If you’ve ever been in a management or executive position of any sort, you know how stressful it can be. You also know how the sins of the employees become the sins of the boss, the sins of the boss reflect poorly on the CEO, etc. The cycle continues.
The relationship between employee and employer is often similar to that of a parent and child, really. The problem is, however that the parent, the employer, the manager, the executive IS the one in charge. They make the decisions and they have ultimate responsibility.
Let’s translate this to baseball. The team president, the general manager, and the coaches carry the responsibility of the team. And of the fans! We blame them for everything, and it’s usually not misplaced. It's just like a parent that wishes their friends wouldn’t remember that one time the kid had a meltdown in the grocery store, I’m sure the Toronto Blue Jays franchise wishes we didn’t remember a few of their lesser moments.
So why do they keep doing stupid things? They like to embarrass themselves, it seems. Here’s a list of 15 of the dumbest moves, the craziest deals, and the saddest memories the Blue Jays have and wish they could forget.
As with any sport, the life of a baseball fan is a dramatic and tense one. Toronto Blue Jays fans are no different! We love to gripe, whine, and complain about all the things the team does wrong, just as much as we love to shriek, holler, and whoop when our boys do good things. And since we are the ones who pay to go to the games and to watch them on television, the team wants to keep us as happy as possible. Ultimately, the management wants to keep us happy. The franchise wants to keep us happy. They want to see us shrieking and whooping instead of booing and stomping our feet.
If we could forget these 15 things, it would be easier to keep up the whooping. Mark Shapiro, Ross Atkins, John Gibbons, and all the head honchos at Rogers would also love us to forget. But I’ve got news for you guys: we aren’t going to forget any time soon.
15 Losing Two Consecutive ALCSs
Really, though. Two years in a row? Guaranteed the whole Jays franchise would appreciate it if we forgot how our dearest hopes for finally wining the ALCS after a 22 year drought were violently dashed. Just as Jays fans everywhere inhaled to prepare for our whoops of joy at the prospect of a 2015 pennant, we got the wind knocked out of us.
We could go on and on about how and why the Jays lost in 2015. In that last game against Kansas City, it was obvious the Jays weren’t hitting to their full potential. Their .190 hitting average that game was 80 points lower than their regular season stats, which happened to be the best in the league. The Royals slaughtered by hitting .417 that game. And of course there was the indisputable issue of homefield advantage.
And then 2016. We got owned by a 25-year-old rookie pitcher, Ryan Merritt, and it hurt. And what was with that “strike out” by Ben Revere? As Don Cherry so eloquently put it, “We got stiffed!”
14 Beer Cans and Security Issues
What kind of “fan” is petty enough to actually throw things at the other team? This in itself is embarrassing, but the fact that Rogers Centre security didn’t have a handle on this guy is even worse. There is no doubt in my mind that the “powers that be” in particular are praying that the Orioles, and every one of their fans, will forget this little… “incident” from 2016.
Remember that Jays vs. Rangers game in 2015 where the players had to ask the fans to stop throwing stuff onto the field? Granted, that accidental hit that allowed Odor to make it home WAS insane, but throwing garbage wasn’t necessary. One guy who threw a beer can actually hit a baby! Okay, it turns out the baby was only sprayed by the excess beer from the can, but still. We thought it was hit.
After that game, there was some worry that the fans would get even worse.
They installed metal detectors in early 2015, thanks to US Homeland Security’s insistence, and people definitely aren’t loving the new screenings they have to go through upon arrival.
Turns out it’s not what fans bring inside the stadium with them that matters, it’s what they do with the stuff they buy while they’re in there.
13 Blown Leads
I don’t like this pattern. Nobody does.
The Jays won 99 games in 1985 and began the playoffs with a 3-1 series lead. Their lineup consisted of George Bell, Lloyd Moseby, and Jesse Barfield, who were probably the best outfielders the team has ever seen. Tom “The Terminator” Henke was on fire. Doyle Alexander’s pitching was nothing to sniff at. So what happened?
Even with all this talent, all the momentum, all the enthusiasm, the Jays’ “Drive of 85” was lost to the Kansas City royals in Game 5. We’re all still bitter, even the players.
I’d like to remember 1987 as the year Canada launched the Loonie, but too often I’m reminded of the 1987 Jays playoff letdown. Can we take a minute to appreciate Mike Flanagan in all his 1987 pitching glory? It was the former Cy Young Award winner’s first of four years with the Jays, but even his phenomenal ERA of 2.37 wasn’t enough to get the team through to the playoffs.
