It would seem at this point that it was time to go all in and sell the farm and start fresh. 1997 gave rise to a new kind of team building in Toronto. Pat Gillick always prided himself on player development and filling in free agents around mostly home grown talent. Gord Ash had a different vision. Of course he had a different situation to deal with including the fallout of the strike of ’94 and a trying to put a winner on the field that the fans would come back to see.
It was all about stop gap measures and that usually means older veteran signings. This year we had Orlando Merced, Benito Santiago, Dan Plesac and Carlos Garcia. John Olerud was jettisoned to the Mets and then the grand daddy signing. Perhaps still the biggest free agent signing the Jays have ever had: the not so over the hill Roger Clemens (deemed expendable by the Red Sox because they thought he was getting old). All he did in a Blue Jays uniform was capture two pitching triple crowns and two Cy Young Awards. Not bad for over the hill. it was a team of everybody elses older castoffs…the same players we should have made. The decision to stop gap things left the team a wee bit of a mess. Was the Home Opener a bit of a mess too? Well…perhaps…
Date: April 1, 1997
Location: The SkyDome, Toronto, ON, Canada
Game: Chicago White Sox vs. YOUR Toronto Blue Jays
Weather: um…dome d-dome dome dooooooome
With Jamie Navarro leading the charge along with Harold Baines, Albert Belle and Frank Thomas, the White Sox brought some firepower with them to the duel at the Dome. Hentgen toed the rubber for us and it was expected to be a tight scoring affair. Homers hurt both pitchers though. Joe Carter and Alex Gonzalez each smacked one for us and Belle along with Norberto Martin did the same for the pale hose. Navarro went 6 giving up 5 runs while Hentgen went 8+. The difference here was the bullpen. When Navarro came out, three relievers clawed there way to scoreless 7, 8 and 9 innings. Our old closer Mike Timlin gave up 1 and our new closer Dan Plesac gave up one as well…the winning run. We lost this so close….6-5.
People ask me why I like to talk about these historical events. That answers itself right there. By discussing our history we can learn and make things better in the coming years. We can see where the wheels came off and we became a parking lot for old guys with character in spades but talent eroding with Father Time. Ash realized he also had to please the parent company Interbrew, The paid bills and they wanted those bills to be paid with the least money possible. The Interbrew years were synonymous and we had to tread water and keep our head afloat. It makes you wonder if Ash, the Jays lifer, was a good enough GM to take us on hot girls. Well I am going back in a bit…thanks for everything.