So the strike of ’94 caused huge issues with Toronto. Baseball fans in this city are pretty fickle and if they feel slighted they tend to get turned off quickly…unless you are the Maple Leafs (shudder). Couple that with the resignation of Pat Gillick and the hiring of day 1 employee Gord Ash and you had some cockeyed looks from fans about the 1995. We still had our core hitting intact and our core pitching so some thought 1994 was an aberration and hopefully 1995 would go back to some serious contending. We signed Frank Viola, Danny Darwin traded for David Cone…again…seemed like a great idea at the time.
It was an older rotation but one full of promise and experience and guile. Unfortunately it was not enough as the Jays bottomed out at 56-88 in the shortened 144 game season (thanks to the remnants of the strike). Cone got traded to the Yankees and helped set them off on a ridiculous run of winning…aaaaaand spending. Darwin and Viola were both released before the trade deadline and the season was lost. Was Gord Ash really up for the task of maintaining a consistent winner? The Home Opener said yes…the season itself said no…
Date: April 26, 1995
Location: The SkyDome, Toronto, ON, Canada
Game: Oakland Athletics vs. YOUR Toronto Blue Jays
Weather: Very indoorsy
When you see a matchup of David Cone against the likes of Dave Stewart you figure you would see the makings of a great veteran battle on the mound. Well it was for Cone. Stewart, on the other hand, got rooooocked in his season debut. 1.1 innings, 9 runs, 7 earned, 5 hits, 3 walks and 60 pitches (60!). It wasn’t a big hit per se that sealed the deal for the Jays, but rather a crazy 11 run second inning. 4 ribbies by gazelle legged Devon White and 4 more by shortstop Alex Gonzalez and the game became a laughter. Cone went 6 giving up a lone run and letting the bullpen take over. Mike Timlin, Woody Williams and Tony Castillo threw a scoreless inning each and there you have it…a 13-1 shellacking of a pretty powerful A’s team.
Ash seemed to get his feet wet slowly with lots of minor ridiculous moves and seemed very uncomfortable in his position. Gord never seemed like a leader. He seemed like a nice guy who lucked into a great gig. There would be lots of individuals would could run a place…but there are so few leaders. Gillick proved his worth later on with Seattle and Philadelphia. Ash was passionate but he didn’t seem to have the baseball acumen to truly excel at the job. Couple that with parading out a team that were no longer affordable to the new owners (welcome to the Interbrew). He seemed to be undermined at every turn.
You are only as good as your last game. Each game is a chance to start fresh and show what you are capable of. This team sure showed us what they were capable of…wetting the bed and being booted from the penthouse to the outhouse with no stops in between. 1996 couldn’t come fast enough.