Toronto Blue Jays Information
The Toronto Blue Jays are a Major League Baseball team based in Toronto, Ontario, notable for being the only team from outside the United States to win the World Series. They are in the Eastern Division of the American League.
They are the only remaining Canadian team in the Major Leagues after the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington, D.C. to become the Washington Nationals after the 2004 season. The 2006 season will be the Blue Jays' 30th season.
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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 major league city several times in the previous century and had been home to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League from 1930 to 1967, now the Intercounty Baseball League 1968-present. The San Francisco Giants were considering a move to the city until the team was purchased by Bob Lurie in 1976. The franchise was originally owned by Labatt Breweries, with Imperial Trust and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce as minority owners. The Blue Jays played their first game ever on April 7, 1977 against the Chicago White Sox. They won 9-5, led by Doug Ault's two home runs. Snowflakes were seen during the game.
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After 1984, Alfredo Griffin went to the Oakland Athletics, thus giving a permanent spot to young Dominican shortstop Tony Fernandez. 1985 saw Toronto win 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 4-3, on their way to their first (and so far only) World Series championship.
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After the 1992 season, the Blue Jays let Dave Winfield and Tom Henke go, but signed free agents Paul Molitor from the Brewers and Dave Stewart from the Athletics. In 1993, the Blue Jays had seven All-Stars: hitters Devon White, Roberto Alomar, Paul Molitor, Joe Carter and John Olerud, starter 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, in which the Blue Jays came back from a 14-9 deficit to win 15-14 and take a 3-1 lead in the series. Game 6 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, in SkyDome, Joe Carter (who was on the brink of going to the Kansas City Royals before the season began) hit a one-out, three-run walkoff home run to clinch the series, off Phillies closer "The Wild Thing" Mitch Williams. This is the only time in the history of Major League Baseball that a team hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of a 9th inning to turn what would have been a loss into a win, and win the World Series. In the regular season, three Blue Jays, Olerud, Molitor and Alomar finished 1-2-3 for the AL batting crown.
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The Blue Jays started 1997 with high hopes. Not only did the Jays drastically changed 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 21 wins (against 7 losses), 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. Cito Gaston, the manager, was fired at the end of the year. 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. The pitching was strong, again led by Clemens' second straight pitching triple crown (20-6, 2.65 ERA, 271 strikeouts), but the hitting was mediocre, and the Blue Jays finished 88-74, in third place, 26 games behind the New York Yankees, who posted one of the greatest records in baseball history.
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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 short and third, Dave Berg second and third, Chris Woodward short and Orlando Hudson second. 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.
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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.
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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.
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On January 3, 2006, 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 has an invitation to spring training, was supposed to have competed with Guillermo Quiroz for the role of the Blue Jays' backup catcher. However, with the signing of Bengie Molina, it seemed unlikely that either of them would get the backup spot. 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 Glaus and Overbay in the off-season created a glut of corner infielders for the Jays, as the team now had five players (Glaus, Overbay, Hinske, Koskie, and Hillenbrand) who could play third base, first base, or designated hitter (DH). Toronto relieved some of this pressure on January 6, 2006 by trading Koskie to the Brewers in the second deal between the two clubs in less than a month.