDome and never started a lengthy winning streak. Much of that was due to injuries to All-Stars Carlos Delgado, Vernon Wells and Roy Halladay among others. Although the additions of starting pitchers Ted Lilly and Miguel Batista and reliever Justin Speier were relatively successful, veteran Pat Hentgen faltered throughout the season and retired on July 24. Rookies and minor league callups David Bush, Jason Frasor, Josh Towers and others filled the void in the rotation and the bullpen; however, inconsistent performances were evident. Most starting pitchers did not pitch further than the sixth inning; thus, the overused bullpen contributed to the frequent relinquishing of early scoring leads.
The offense really sputtered due to the injuries of Wells, Delgado, Catalanotto and others, although in their absence, Josh Phelps emerged as the team's go to guy, hitting 12 homers and driving in 51 runs before being limited to playing against left-handed pitching and was traded to the Cleveland Indians. Five different catchers were used: Greg Myers, Bobby Estalella, Kevin Cash, Gregg Zaun, and rookie Guillermo Quiroz. Greg Myers was injured running the bases in Minnesota, early in the season, and was lost for the year. Bobby Estalella was called up, but he proved to be brittle as well. Gregg Zaun landed the starting catching job for the rest of the season. Kevin Cash continued to struggle from an offensive standpoint and would be moved in the offseason. The highly-touted Guillermo Quiroz was promoted from the minors near the end of the season.
With the team struggling in last place and mired in a five-game losing streak, manager Carlos Tosca was fired on August 8, 2004 and was replaced by first-base coach John Gibbons through the end of the season. The Jays' trying year would also touch long-time radio announcer Tom Cheek, who had to break his streak of calling all 4,306 regular season games in franchise history, upon the death of his father. Cheek had to take more time off later to remove a brain tumor, and by the end of the season, Cheek only called the home games.
Nevertheless, prospects Russ Adams, Gabe Gross, and Alex Ríos provided excitement for the fans. Adams hit his first major league home run in his second game, in which Gross also earned his own first major league grand slam. Alex Ríos was among the MLB Rookie of the Year Award candidates. However, the award went to Bobby Crosby of the Oakland Athletics. Rookie pitchers David Bush, Gustavo Chacín and Jason Frasor also showed promise for the club's future. The Blue Jays' lone MLB All-Star Game representative in 2004 was pitcher Ted Lilly.
On October 2, 2004, the Toronto Blue Jays announced the dismissals of pitching coach Gil Patterson and first-base coach Joe Breeden, effective at the end of the season. One day later, the Blue Jays finished the 2004 campaign with a 3–2 loss against the New York Yankees in front of an announced crowd of 49,948. However, the Jays' annus horribilis continued after the game, when it was announced that former pitcher and current TV broadcaster John Cerutti died suddenly of natural causes at the age of only 44.
More losses to the Jays family came in the offseason. Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame member Bobby Mattick, the manager from 1980 to 1981 and perhaps the best baseball man in the organization, suffered a stroke and died at the age of 89. Mattick had also served as the Vice President of Baseball Operations for the Blue Jays. A few days before Christmas, the Jays also mourned the loss of former first baseman Doug Ault, who had hit two home runs in the team's inaugural game in 1977; he was only 54 years old.
Rogers Communications, the owner of the Jays, purchased SkyDome from Sportsco International in November 2004 for approximately $25 million CAD ($21.24 million USD), just a fraction of the construction cost.
Just days after superstar Carlos Delgado became a free agent after the club refused arbitration, the Jays announced the signing of Manitoban third baseman Corey Koskie, formerly of the Minnesota Twins. One month after Koskie was inked, the Jays traded pitching prospect Adam Peterson to the Arizona Diamondbacks for corner infielder/DH Shea Hillenbrand.
- Team record 2004: 67 wins - 94 losses, W%- 0.416, 33.5 games behind Division Leader
On February 2, 2005, several days after finalizing the purchase of SkyDome by Rogers Communications, Rogers, to the widespread chagrin and derision of Jays fans, renamed the stadium the Rogers Centre. In spite of the best efforts of the new ownership, a wide majority of Blue Jays fans continued (and still continue) to refer to the stadium as SkyDome. By the start of the season Rogers had upgraded the stadium with a new "JumboTron" videoboard and added other state-of-the-art video screens around the stadium. Also, the AstroTurf surface was replaced by the more natural-looking FieldTurf. Owner Ted Rogers also promised a payroll increase to $210 million over the next three years, which allowed the team to have a team payroll of $70 million per year.
