The Blue Jays teams from 1988-1993 went to the playoffs in four out of six years, capturing the World Series twice. If a wild card existed, they would have been in the playoffs all six years of those years, making it 11 in a row.
In Part 2 we looked at the Blue Jays teams of ’83-87 and where they would have placed had a wild card existed. Now we examine those epic years from ’88-’93.
The entire 11 years from 1983 – 1993 were extremely exciting for Jays fans. The exhibition Stadium was full (perhaps due to the $2.00 tickets you could buy at Dominion Grocery Store – only $1.00 with the purchase of a Coke). My dad loaded up on General Admission tickets every shopping visit and we would go to 20-30 games a year, the car packed with my buddies. It was awesome. The Jays constantly winning was a bonus. When the SkyDome was announced and eventually opened the Blue Jays were not just the talk of the town, but the talk of baseball. Toronto hosted the all-star game in 1991. It was a baseball renaissance for the city. Four million fans annually packed the stadium. Winning does that. Toronto was cool.
This excitement attracted the high profile players that would eventually be needed to get the Jays their first World Series rings. Signing free agents? No problem, as you will soon see.
So how did the 88-93 Jays teams do?
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1988 – Jays forced to play a one game playoff. The Jays took a step back that year, winning only 87 games. That’s still good for a similar record as the Milwaukee Brewers. The two would be forced to play a one game show down to see who have claimed the last wildcard spot.
1989 – The Jays win the pennant, lose to the A’s. That year, 89 wins was all the Blue Jays needed to take the division. They lost four games to one to a better Oakland squad that year. The A’s would eventually go on to sweep San Francisco in the World Series.
1990 – Jays get the second wild card spot. The Jays would win only 86 games in 1990, but that was still good enough to take the second of three wild card spots that would have been available that year in the two division/three wild card system. That year they would finish second in the division, two games behind Boston.
1991 – Another Pennant, another quick exit from the playoffs. In 1991 the Jays won the pennant winning 91 games and lost in the American League Championship to the eventual World Series champions Minnesota Twins. Jack Morris would pitch an epic 10 inning shutout in the World Series clincher.
1992 – World Series Champions. The Jays went all in that year. Prior to the season, David Winfield and Jack Morris were signed as free agents. David Cone was acquired for Jeff Kent in August. Vital pieces yes, but that title is not possible without the amazing homegrown talent on that team. Juan Guzman, Mike Timlin, Duane Ward, Mark Eichhorn, Alfredo Griffin, Manual Lee, John Olerud, Kelly Gruber, Jimmy Key, David Wells and Pat Borders (World Series MVP) all played vital rolls.
1993 – World Series Champions. Learning that experience matters, Winfield was replaced by Paul Molitor. Dave Stewart joined the Jays, and Rickey Henderson was acquired at the deadline. The Jays went back to back beating the Phillies in six.
So, how come these Blue Jay teams were so consistently good, year after year, for 11 years running?
Part 4 tomorrow examines the model of team building of those great Pat Gillick teams.