There’s never a good time for a lockout, but the current one has the potential to be even more painful for the Blue Jays than the strike of 1994.
That’s the last time that Major League Baseball had a significant interruption, with the exception of the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 that led to a 60-game schedule that season. I remember it well too, and as a Blue Jays fan there was a silver lining. With the cancellation of the rest of the 1994 season it meant I could go on bragging that the Jays were reigning champions for another year. My favourite team had just won the World Series in back to back seasons in 1992-93, and I wasn’t ready to let go of the title just yet.
In reality their championship run was all but over, as they were 55-60 at the time that the season paused, which eventually led to its cancellation altogether. In the AL East that likely cost the Yankees a chance to return to the postseason for the first time before their mid-90’s run of championships, and who knows what would have ultimately played out. Regardless, I doubt the Blue Jays would have caught them regardless anyway since the Yankees had a 16.0 game lead at the time. When 1995 rolled around there was no longer any denying that the glory days were over, as the Blue Jays finished 56-88 and in last place in the division.
As I already said, there’s never a good time for a lockout, but the timing wasn’t the worst for the 1994 Blue Jays. By the time it happened it was clear that there would be no “lost opportunity” for that team, and no “what if” scenarios to talk about for the next 50 years. That certainly applies to the Montreal Expos fan base though, as they were arguably the favourite to win the World Series that season when things shut down, and sadly it was probably their best chance to win a championship before they were eventually moved to Washington. *Edit- Earlier I had, “moved to Tampa Bay” which was incorrect.
As I look at the current work stoppage going on in Major League Baseball, I can’t help but feel a little sick about what we could miss out on, especially as Blue Jays fans. Not only do I simply want to watch this team play in general, but I firmly believe that 2022 is the start of their real window as championship contenders. That window of contention may be open for a decade, or it might be an opportunity that only lasts four years or so, and it would be a shame of criminal proportions to miss out on the chance to see this Blue Jays team perform.
The 1994 version of the Blue Jays had veterans on the downside of their careers, and a team that had more or less aged and priced itself out of contention. The current Blue Jays are built around young superstars that are just starting to hit their potential at the highest level. It’s not every year that we get to see a generational talent like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. blossoming into one of the best hitters in the world, or a player like Bo Bichette quietly become one of the best shortstops in baseball. It might be some sort of defence mechanism in my brain, but I don’t even want to think about wasting their age 23 and 24 seasons without an MLB season.
On top of the emerging young talent, no one wants to see the prime of any player’s career wasted. Guys like George Springer and Kevin Gausman should have more than one year of elite baseball left in the tank, and it would be such a shame to have them miss crucial parts of the primes of their own careers. It’s been a while since I’ve been this excited about a Blue Jays roster before Spring Training even starts, and I would argue that the front office will still look to add once the lockout is over. They finally have the type of team that Ross Atkins and company have been trying to build since they took over in 2016, and now is supposed to be the time to enjoy the fruits of the labour.
I realize that I’m making a pretty obvious point here today, but I just can’t help feeling frustrated about what’s going on with the CBA negotiations right now. As a long-time Blue Jays fan, we don’t get these windows of opportunity all the time, and I’d sure hate to see any of it wasted. Here’s hoping the negotiations start moving in a more positive direction, and in a hurry.