The Blue Jays finished spring training with a 16–10 record. Among the stars of spring training was Gabe Gross, who tied the Jays' record for most home runs in spring training with eight (the previous record breaker was long time Blue Jay Carlos Delgado). The Jays were able to translate their success in spring training into an excellent start - the team led the AL East from early to mid-April and held their record around .500 until late August. The Jays were hit with the injury bug when third baseman Corey Koskie broke his finger, taking him out of the lineup, but the club was pleasantly surprised with the performance of rookie call-up Aaron Hill in his stead.
On July 8, just prior to the All-Star break, Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay was struck on the shin by a line drive from Texas left fielder Kevin Mench and was placed on the DL with a fractured leg. The injury cost Halladay his chance to be the American League starter in the All-Star Game in Detroit; his place on the All-Star squad was taken by Red Sox pitcher Matt Clement. Though Halladay's injury was hoped to be minor, the recovery process was met with constant delays, and Halladay eventually would prove to be out for the rest of the season. Team management officially announced that he would miss the rest of the season in August. The Halladay injury is seen by many as the negative turning point in the Jays season; the team had been in serious wild card contention at the time, but afterwards fell out of the race and failed to make the playoffs for the 12th consecutive year.
On July 22, Toronto traded utility infielder John McDonald to the Detroit Tigers for cash considerations. This gave the Blue Jays an open spot on the roster so that Aaron Hill could stay with the team when Corey Koskie returned from injury.
On July 28, Toronto played in the longest game in franchise history, innings-wise, an 18-inning marathon against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Rogers Centre. The Jays won 2–1, after nearly five hours of play when Orlando Hudson hit a line drive past a drawn in infield, scoring Alex Rios from third base.
The shutdown of Halladay for the remainder of the season seemed to affect the performance of the Jays. They went on a slump that brought their record under .500 in the beginning of September. From there, the Blue Jays finished the season 80–82 while receiving glimpses of the future from September call-ups Guillermo Quiroz, John-Ford Griffin, and Shaun Marcum. Marcum made himself noteworthy by posting an ERA of 0.00 over 5 relief appearances and 8 innings in September. Griffin hit his first career home run in the last game of the season and ended up going 4 for 13.
Josh Towers also stepped up, showing largely unseen potential going 7–5 with a 2.91 ERA in the 2nd half of the year and a 13–12, 3.71 ERA season overall, making him arguably the unlikely ace of the Jays rotation with Halladay injured and Gustavo Chacín faltering somewhat after the All-Star break.
The 2005 Jays inability to score with men in scoring position was a turning point in many games that ended up as losses, also contributing to the 80–82 record, although as a positive, the team did improve by 13 wins and returned to their usual 80-win plateau.
On October 9, the Jays, along with their fans, mourned the loss of inaugural broadcaster Tom Cheek. Cheek, 66, succumbed to brain cancer after just over a year-long battle. Cheek had broadcast 4,306 consecutive games since the first day of the franchise. His streak was ended in June 2004 when he took time off to visit his ailing father.
In the off-season, general manager J.P. Ricciardi began to make good use of the money that had been granted to the Jays by Rogers Communications before the season. Rogers had given Ricciardi $210 million over three years, which became $75 million a season to spend, $25 million more than the previous year. Ricciardi fulfilled the team's need for a stable closer by signing former Baltimore Orioles standout B. J. Ryan to the richest contract ever for a reliever - a 5-year, $47 million on November 28. Following that, the club awarded a 5-year, $55 million contract to highly coveted starting pitcher A. J. Burnett, formerly of the Florida Marlins, on December 6.
On December 23, 2005, Rogers Sportsnet reported that the Jays added a much needed 30 plus home run hitter to their lineup by getting third baseman and 2002 World Series MVP Troy Glaus and minor league shortstop Sergio Santos in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In return, the Diamondbacks received second baseman and 2005 Gold Glove Award winner Orlando Hudson and pitcher Miguel Batista. Glaus passed a team physical on December 26, and the trade was officially announced the next day. On the same day as the announcement of the Glaus deal, the Jays acquired solid-hitting first baseman Lyle Overbay and right-handed pitching prospect Ty Taubenheim in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers; with pitcher David Bush, pitching prospect Zach Jackson, and outfielder Gabe Gross going to Milwaukee. Glaus and Overbay were both introduced to the Toronto media together a few days later.
- Team record 2005: 80 wins - 82 losses, W%- 0.494, 15 games behind Division Leader
On January 3, J.P. Ricciardi signed free-agent catcher Jason Phillips to a minor league contract. Phillips, who hit .238 the previous season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, also had an invitation to spring training, was supposed to have competed with Guillermo Quiroz for the role of the Blue Jays' backup catcher. Quiroz was later claimed on waivers by the Seattle Mariners, and Phillips started the season with the team after Gregg Zaun was put on the disabled list.
