So far this 2015 season they’ve lead all teams in homers with 214. They’ve had two ten game win streaks. Last team to do this: the Kansas City Royals, way back in 1977. The fans are flocking to the park in numbers unmatched since 1995.
Geezers will tell you the Jays won the World Series way back in 1992 and 1993 but since then they had not made the playoffs, the only team in Major League Baseball to be so futile. In 2004 they changed their logo to a mean-looking blue jay. This artistic gesture in intimidation didn’t fool anybody, including the team. They opened up the season at Skydome going 0-8. Even worse, Rogers Communications changed the name of the retractable-roof iconic stadium to Rogers Centre. Atrocious.
When the organization wasn’t atrocious they were awfully puzzling. Hiring Gord Ash as their General Manager was odd. Gord looks like Mike Myers Doctor Evil, which is fine, but the man had never played elite baseball, which was not so fine. He started in the ticket department for the club. He must have sold the brass on his acumen, but his record as GM from 1995 to 2001 was a No-Doctor-Evil-In-Excellence-Here: 541-575.
In 2008, however, the Jays did pull off the steal-swap trade of the year getting Jose Bautista, now a homerun heavy hitter and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, from the Pittsburgh Pirates, for catcher Robinzon Diaz. Robinzon played but one season with the Pirates. So the Jays sometimes did a thing right. But their record, summed up, from 1994 on? Yech.
But Jay fans, unlike Maple Leaf followers, are discriminating. If the team stinks, they don’t show. Now, the team is soaring like in 1993 when boozy, woozy Boris Yeltsin ran Russia. And today Torontonians are drunk on the air of expectation (and of boozy breath, TO bars and restaurants are doing booming business.)
So, of late, bookies have them as best bets to win the World Series. Their run differential – 217 – is tops and is 103 more than the 2nd best St. Louis Cardinals.
They're contending for glory because of good baseball (especially on defense) and great trades. GM Alex Anthopoulos lauds his scouts and development staff for turning prospects into trade bait. Three minor league pitchers went from the Jays to Detroit for AAA dominant pitcher David Price, for example. Price, true, is a “rental” player, eligible for free agency at season’s end. But remember how successful the Jays were after acquiring star pitcher David Cone, also a rental? With Cone, the team won its first World Series in 1992. But unlike this year, the 1992 win didn’t come out of the blue. From the mid 80’s to early 90’s the organization, year in and year out, fielded quality teams, winning five division championships.
Nowadays, the new guys, LF Ben Revere, relievers LaTroy Hawkins (42-years old) and Mark Lowe, ace shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Price have contributed - and the team is flourishing, with defense to neatly go along with the juggernaut offense. (But trepidation tolls a tad; Tulowitzki broke his shoulder blade mid September.)
Lord knows the city needed a jolt. When Rob Ford got cancer - a tumor in the abdomen - his re-election campaign for mayorship foundered and a decent, but boring bloke, John Tory took over.
So, other than the burgeoning raccoon population, Torontonians have had nothing to go crazy about in decades. True, the basketball Raptors made some noise last season but totally collapsed in a first round shellacking to Washington Wizards.
Actually, along with the Rob Ford’s highs, and the Blue Jays hitting it sky high, Toronto has hit another high. The Economist ranked it as the “best place to live.” Obviously The Economist has never experienced the bus or subway system but let’s never mind...
In fact, until 2015, the only resurgence of birds had been of the cormorant type. In 2000 Toronto was designated a globally important bird area...but now Canada’s most populous city is truly for the birds, the Jaybirds of baseball.
Euphoria and puppy-dog love for the team has gotten so big that transplanted Torontonians across Canada meet at the pub, cheer the boys on. The Damn Yankees have been the big opposition this year. And, wouldn’t you know, the pinstripe pansies stopped the Jays from winning their 12th consecutive, besting the lads 4-3.
Everyone knows of the Bronx Bombers exalted history. But the bolstered Jays are playing like a team on a mission, that doesn’t fear reputations from the past or present: they beat the Yankees 13-6 in head to head games this year. The team is cohesive and cohere which discombobulates and deliriously disturbs “Tranna” fans.
Whether Toronto deserves a winner, is arguable. Whether the city needs one, is not. The Blue Jays, for years, have been on tight budgets, and the fidgety fan base dwindled as the team would be out of contention by late spring, early summer, August at the very latest. But because this team, since the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington DC, is the only one in major league baseball north of the USA, the whole country that lives outside of Toronto, has - for the most part - put aside its loathing of Toronto and Torontonians - to cheer for the men who hail from mainly the States, the Caribbean, and South America.
But there is one bona fide Canadian star. He was even born in Toronto. He is catcher Russell Martin. He only cost 82 million. (A tight budget is a relative term when talking MLB.) But his worth to the franchise - and to the self-worth of fans across this huge expanse of Canadian land - should the Jays take it all this fall -