The Risk and Reward in the American League East

Chronicling the years of futility since the Toronto Blue Jays’ last post-season appearance that has lead them to the 2013 season and the possibility of contending for the World Series.

Image courtesy of o.canada.com

Image courtesy of o.canada.com

By Spencer Emmerson, Junior Staff Writer

On April 2, the Toronto Blue Jays kicked off their 37th season at home in a game against the Cleveland Indians. Opening Day has always been a popular event for fans, with varying degrees of participation by Blue Jay diehards. For the past two decades the home opener has felt like a one-night stand, with fans coming out for the party instead of the team. However, after an offseason spent retooling an underachieving 2012 roster, the inaugural game of the 2013 season brought a long forgotten sense of possibility, as well as mandatory 500-Level fights, to the cavernous Rogers Centre.

Unfortunately for the dedicated Toronto sports fan, the last two decades have been marred with false promises and underachieving basement dwellers. Here is the truth about Toronto’s major sports teams: the Blue Jays play in the toughest division in baseball, the Raptors playoff chances tend to be as extinct as their name, and until this season the Leafs haven’t made the playoffs since the last NHL lockout. What Toronto sports fans need and deserve is a team that is built to be a perennial contender. The Blue Jays were the last Toronto team to achieve that status and it appears they are set to reclaim the glory of the late ’80s and early ’90s.

I was born in the late ’80s when the Blue Jays were the talk of Toronto, winning back-to-back World Series Championships in ’92 and ’93. As a result, my childhood veered away from your prototypical Canadian one. Instead of dreaming about scoring the game-winning goal for the Leafs, my dreams ended with the iconic words, “Touch ’em all, Spence. You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.” I was young and naïve in believing that the Blue Jays winning ways would continue on forever. Soon I would realize that the world is a cruel place. Or to be more specific, the American League East is a cruel place.

It may be hard to believe, but the Blue Jays were the first team to go out and spend money in the American League East. For as long as I can remember, the go-to excuse for Jays fans have been that they can’t compete with teams that have literally learned how to grow money on trees. Both the Yankees and Red Sox have looted competing teams of their homegrown talent by offering lucrative contracts that are simply out of the price range of most small market teams.

Back in ’92, the Jays were fresh off three straight division titles, but failed to get over the final hump and into the World Series. Something was missing and the Jays couldn’t miss this opportunity. So the Jays took a page out of the Yankees playbook, which hadn’t even been written yet, and signed top-tier talent that would help win the World Series. Maybe it was the playoff experience that veteran players brought in. Maybe it was the legendary moustaches of Jack Morris and Dave Winfield that pushed them over the top. One thing that is certain is that the risky moves made before the ’92 playoff run were both shrewd and necessary for the Jays’ chances of winning back-to-back titles. But after the Jays’ second consecutive World Series win in 1993, the victory champagne quickly stopped flowing and the team would experience a decade of disappointment.

The glow of Toronto’s back-to-back championship seasons quickly faded due to the ’94 strike, as well as a majority of the team’s premier players losing their battles with father time.

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