The trades for Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay in the off-season created a glut of corner infielders for the Jays, as the team now had five players (Glaus, Overbay, Eric Hinske, Corey Koskie, and Shea Hillenbrand) who could play third base, first base, or designated hitter. The Jays relieved some of this pressure on January 6, by trading Koskie to the Milwaukee Brewers in the second deal between the two clubs in less than a month. The Blue Jays received minor league pitcher Brian Wolfe in return for Koskie. The Blue Jays also moved first baseman (and former third baseman) Eric Hinske to right field as a result.
On February 6, Toronto signed former Angels catcher Bengie Molina to a one year contract worth with an option for a second. Three days later, Toronto wrapped up its off season moves by re-signing Shea Hillenbrand and Pete Walker, each to a one year deal.
On July 2, Troy Glaus, Vernon Wells, Roy Halladay, B.J. Ryan, and Alex Rios were picked to represent the Blue Jays at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Rios would not end up competing due to a serious staph infection that occurred around June 28, possibly as the result of a foul ball off Rios' leg during a game on June 27. Along with them the manager John Gibbons was also picked as an assistant coach for the AL team. This was the most all stars selected for the game since 1993. The only AL team with more All-Stars than the Jays was the World Series champion the Chicago White Sox, with six.
On July 19, infielder Shea Hillenbrand was designated for assignment after an altercation with the team management. Shortly after Hillenbrand, along with reliever Vinnie Chulk, was traded to the San Francisco Giants for reliever Jeremy Accardo.
On August 3, rookie second baseman Ryan Roberts started his first game in the MLB, and had his first hit, which was a home run. He is one of few Blue Jays rookies to have his first hit a home run in his first start.
During a game against the Oakland Athletics on August 21, 2006, while on the verge of blowing an 8-run lead, John Gibbons walked to the mound to remove starter Ted Lilly. An argument ensued on the mound, in front of the audience at the Rogers Centre. Lilly eventually did leave the game and then headed into the clubhouse. Gibbons subsequently followed him into the hallway, where it appeared to eyewitnesses that he and Lilly got into a fight. Numerous team members and support personnel rushed into the tunnel to break them up. After the game, both the pitcher and manager denied any altercation and said the problem had been resolved.
Despite their on-field and off-field problems, the Blue Jays managed to play well in the critical month of September, going 18–10. This, combined with the slumping of the Boston Red Sox, enabled Toronto to snare sole possession of second place in the American League East by the end of the season. This marked the first time that the Jays had finished above third place in their division since their World Championship season of 1993, and with the most wins since the 1998 season.
On December 18, the Blue Jays announced that they had re-signed centre fielder Vernon Wells to a seven-year contract worth $126 million, to come into effect after the 2007 season. It is currently the largest contract in club history.
- Team record 2006: 87 wins - 75 losses, W%- 0.537, 10 games behind behind AL Division Leader, second in division
During the month of January, Toronto signed starting pitchers John Thomson and then Tomo Ohka to incentive-based one-year contracts in an effort to strengthen their 4th and 5th rotational slots. On January 30 Toronto also signed starting pitcher Victor Zambrano to a minor league contract, and invited him to Spring Training. All three were eventually released. When Brandon League, who was being considered for the main setup role, arrived to Spring Training with a strained lat muscle, Zambrano took the empty spot in the bullpen. Thomson injured himself in spring training, so the Blue Jays named Ohka and Towers as their fourth and fifth starters. After four mediocre starts, Josh Towers was sent to the bullpen and replaced by Dustin McGowan. Towers returned to the rotation later in the year replacing released pitcher Tomo Ohka. When Gustavo Chacin was injured, he was replaced in the rotation by Shaun Marcum, who had a breakout year.
The season was blighted by persistent injuries, with 12 Blue Jays landing on the DL. The most serious injury was that of B.J. Ryan, who was out for the entire season having had Tommy John Surgery. However, due to the emergence of young pitchers like Dustin McGowan, Casey Janssen and Jeremy Accardo, the Jays finished 4 games above .500.
