Thursday, 1 December 2016

Blue Jays memories: Wishing for a wild card

In the 1980s, the Toronto Blue Jays
would have benefitted from the Wild Card.
With the Toronto Blue Jays winning the American League wild card game a few weeks ago over the Baltimore Orioles, it reminded me how different the team’s history would have been if there was a wild card game in the 1980s.

What Blue Jay fans, such as me, got tired of was being the second best team in baseball.

Coulda been a contender
The 1984 season saw the Blue Jays continuing their improvement as a baseball team, building on their first ever winning season in 1983. Unfortunately, the Detroit Tigers had one of the best starts in the history of Major League Baseball. They went 35-5 out of the gate. It has often been said a pennant is not won or lost in the first months of the season, but this was the exception, as the Tigers led from wire to wire, from opening day to the final day of the season. They became the first team in history to do that. The Blue Jays became the first team in Major League history to be second from wire to wire, from opening day to closing day.

They would have been a wild card.

The next year, the 1985 season, the Blue Jays finally won the American League East title.

The 1987 season was one of the most exciting, closely fought of the decade, coming down to the final series of the season between Toronto and Detroit. Once more, the Blue Jays were unable to close the deal.

The Blue Jays then closed out the decade by winning the American League East.

Parting thoughts
Back in the 1980s, I watched baseball as closely from spring to fall, as I did hockey in the winter. There could not have been two more opposite playoff systems. In the National Hockey League, 16 out of 21 teams made the playoffs. Only five teams missed the playoffs. In Major League Baseball, just four teams made the playoffs, out of 26.

In that system, there was no room for second best. What was worse was my beloved Blue Jays played in the strongest division in baseball, often with a record that would have won one or more of the other divisions.

That’s why, after the baseball strike of 1994 led to realignment and the addition of the wild card, I rejoiced. At long last, the playoffs were opened up so a team, read here the Blue jays, who played in a tough division were no longer relegated to the off-season.

Thank God for the wild card.

Go Blue Jays!

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