Blue Jays anniversary: Alomar and Carter arrive

TORONTO - OCTOBER 23: Joe Carter
TORONTO - OCTOBER 23: Joe Carter /

It was on this date in 1990 when the Blue Jays swung arguably the biggest trade in franchise history, acquiring Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter from the Padres in exchange for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez.

I’m not one that likes to reminisce about past glory very much, but today marks a significant day in team history for the Blue Jays. With it, a trade that changed the landscape of the franchise forever, and brought my personal favourite player to the Blue Jays when then GM Pat Gillick sent Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter.

It was a blockbuster deal to be sure, and even though both teams knew it was a significant move at the time, it’s hard to imagine either saw things playing out the way they did. All four players went on to have stellar careers, so there wasn’t a hard and fast “loser” of the deal at the time. That said, one team definitely made out better than the other, and Fernandez also ended up back in Toronto by 1993.

In 1990, the Blue Jays finished the season 86-76, and just outside of the playoff picture after having lost in the ALCS in 1989. Gillick knew his team was close to being a true contender, and even though McGriff and Fernandez were talented young pieces, the GM saw something in Alomar and Carter that was a better fit for the roster. Of course, he was more than right about that.

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Alomar went on to have a Hall of Fame career with arguably his best seasons coming in a Blue Jays’ uniform. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011, and is currently the only player wearing a Blue Jays’ hat among the generations honoured. He was All-Star in every season of his five years in Toronto, won the Gold Glove for second base each season, and finished 6th in MVP voting for three consecutive years (1991-93).  With all due respect to the other three players involved, I always feel that the team that gets the best player wins a trade, and there’s no doubt that Alomar lead this talented pack.

In Carter, the Blue Jays got an inspirational leader, and a power bat in the middle of their lineup. He played in Toronto from 1991-1997, and was a 5x All-Star during those years. He also garnered MVP votes on four separate occasions, finishing 3rd in 1992 when he hit 34 home runs and drove in 119. And of course, he’s best remembered for his two signature moments with the first being him leaping up and down after catching Mike Timlin‘s throw for the final out of the 1992 World Series.

And then, there was the biggest moment in Blue Jays’ history:

He was already my hero and favourite player before that blast, but that moment cemented my love of the game and the Blue Jays forever as a nine year old boy. I still get chills watching the ball fly off his bat and seeing the joy on his face.

Sometimes you’ve gotta make some bold decisions in pursuit of a championship, and fortunately this blockbuster trade worked out beautifully for the Blue Jays. Pat Gillick pulled the trigger at exactly the right time, which was a gutsy decision that doesn’t get enough credit in some circles. Trading away Fernandez and McGriff when they were about to embark on their peak couldn’t have been easy, but sometimes you have to pay a big price for a big reward.

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That reward was two championships, two of the best players and people the team and city have ever known. and a lifetime of memories. I guess you could say it worked out just fine.