The Jays’ rivalry with the Detroit Tigers was as fierce as ever, and those darn cats came out on top as Toronto lost the final game of the season 1-0. This solidified a seven-game losing streak for Toronto, something we’d all like to forget.
12 1994 to 2015: Less Than Stellar
The post-World Series champion years were rough. Some have dubbed it the “World Series Hangover.” We can’t blame then for their 1994 finish, considering the season was cut short by the league strike.
Just when you were getting excited and thinking things were looking up for the 2014 season, the Jays were suddenly out of the division race.
Under GM Gord Ash in early 2001, David Wells and Matt DeWitt were traded for Mike Sirotka, Mike Williams, Kevin Beirne, and Brian Simmons. When Sirotka turned out to have a shoulder issue that prevented him from ever pitching again… holy ticked off, Batman! The Jays franchise AND the fans were beyond enraged. The eventual decision by the commissioner regarding the appeal was legit, but still. It took a while to get over this.
After Ash was general manager J.P. Ricciardi, who has been depicted as “the inept, franchise doom-sayer.” He paid way too much money to Vernon Wells. Not to mention the cash he forked over to B.J. Ryan. It can’t be a coincidence that the team played poorly and seemed disheartened after Ricciardi gave Eric Hinske to the Red Sox in 2006 for… nothing.
All of this was reflected in the attendance numbers slump. Their 1993 overall fan attendance was 4,057,947. That went down to 2,907,933 in 1994, to 1,819,883 in 2000, to the third-lowest attendance in team history: 1,495,482 in 2010.
11 R.A. Dickey and Noah Syndergaard
Let’s start with Syndergaard. Remember when he played for Toronto? Me neither, because he was traded out of the minors, to New York, before he could hone his craft at the Rogers Centre.
He of the flowing blond hair is currently playing for the New York Mets, thanks to the misplaced priorities of the Blue Jays 2012 management. He’s currently one of the top pitchers in the league, last year his average fastball clocked in at 97.9 mph, making it the fastest among all starting pitchers. And it appears he’s put on extra muscle over the off season and plans to throw even faster this year. It’s NOT a coincidence that he looks like Thor. It can’t be.
You’ll all remember that infamous trade that lost us Syndergaard but gained us Dickey. Was it worth it? I gotta say, I’m not completely convinced. He only played four seasons for us, and although his 49-52, 4.05 ERA wasn’t shabby at all, he definitely didn’t pan out the way anyone had hoped.
In hindsight, Sydergaard was only 23 and new to the pros, whereas Dickey was a 38-year-old veteran who had won the Cy Young just that year.
But... it still stings.
10 B.J. Ryan
Forty. Seven. Million. Dollars. That’s how much Ryan’s five year contract with Toronto was worth when he signed in 2005. It was the biggest contract ever offered to a relief pitcher. A guy has to seriously be worth his salt when he’s earning $9.4 million big ones per year.
Let’s not be overly harsh here. Ryan did have a more than impressive 2006 season: he posted a 2.7 WAR, he had an ERA of 1.37, and landed 38 saves. That’s decent. But for all the millions of dollars he was making? Not good enough.
Have you looked at his 2005 stats? It doesn’t take a genius to see that his 2.43 ERA isn’t fantastic for a closer, and his save average of 36 for 41 didn’t have flashing lights that said “Pick me! I’m the next great thing!” Why on earth did Ricciardi think he was worth that much?
Nobody could deny that the guy had more skill than the average human, but he just didn’t pan out. One half-decent season wasn’t enough. Injuries meant that he couldn’t play the 2009 season, which in turn meant that he earned a whole $10 million that year for not doing anything. I bet that Paul Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos, and John Gibbons all groan and frantically change the subject whenever the name B.J. Ryan comes up.
9 Not Signing Kris Bryant
2012 All American nod by Baseball America. Freshman All-American in college baseball. Number two overall draft pick in 2013. Called up by the Chicago Cubs on April 17, 2015. First grand slam on June 19, 2015. 121 runs and 102 RBIs last season. 2016 national league MVP. “…integral in ending the [Cub’s] 108-year World Series drought.” That’s Kris Bryant.
