Well after the heartbreak that was the loss in the ALCS to the KC Royals in 1985, Blue Jays fans came into the 1986 season with their first taste of real playoff expectations. Time to take the next step towards the World Series. We had the pitching, the hitting and the manager to….oh wait. Yeah. Bobby Cox went back to the Atlanta Braves to begin a truly historic Hall of Fame career as a GM and also as manager of the Braves (14 straight division titles? DAY-um!). So it was up to previous 3rd base coach Jimy “One M” Williams to take the reigns. Seemed a logical choice with his familiarity with the roster and a decent baseball background. This should be no problem. But as we all know you do not win pennants on paper…
Date: April 14, 1986
Location: Exhibition Stadium, Toronto, ON, ON
Game: Baltimore Orioles vs. YOUR Toronto Blue Jays
Weather: 9.4C with a bit of a breeze…and if you were ever at The Ex you know that means jackets and seat cushions!
This was a rematch of the 1984 Blue Jays Home Opener with better than average Mike Boddicker against ageless Doyle Alexander (dude looked 60…serious!). Our lineup was set. 43, 587 peeps showed up to cheer on the local winners (shame on you Maple Leafs…). The two aging veteran starters were in fine form on this day. Boddicker gave up an RBI single in the first to Rance Mulliniks scoring our own shortstop wizard, Tony Fernandez…and that was it for us on this day. He pitched 9 full with 4 hits and 6 K’s. Alexander, who wasn’t too shabby either, also went 9 but gave up 2 runs on 9 hits and 5 K’s. Your prototypical 2 hour and 25 minute game which was more the norm then than the aberration it is today. Unfortunately it was a precursor to a season of unfulfilled promise.
The team just had a big let down, finishing 4th in the AL East with an 86-76 record. It was the proverbial step back to take two steps forwards type of year. We were still young and learning to win. It may not have been the best season but it was truly needed for them to know what it truly takes to capture a playoff spot (and this is pre WC games).
Tony Fernández and Jesse Barfield had career years. Fernandez was the first Blue Jay to get over 200 hits in a season with 213 and he also led the American League with 683 at bats. Barfield led the American League with 40 home runs, the first Jay to ever hit 40. Then there was RP Mark Eichhorn who had a breakout year with the Blue Jays. He was second on the team with 10 saves, and he led the team in ERA with 1.72 and strikeouts with 166. He tied with Jim Clancy and Jimmy Key for the team lead in wins with 14…as a reliever! I have searched and cannot find the exact number but he was something like 15 innings away from capturing the ERA title…as a reliever!! At least there was that to cheer for…’87 can’t come soon enough…