June 17, 2011; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Ted Lilly (29) in the dugout after he was pulled in the 6th inning of the game against the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
To the average fan it looked like J.P. Ricciardi was going for it this season. To help augment the growing power of Vernon Wells and the ace-like arm of Roy Halladay, Ricciardi made perhaps the biggest off-season splash of any Blue Jays GM since 1991. He traded for Troy Glaus, signed A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan and generally threw the player development to sustain a winner line under a big freakin’ bus. He was tired of losing as were the fans. 13 years of mediocrity will do that to a fan base, though every fan base goes through it. Even the Yankees and Red Sox have had moments of clear suckitude (my word…feel free to use it).
Thing is, there wasn’t much coming up from the farm…at least not in quality. This team was built to hit and was made up of whom we thought were true professionals. How so? The Blue Jays as a team fanned less than 1000 times this season. That is some pretty decent hitting. So who would be the first team to get smoked by our new found power in the Rogers Centre?
Date: April 8, 2006
Location: Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada
Game: Minnesota Twins vs. YOUR Toronto Blue Jays (anyone else who has followed this series notice we seem to always be the team facing the Central division first thing? Hmmmm…)
Weather: will always be there
This Twins team was pesky and no one moreso than Johan Santana. He had a rubber arm and a filthy fastball and left players in fits. He took the mound against our proverbial Cy Young candidate in Halladay. Opening series like these are always fantastic because you get both teams number 1s and if you enjoy the pitching aspect of the game as much as the hitting this type of match-up was always special. So special that this game went exactly as it should have…if you were a Jays fan of course.
Halladay went 7.2 innings, giving up 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 strikeouts. The blemish was the homers to Tony Batista and Shannon Stewart. Both of them came back to Toronto and hit 4 of the 5 hits that the entire Twins team would get on that day. Scott Schoeneweis got the 8th inning hold and Ryan came in to shut the door with two strikeouts and a save to add to his stat book. This was a great sign for the year.
In 2006 we finished in 2nd which would be the first time we were higher than third place since 1993. That’s a long time to suck. So the fans bought into the team and were flying high until a couple instances derailed the club (see Ted Lilly getting into a punch up with John Gibbons and Shea Hillenbrand‘s sinking ship fiasco). It took the focus off of what was a pretty good year. 87-75 is a great record to build on. Were we on the right track? 2007 would be the watershed year for Ricciardi to prove 2006 wasn’t an aberration. So here came 2007…