And he could have been a Jay. In 2010, the Jays made Bryant, fresh out of high school, their 18th-round pick, 546th over all. But Bryant says there were “No meaningful talks at all.” Management claims that there was no money left to offer Bryant, not after spending $11.6 million on players like Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, and Sam Dyson.
Instead, Bryant went to college and spent four years playing ball for the University of San Diego. A wise choice, considering he was named West Coast Conference co-Freshman of the Year and co-Player of the Year (both with Marco Gonzales), made the United States collegiate national team his sophomore year, broke the NCAA record for home runs by a college player in his junior year, and won both the Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Trophy. And those are just a few of the honours he received. Good call, Bryant, but we still wish we’d snapped you up when we had the chance.
8 Only One Jay in the Hall of Fame
If you look up “Toronto Blue Jays in the baseball hall of fame” you’ll find six names.
Pat Gillick, perhaps the best general manager of all time, is in there. Rickey Henderson appears in the Hall of Fame wearing his Oakland Athletics uniform. Paul Molitor appears in the Hall of Fame in his Milwaukee Brewers duds. Sporting his Padres cap, Dave Winfield can also be found in that Hall. Last but not least, Phil Niekro’s Hall of Fame image is that of him with an Atlanta Braves cap on his head.
All of these men were Blue Jays at one point, only one was remembered in their Toronto blues when it came time to be memorialized in baseball history with the Hall of Fame: Roberto Alomar. He was traded to the Jays from the Padres in 1991 where he played some legendary offense. The team won back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and 1993, when he was in the middle of the action. I mean, his home run during the 11th inning of Game 6 in 1992 was what won the game! We love this guy!
If only he wasn’t the only one representing the Jays in his uniform. If only.
7 Pat Gillick's Resignation
Speaking of Hall of Fame-er Gillick, the wound he left is still rather fresh. I mean, this guy led the team to five division titles and their two historic World Series championship wins. It took 11 years for the boys to bounce back after Gillick’s resignation and make it to the playoffs again. That says it all.
Since Gillick abandoned us we’ve had Gord Ash, J.P. Ricciardi, Alex Anthopoulos, Tony LaCava, and current general manager Ross Atkins. Anthopoulos may have made some smooth moves, but the “Ninja GM” had nothing on Gillick. Perhaps the biggest grudge fans have against him is that he was the one who traded Noah Syndergaard.
And then there’s Ricciardi. If he hadn’t rejected deals to bring David Wright and Ryan Howard to the team, he’d still be GM.
Why did Gillick have to leave? He was so good to us. He brought George Bell and Fred McGriff to the team, both of whom were huge assets. He drafted Tom Henke and John Olerud. He acquired Devon White. He later traded McGriff and Fernandez for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter. He received 13 out of 16 votes for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. There’s a reason for that.
He was the mastermind of the champion 1992-93 Blue Jays and we miss him.
6 The SkyDome/Rogers Centre
In 1976 the city of Montreal christened the Olympic Stadium. It was awful. The roof didn’t work properly, the seating capacity was actually reduced after renovations in 1991, and the roof didn’t work properly. Did I mention that the roof didn’t work?
Toronto spent almost $600 million on the SkyDome, trying to avoid the pitfalls experienced by Montreal’s “Big Owe” It opened in June, 1989, and was the newest, coolest thing in the world of sports. And the fans came out, three and four million a season at a time during the 90s. It had a futuristic feel; it featured new technology and had the equivalent of a new car smell that everyone loves.
Now, however, fans prefer the feel of an outdoor arena. They want the smell of the grass, of sizzling hot dogs. Baseball is supposed to be played at the ball “park.” Home runs should be hit out of the “park.” Bundling up in the spring or fall to sit outside and watch a ballgame are just part of the feel of the game. Feeling a little drizzle on your head is no big deal, and rain delays can actually be fun! They gives you time to hunt down a snack and to analyze the plays so far. The Rogers “Cementre” just doesn’t cut it.
5 The Canadian Dollar
I’m Canadian. I love Canada. We all love Canada. The Jays love Canada. And we love our Canadian Jays.
However… I’m quite sure the Jays don’t love the current state of the Canadian dollar. Our dollar is currently worth roughly $0.75 USD. You can imagine how that would affect a baseball franchise that is the only non-US team in the MLB. Players get paid in US dollars. So Bautista’s $18 million paycheck for the year will actually cost the Jays $24,079,498.