One of the most memorable games this season for the Jays was on Tuesday, June 5 2007 when they rallied from being down 11–6 in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to win 12–11 on an RBI walk-off base on balls by Aaron Hill, a victory that moved them to within 1 game under .500
Another memorable moment of this season was Dustin McGowan's complete game one-hitter on Sunday, June 24 against the Colorado Rockies at the Rogers Centre. McGowan carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning when outfielder Jeff Baker hit a single with no out to break it up. This was the first Jays' one-hitter since September 27 1998, in which Roy Halladay threw against the Detroit Tigers. The Jays won 5–0 and moved themselves up to .500 for the first time since May 1 of the season. The game was also notable for Frank Thomas hitting the 499th home run of his career. The day after McGowan's gem, the Jays defeated the Minnesota Twins 8–5 to climb over the .500 mark for the first time since April and get their first four-game winning streak of the season.
On June 28, Frank Thomas became the 21st Major Leaguer to hit 500 career home runs. The pitcher who surrendered the homer was Minnesota Twins' starter Carlos Silva. Despite jumping out to an early lead the Jays couldn't hold on and ended up losing 8–5. In addition, Thomas was ejected from the game in the ninth inning by home plate umpire Mark Wegner for arguing balls and strikes.
On July 6, Reed Johnson returned to the lineup after spending three months on the DL. Johnson had been suffering back problems early in the season and received surgery, which forced him onto the 60-Day DL. This situation left Adam Lind the odd-man out in the lineup and he was optioned down to Triple-A. In his first game back Johnson went 1–3 at the plate, and made a game-saving catch in the ninth which prevented two runs (only one run scored on a sac-fly) from scoring and a runner on second (possibly third) and a one run lead with only one out. The Jays won the game 8–6 against the Cleveland Indians.
On September 16, Aaron Hill broke the Blue Jays club record for most doubles by a second baseman in one season, set by Roberto Alomar in 1991 with 41 doubles that season. Hill recorded his 42nd double of the season against the Baltimore Orioles.
- Team record 2007: 83 wins - 79 losses, W%- 0.512, 13 games behind behind AL Division Leader, third in division
On April 4, the Blue Jays played in their home opener. During the pre-game ceremonies, both Roberto Alomar and Paul Beeston were inducted into the Level of Excellence for their contributions to the Blue Jays organization. Also during the pre-game ceremonies, the JumboTron featured a video package of former Blue Jays players and staff who had passed away (including broadcaster Tom Cheek, pitchers Joe Kennedy and Corey Lidle, and former pitching coach Al Widmar), the team then beat the defending World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox, 6–3. At that game, the team also debuted their new "Flashback Friday" powder blue throwback uniforms, similar to those worn in the 1979 season. The uniforms will be worn at each home game on Fridays, throughout the regular season.
On April 20, the Blue Jays gave Frank Thomas his outright release after he voiced his displeasure about being benched indefinitely. The benching was said to be a result of his low performance level early in the season. His contract stated that if he reached 1000 plate appearances in his two year contract he would receive a bonus year at $10 million. Thomas required 304 more plate appearances to be guaranteed the bonus. At the conclusion of the game on April 20, the Blue Jays announced the call up of catcher Robinzon Díaz to take over the roster spot of the departed Thomas. Four days later, Thomas was signed by the Oakland Athletics.
On April 25, the Blue Jays activated third baseman Scott Rolen from the 15-day disabled list. He is expected to provide a boost for a struggling Blue Jays team, which has lost 7 of its last 10 games. Rolen, who was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in a January trade for Troy Glaus, suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right middle finger at spring training. Robinzon Díaz was sent back to Triple-A to clear the roster spot.
On May 24, Jesse Litsch pitched his first major league complete game shutout, blanking the Kansas City Royals 6–0 at the Rogers Centre. He also set a new team record of 38 consecutive innings without giving up a walk. That same game featured Brad Wilkerson hitting the team's fourth grand slam of the season.
On June 10, the Jays beat the Seattle Mariners 3-1 in a home game lasting 2 hours and 2 minutes, one of the quickest games played in the 2008 Major League Baseball season to that date. Right-hander Dustin McGowan pitches a complete game, 125 pitches for the win. 
- Uniform colours: White, Blue, Red, Black
- Logo design: A blue jay's head with a red Maple Leaf on a cream circle with the words "Toronto Blue Jays"
- Alternate logo design: The blue jay's head with out circle, used for caps.
- Team motto: "It's Always Game Time"
- Mascot: Ace, an anthropomorphized blue jay.
