Everything Blue Jays

For Toronto Blue Jays fans

Other Sports Just Don’t Cut It!

As a typical Canadian, I enjoy other sports outside of baseball but for the past 10 years or so the Toronto Blue Jays have controlled my entertainment dollar and interest.

I know there are other sports out there during the baseball season but I rarely get too excited about a regular season event and almost yawn with disinterest in the sports’ playoffs.

Don’t ask me why. Most Canadians I know are fanatical about their sports and most of them can’t believe I am taking this attitude.

I once confessed that I tend to go through withdrawal through October and especially November when the Toronto Blue Jays season is finished and fans are thinking about next season.

It is with that in mind that I mention one of the best blog posts I have read that sums up the end of a particularly great Toronto Blue Jays season. Ghost Runner On First came up with one particular post entitled Love, Actually nailed it!

This farcical approach, that compared a fan’s feelings at the end of the Toronto Blue Jays’  season to those emotions a guy might feel after a busted relationship,  bordered on sincerity for some but for me, pathetic or not, was right on. I have not found a better way to convey the emotions I felt after this season.

We have all had our favorite moments this season – a walk-off home run, a critical hit during a comeback, a walk that kept an inning alive, a double play that got a pitcher out of a jam. Forget the blown saves. The season was a success in my eyes.

This was a great season and anyone who enjoys a good blog should read Drew Fairservice who moved to The Score’s blog at Getting Blanked.

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Know Where Are You Going and Remember Where You Have Been

The Toronto Blue Jays management team has always had a great fan base. It all started in 1977 during that first sell-out game at Exhibition Stadium where Doug Ault hit two home runs to help the local club win 9-5 against the Chicago White Sox. The game had everything! Hits, runs, strikeouts and snow. Typical. We Canadians always seem to add our own touch to big occasions. Maybe we will build an indoor facility one day, we thought. Man it was cold that day, even with a winter coat!

Some will argue it all started the year before when the league found out the San Francisco Giants were thinking of moving to Canada. Toronto was ripe for the picking. The area fan base was yearning for a baseball team of its own. Labatt’s Breweries Ltd. of Canada, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Vulcan Assets Ltd. agreed to buy the team from Harold Stoneham for $13.25 million but another group led by  Bob Lurie, a real estate magnate and philanthropist, bought the team for $8 million and kept it in Candlestick Park. The Toronto fateful were disappointed but we all knew that we would get a team eventually. We deserved it.

The fan base was built on discount bleacher seats. In succeeding years, the special offer stood and it was combined with the realization that you could watch the world champion New York Yankees for $2 playing in your own backyard!

Back then, you could not buy a drink of beer for $10. In fact, you could not buy it at Exhibition Stadium for any price. Selling beer was not permitted. It seemed strange to everyone that a team owned in part by a brewery could not sell their own product.

It did not seem to matter to the fans. We all knew the government would allow the sales sooner or later. There was just too much money to be made.

So you get the idea that with a little patience, all good things will come to the Blue Jays faithful. We finally got our team, then we got our beer and now we have the stadium to put it in. Hey, we even have a couple of championships to show for it. This was not a case of  “build it and they will come” but rather expect the best and it will come.

Proving that Blue Jays fans are human, hope springs eternal. We are starting to get the feeling that something great is about to happen once again. The players we are watching improve every game. Those who don’t improve are replaced by players who are better. It is fun to watch.

Although we have little to do with what is happening on the field – we are enjoying the ride.

Redefining the Success Strategy

The Toronto Blue Jays finished out of the playoffs again. That’s the 18th year in a row without post season action. That includes the year no one went to the post season because of a labour dispute.

Is this what the organization has become, entertainment without the real fun at the end? So many baseball fans will try to feel they are part of the big picture by aligning their allegiance with another team even before September but the feeling just isn’t the same. There are a few teams in the National League with former members of the Toronto side on the roster but for us it all pales in comparison to cheering for one team from spring training through the season and on into the playoffs.

Many of us “old-time” Blue Jays fans remember a time (1985-1993) when we actually felt sorry for so many of the teams coming to Toronto to compete. After the team’s move from Exhibition Stadium, the 50,000-seat facility would fill up, people would be happy to sit in the 500 Level and they did not mind paying inflated prices for the refreshments. O.K., maybe not for the beer but the rest of the food and souvenirs still stands.