This isn’t good. It means the budget is limited. Toronto can’t offer new players the salaries they want. It makes them less effective in negotiating for top-talent recruits.
On the other hand, the low dollar does bring lots of American tourists up to visit Toronto. When their money can be spread that much further by vacationing away from home, it’s no wonder. Somehow, though, I doubt they spent an extra $6 million at the Rogers Centre to help pay for the difference in Bautista’s salary.
4 The Jays Could Have Been The Giants
You’ve probably never heard of Don McDougall, but you should know about him. As president of the Labatt Brewing Company, McDougall was tasked with bringing a baseball team to Toronto and he worked tirelessly until it happened. Way back in 1976, when they Jays weren’t even a thing, then-owner of the San Francisco Giants, Horace Stoneham, agreed to sell the team to McDougall. There was a lot of red tape, though, involving the mayor of San Francisco actually getting a restraining order that would prevent the team from leaving the city. Luckily, other doors were opened and the Blue Jays were born.
Meanwhile, the Giants have won more games than any other team in MLB history. They’ve played in 20 World Series and have won 23 national pennants, and have won the World Series three times. In 2000 they opened their new stadium, AT&T Park, with its 43,000 seats. Sell-out games happen often for the Giants, which means they are regularly among the top 10 baseball teams with the highest yearly attendance. They have had 55 players inducted into the hall of fame, as well as five managers and one umpire.
Those are some pretty good stats. If only… I mean… we love you Jays!
3 Stealing Signs
Remember the “man in white”? Yeah, most of us do. It was pretty obvious, and more than a little embarrassing, that this guy was somehow signalling what the other team was throwing. Nobody has identified this pasty-wardrobed man, nor was it ever figured out exactly how he was getting information about the signs. However, Gregg Zaunn did admit during a radio interview in Kansas City, that the team was guilty of the “crime” during his years on the field. Even Russell Martin said that back when he played for the Yankees he had concerns about the Jays stealing signs.
The Jays aren’t the only ones who’ve faced these accusations. In 2010, the Phillies' Mick Billmeyer was caught with some binoculars, raising eyebrows and suspicions. Back in the 80s, the White Sox used their own scoreboard for sign-stealing purposes! Even Bobby Thompson’s legendary home run that won the 1951 World Series has been linked to sign stealing.
Many people believe that sign stealing is just another part of the game. Just like stealing bases. Respecting the other team’s signs is more of an unwritten code than a rule. So why the big fuss? That’s right. It’s no big deal. Forget about it. Just keep cheering.
2 Voting for Contraction
Remember the Montreal Expos? And their funny, furry mascot Youppi? Well, Toronto doesn’t really want you to think about them. Particularly because the Expos will likely make you remember that Toronto had a hand in voting them out. During the 2001 contraction vote, T Dot voted in favor of contraction, nearly sealing the fate of their neighbours to the east. They could have asked to abstain from the vote, and they really should have, considering how Expos president John McHale voiced his support for adding a second Canadian MLB team back when Toronto was vying for an expansion team.
Looking back at it now, it really seems like Toronto was a whiney, spiteful, ungrateful bunch. Kind of like a young child who hogs the spotlight and stomps their foot impatiently when other siblings get attention or achieve significance. Why couldn’t it have been enough that the Jays were doing well on their own? Why couldn’t they share the spotlight a little? Share the love, guys!
Many Montrealers are still bitter over this, and I can’t say I blame them.
1 Taking Montreal’s TV Rights
And there’s more to the whole Toronto/Montreal bitterness thing. The Expos were the more popular team until the mid-80s when the Jays won their first American League East pennant, and this obviously meant they got more television air time. Obviously, the powers-that-be in Toronto didn’t think that the Expos should have quite so much exposure in southern Ontario and across Canada. That was Blue Jay territory, not to mention a prime television audience. Losing the broadcasting rights for that area was huge; they lost sponsorships as well as viewers, and the loss of viewership meant fewer fans and fewer ticket sales.
In 2016, Jays’ television viewership was described as a “grand slam.” Of their 162 games, 78 of them pulled in over 1 million viewers. A million. I’d say that’s a large enough number that it could be shared with another team.
The Expos were – and always will be – Montreal’s team. But once they lost those television rights, they were no longer Canada’s team.
It could be said that this was the first nail of many in the Expos coffin. Thanks, Toronto.