- Theme song: "OK Blue Jays"
- Local radio: The Fan 590
- Local television: Rogers Sportsnet, TSN, CBC
- Spring Training Facility: Knology Park, Dunedin, Florida
- World Series Champions: 1992, 1993
Baseball Hall of FamersEdit
No one has yet been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame based primarily on service with the Blue Jays. Three Hall of Famers have worn the Blue Jays uniform:
- 35 Phil Niekro, Pitcher, 1987
- 32 Dave Winfield, Designated hitter/outfielder, 1992
- 19 Paul Molitor, Designated hitter, 1993–1995
Additionally, Bobby Doerr, a second baseman with the Boston Red Sox, served as a coach with the Jays early in their history, and was the first person associated with the franchise to be elected to the Hall, in 1986. Early Wynn, the Hall of Fame pitcher and 300-game winner, was a broadcaster for the Blue Jays during their first few years.
Minor league affiliationsEdit
- AAA: Syracuse Chiefs, International League 1978–present (renamed to Syracuse SkyChiefs 1996–2006)
- AA: New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Eastern League 2004–present
- Advanced A: Dunedin Blue Jays, Florida State League 1978–present
- A: Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League 2005–present
- Short A: Auburn Doubledays, New York-Penn League 2000–present
- Rookie: Gulf Coast Blue Jays, Gulf Coast League
- Rookie: VSL Blue Jays, Venezuelan Summer League
- Rookie: Pulaski Blue Jays, Appalachian League 2003–2006
- Rookie: Medicine Hat Blue Jays, Pioneer League 1978–2002
- AA: New Haven Ravens, Eastern League 2000–2003
- AA: Knoxville Smokies, Southern League 1980–1999
- Short A: St. Catharines Blue Jays/St. Catharines Stompers, New York-Penn League 1986–1998
- A: Florence Blue Jays, South Atlantic League 1981–1985
- A: Myrtle Beach Blue Jays, South Atlantic League 1986–1992
- A: Hagerstown Suns, South Atlantic League 1993–2000
- A: Charleston Alley Cats, South Atlantic League 2001–2004
- Short A: Utica Blue Sox/Utica Blue Jays, New York-Penn League 1977–1980
- Short A: Queens Kings, New York-Penn League 1999
- A: Kinston Eagles, Carolina League 1979–1981
- A: Kinston Blue Jays, Carolina League 1982–1985
- A: Ventura County Gulls, California League 1986
- Main article: Toronto Blue Jays team records
- Highest Batting Average: .363, John Olerud (1993)
- Most Games: 163, Tony Fernández (1987)
- Most Runs: 134, Shawn Green (1999)
- Most Hits: 215, Vernon Wells (2003)
- Highest Slugging %: .664, Carlos Delgado (2000)
- Most Doubles: 57, Carlos Delgado (2000)
- Most Home Runs: 47, George Bell (1987)
- Most Grand Slams: 3, Carlos Delgado (1997) and Darrin Fletcher (2000)
- Most RBIs: 145, Carlos Delgado (2003)
- Most Stolen Bases: 60, Dave Collins (1984)
- Most Wins: 22, Roy Halladay (2003)
Season by season recordEdit
- Main article: Toronto Blue Jays seasons
Level of ExcellenceEdit
While the Blue Jays have never retired a number (except for the number 42, retired by the entire league for Jackie Robinson), they have instituted a "Level of Excellence" on the 500 level of the Rogers Centre, where the following Jays personnel are honoured:
SS: 1983–1990, 1993, 1998–1999, 2001
P: 1978–1992, 1998
M: 1989–1997, 2008-present
VP: 1976–1989; President: 1989–1997
Radio and televisionEdit
- See also: List of Toronto Blue Jays broadcasters
The Blue Jays' former radio play-by-play announcer, Tom Cheek, called every Blue Jays game from the team's inaugural contest on April 7, 1977 until June 3, 2004, when he took two games off following the death of his father – a streak of 4,306 consecutive regular season games and 41 postseason games. Cheek died in 2005, and the team commemorated him during their 2006 season by wearing a circular badge on the left sleeve of their jerseys. The badge was adorned with Cheek's initials, as well as a stylized microphone. Cheek is also honoured with a place in the Blue Jays' "Level of Excellence" in the upper level of the Rogers Centre; the number 4,306 is depicted beside his name.
Today, radio broadcasts of Blue Jays games are on CJCL, known as The Fan 590. Jerry Howarth is the lead play-by-play announcer, with former Blue Jays catcher Alan Ashby serving as the colour commentator and secondary play-by-play announcer.
On television, most Blue Jays games are carried on Rogers Sportsnet (which, like the Blue Jays, is owned by Rogers Communications). Jamie Campbell is the play-by-play announcer, with colour analysis rotating between Pat Tabler, Rance Mulliniks, and Darrin Fletcher. TSN, which was formerly the chief television outlet for the Blue Jays, still carries a handful of Jays games; on these telecasts, Rod Black handles play-by-play while Tabler serves as colour commentator.
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