The 1993 Blue Jays managed to pull off a consecutive World Series win, and it required some bold moves from the front office to get it done.
When you have a winning recipe, the tendency is to try to stick with it as long as you can. In baseball that’s often the death of a dynasty, as we’ve witnessed in places like Philadelphia, New York, and more with aging rosters. Some would argue that’s happened to a certain degree in Toronto in recent years as well, and with one of the oldest rosters in the league last year, injuries definitely played a part in a rough 2017.
I got thinking about the way the Blue Jays set up their roster during their World Series championship years, and how the team was quite a bit different from 1992 to 1993. Also, thanks to the great world of The 1993 Jays in Real Time on Twitter, we’ve been able to relive mich of that ’93 season, and the roster build that took place over the winter. Make sure you check out the account, as it’s extremely well done and well worth a follow.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve learned a few things by following this account, and they’re always backed up by articles from 25 years ago to strengthen his claims. As an example, I didn’t realize how close Joe Carter was to leaving for Kansas City as a free agent that year, but an article brought up on the Twitter account revealed that Carter made his choice thanks to what he felt was a sign from God.
More from Jays Journal
- Matt Chapman has been exactly what the Blue Jays needed
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
After following the account and thinking about those years a bit more, I decided to take a look at the difference between the two rosters, and just how gutsy some of the calls then GM Pat Gillick had made. I wrote last week about the Roberto Alomar/Carter for Fred McGriff/Tony Fernandez trade, which perhaps the greatest example of Gillick’s willingness to be bold.
There were differences on both sides of the ball, and some decisions that required the GM to ignore the call of the fans. On offence, the team decided to move on from Kelly Gruber at third base, and also replaced Dave Winfield at DH, who had been a fan favourite and the author of a signature playoff moment. However, the team was able to bring in Paul Molitor who flourished as the DH, and Ed Sprague was an admirable replacement at third base, who also allowed the Blue Jays to spend money on other parts of the roster.
They also replaced Manny Lee at shortstop, eventually getting Tony Fernandez back, who had been traded to the Padres in 1990 in the Alomar/Carter deal. Shortstop was the one position that failed to get solidified early on that season, so the front office went out and addressed it with a familiar face who was more than capable of contributing on both sides of the diamond.
When it came to the pitching staff, Gillick had some bold decisions to make and fortunately things worked out well. It could have gone a lot differently for him, but instead letting go of the likes of Tom Henke, David Cone, Jimmy Key. and Dave Stieb didn’t come back to bite him. Duane Ward took over for Henke as the closer, and the Blue Jays brought in Dave Stewart from Oakland, as well as promoting Pat Hentgen to the rotation, who rewarded the club with 19 wins.
What can the modern day Blue Jays learn from the success of the 1993 team? Well, obviously it’s a much different era, so you can’t take the formula for success in the early 90’s and expect it to work flawlessly in today’s game. That said, I see two lessons that pop out from what Pat Gillick and company did that winter. First, don’t be afraid of change, and following the hearts of the fan base is a fool’s path. We’ve watched the negative reaction of a sizeable chunk of the fan base as Ryan Goins and Jose Bautista have seemingly moved on, but that doesn’t mean the club should give in and keep the band together.
Secondly, those teams should remind the modern day Blue Jays that being bold is how you win championships, and without that kind of attitude they likely wouldn’t have tasted in the playoffs in 2015-16 again nearly two and a half decades later. If the front office of Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins truly want to compete in 2018, they can’t be afraid of making an unconventional move, even if it makes them into the enemy in the public eye in Toronto.
I’m not hinting that they should trade Josh Donaldson, or suggesting anything specific in particular. I just know that the more I look at the success of those Gillick-built teams, it wasn’t done by sitting around and waiting for the market to develop. Perhaps there was something to that strategy back then.