To continue: the management would throw out their lineup and by the 7th inning the players would have the game’s outcome predictable and wrapped up. The bullpen would accommodate a look at some new pitchers, the bench had some AAA players who came in to play their best positions but everyone knew the game was decided before the closers came on in relief. The team would win the majority (above .667) of their games at home and often play better than .500 on the road. They would rarely lose a series and if they did, they would sweep a club within the next two weeks to make up for it. It was the Blue Jays Way.

This is not unusual. It’s the way many of winning professional sports teams perform. Unfortunately, people began to expect it. Some Toronto Blue Jays ticket holders (a whole different term than the word “fans”) would often show up to these games in the fourth inning or later and take in a few pitches just to be able to say the next day at work that they were there – even if it was for just half an inning. Real Blue Jays fans show up early. They get close to the field and lean on the railing to watch batting practice, fielding practice and some are lucky enough to get an autograph or souvenir.

Are these moments lost? Should we dare dream that this scenario will be brought back to Toronto? Why not? The club is improving at every position and there are some players who would be welcome on any club for their athletic abilities.

This is what makes these players stand out from the rest. They are used to winning. The mind set is that this “losing” aspect of the game is supposed to make better players on the other team. The opposing players are supposed to learn the lessons – not us. Once again, this is what separates the best players from the rest.

It is hard for those who do not work around these elite individuals to understand. Many people will comment that the players should be happy to earn the salaries they have negotiated. Yes, if it were only that easy. These A Type people with their Alpha dog mentality do not sit well with losses. There are glares, outbursts and ruined relationships because of mistakes and poor performances. These players cannot understand why teammates do not work as hard and often as they do during and after the season.

Seeking those individuals are the scouts, coaches and team management who know that there are other teams who maybe do not value this kind of player as much as they should.

So, while we follow the baseball post season to its conclusion without witnessing the efforts of the Toronto Blue Jays, rest assured that there are workouts, drills and sacrifices leading to next season.

The Power of the Logo

What is it about a Major League Baseball corporate logo change that compels people to feel so strongly?

Logic dictates that when a team is sold, the new ownership wants to put its stamp on the organization for branding purposes. If you think about it, it’s like getting a new text book in school. We are told not to write in it because it belongs to the school system but we still put something on it to brand it ours. It is the same thing with new owners of sports franchises. The previous owner may have had success with the original or existing logo but the new owner wants everyone in the corporate and consumer world to know there is a new player in town.

Still, in the case of our Toronto Blue Jays we cannot feel less than a little uncomfortable about the logo change that was thrust upon us so shortly after the organization’s Back-to-Back World Series victory and disbursement of the team’s star players. There was so much change in the team just seemed to be moving backwards.

The new owners from Interbrew S.A. (June 1995-Jan. 2004) must have felt that after the team’s play the previous two seasons, it required a new look. So the owners and staff came up with something completely different. However, the Toronto Blue Jays team was never considered a viable arm of the corporation. According to one information source documenting the history of Interbrew, the baseball operations were a part of the “extraneous activities that were significantly less profitable than the core brewery operation” and later sold a majority share in 2000 to Rogers, which owned the team outright in 2004.

So now there is a new logo (still being proposed). It is very similar to the original but minus the baseball in the background. I guess the branding of the name is strong enough that it can stand its absence.

This logo design was “leaked” to the Toronto community late in the Jays’ 2011 season shortly after the Florida (now in Miami) Marlins’ new logo was “leaked”. The Jays logo change should not be news to Sportsnet viewers. Rogers announcer and former Blue Jays manager and catcher Buck Martinez hinted that the old logo may be making a return of sorts because so many enjoy the older logo.

So what does the Jays’ new logo add that the previous one took away? The answer is the Maple Leaf. It is that Canadian element that was missing from the blue and grey logo. Although some disliked the sharp image of the 2004-2011 design, there must have been something to that logo design and colour because the style was shamelessly copied by the baseball club in Tampa Bay.

What does all this mean to the fans of the franchise? It is a reflection of a new attitude propped up by some improved play on the field. When healthy, the players in this Toronto Blue Jays lineup have provided some exciting games. While it is true that there are a few weak spots for management to address, but there is more than enough cause for the fans and competition to take heart. With this new logo comes a new attitude and it is not just corporate fanfare.