Looking at the Blue Jays this season many have been saying things have not gone their way and it cannot get much worse as the team sits in last place. As the team struggles to get back to .500, this team reminded me that things are not as bad as things during the 2004 season.
Over the past few seasons, the Toronto Blue Jays have been very fortunate to not have the amount of injuries and mishaps that have occurred this season. Many fans have gotten comfortable with how well the Blue Jays have been in the past 2 seasons and appear to have forgotten that this club has come a long way. Being a lifelong Blue Jays fan I am here to offer some incite and to show why I will forever be the optimist with this current club.
First, you are all going to wander with me on a flashback to the year 2003. The offseason started with releasing one of the better pitchers to come out of the Jays system in Chris Carpenter. After having shoulder surgery and was expected to miss the entire 2003 season the Jays decided to cut ties with the pitching star.
The Jays would go into the season a pitcher down and looked to a young pitching staff to be the difference. The staff was anchored by a pitcher that just had his first successful campaign in 2002. That pitcher was the now legendary Roy Halladay. Halladay pitched his way to a Cy Young award with a 22-7 record and a 3.25 ERA over 266 innings.
At the plate, the Jays were bringing a solid lineup to the dish each game. The star of the show was first basemen, Carlos Delgado. Delgado already had 6 seasons with at least 90 RBIs at this point in his career and 5 seasons with 30+ home runs. He was protected by a surging rookie in Vernon Wells. Wells was fresh off his first full season with the club and hit 49 doubles while batting .317. Not to mention he also had 23 home runs and 100 RBI.
This duo in 2003 would go on to hit 75 home runs and drive in 262 RBIs. Carlos Delgado rightfully should have received an MVP award for his efforts in this season but lost to an admitted performance-enhancing drug user in Alex Rodriguez.
The Blue Jays were in the playoff race heading into late August and were nipping at the Red Sox heals for the only wild card spot at the time. The Jays would have a rough July and August that ultimately doomed the team as they miss out on the offseason despite an 86-76 record. The team scored 894 runs during the season but struggled on the mound outside of Doc.
Over the offseason, the Blue Jays brought back Pat Hentgen to the rotation along with Ted Lilly and Miguel Batista. This new look rotation paired with one of the best offenses in the American League had everyone thinking that the playoffs were ours. The Jays had the reigning Cy Young winner and two players who finished in the top 10 in the AL MVP voting. The new look Jays even had a new logo as the angry bird’s merchandise flew off the shelf.
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The new season opened and spelled disaster quickly. The Blue Jays struggled to keep players on the field and would lose their biggest stars throughout the season. Carlos Delgado missed extensive time from the heart of the lineup.
Roy Halladay took a line drive to the shin and was out from mid-July until late September. The Jays used 5 different catchers through the year. Pat Hentgen failed to return to form after a few seasons destroyed by injuries. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Jays.
Eric Hinske played in the most games for the Blue Jays in 2004 and he batted a mere .246 in 155 games. He was the 2nd best producer at the plate with 69 RBI and 15 home runs. Delgado played in just 128 games and still led the Blue Jays in most of the offensive categories.
Delgado was still able to hit 32 home runs and drove in 99 RBIs. Rookie Alex Rios led the team in batting average at .289. Orlando Hudson and Reed Johnson offered some consistency at the plate but did not possess the pop needed by the sluggers. Wells regressed at the plate without his fellow masher. He batted .272 with 23 home runs but finished with just 67 RBI.
The Blue Jays went from a 2003 season in which they were in the playoff hunt until the season’s end to a team that was out of it before the All-Star break in 2004. Ted Lilly was the only Jay to go to the Mid-Summer Classic that season. This season saw manager Carlos Tosca fired at the beginning of August. Tosca had a 47-64 record at the time of his firing and was in the midst of a 5 game losing streak.
This started John Gibbons first stint as the Blue Jays manager. Gibby finished the seasons with a 20-30 record and was given credit for salvaging a faltering team as the Jays played spoiler the rest of the season. He would go on to have an 80-82 2005 season as the Jays were once again troubled by injuries and the hole left by Carlos Delgado leaving in free agency. The Jays final record in 2005 was 67-94 as they finished dead last.
This current season has been hard as the Jays have struggled to keep their stars on the field but they are still in the race. If they can find some consistency and some more offense they team could be right back in the playoffs.
Looking at Jays history they have not gone from one of the best in the league to the worst as they did from 2003 to 2004. Keep this in mind the next time you think things can not get any worse. The Jays have all the talent in the world and can make this happen they just need to strike now.