The Toronto Blue Jays are a team with a rich history and a talented and bright future. But they also face some challenges and uncertainties as they enter the 2024 season. We use Charles Dickens' classic story of “A Christmas Carol” as a backdrop to explore the past, present and future of the Jays, and how they can build a championship team.
The Ghost of Christmas Past
The Blue Jays have won two World Series titles in their franchise history, both in the early 1990s. The first one came in 1992, when they defeated the Atlanta Braves in six games, thanks to a series of major moves that brought in stars like Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar from the Padres, Jack Morris and Dave Winfield from the Twins, and David Cone from the Mets.
The second came in 1993, when they repeated as champions by beating the Philadelphia Phillies in six games, thanks to another blockbuster trade that landed them Rickey Henderson from the Athletics. On Dec. 7, Paul Molitor, a free agent, was signed. This was seen as a Christmas gift from the Brewers, who had previously only proposed a one-year contract with a reduced salary. This series of events culminated in Carter’s memorable walk-off home run in Game 6, marking the first World Series Championship that was not won on American soil.
The Blue Jays of the past were a team that was not afraid to make bold moves and spend big money to acquire the best players available. They were also a team that had a balanced roster, with a powerful offense, a solid rotation, and a reliable bullpen. They had a mix of veterans and young players, and they played with passion and confidence.
The Blue Jays can learn from their past by remembering what made them successful, and by being willing to take calculated risks and make smart investments to improve their team. They can also learn from their past mistakes, such as letting go of some of their core players like Alomar, and Henderson after the 1995 season, which led to a decline in their performance and attendance.
Given the substantial financial resources allocated by Rogers to renovating and modernizing Rogers Centre, it is crucial to recognize that these expenditures should not shape the team's future decisions. Instead, the team should focus on retention and growth by making wise investments in free agency, pursuing trades with potential benefits, and fostering internal promotions from within the organization. Emphasizing these strategies will be more advantageous for the team's long-term success than relying on stadium renovations and modernization to attract fans. The combination of both is what will make this team successful and relevant.
The Ghost of Christmas Present
The Blue Jays of the present are a team that has a lot of potential, but also a lot of question marks. They have a formidable lineup, led by the MVP-caliber trio of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and George Springer, and supported by a breakout star like Davis Schneider. They have a strong rotation that's anchored by Kevin Gausman, José Berríos, Chris Bassitt and Yusei Kikuchi, and hopefully a rejuvenated young arm in Alek Manoah. They have a decent bullpen, featuring Yimi Garcia, Chad Green, Erik Swanson and Jordan Romano.
However, the Blue Jays also have some glaring holes and weaknesses. They need a left fielder, a third baseman, a first base bat, and another versatile infielder to replace the departing Matt Chapman, Brandon Belt and Whit Merrifield. They need more depth and quality in their pitching staff, especially in the back end of their rotation and the middle of their bullpen. They need to improve their defense, especially in the outfield and at the corners. They need to be more consistent and clutch, especially in close games and against tough divisional opponents.
The Blue Jays of the present are a team that is on the verge of contention, but also in danger of falling short. They have a lot of talent, but also a lot of room for improvement. There is a lot of excitement, but also a lot of frustration.
The Jays can improve their present by addressing their needs and weaknesses, and by maximizing their strengths and opportunities. They can do this by exploring the free agent and trade markets, and by developing and promoting their internal options. They can also do this by playing with more focus and intensity, and by finding ways to win the games that matter. Better base running decisions with better glove webbing at first base would be a great start. We could also add the human side of coaching to the list by sticking with the hot hand in high leverage situations. Sometimes ignoring the analytics can have a successful outcome.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
The Blue Jays of the future are a team that has a lot of hope, but also a lot of uncertainty. They have a lot of young and talented players, who could form the core of a championship team for years to come. They have a lot of prospects (although not as much as they used to), who could provide depth and value to their roster or be used as trade chips to acquire more impact players. They have a lot of resources, both financial and organizational, that could allow them to compete with the best teams in the league. Financially speaking, the cats out of the bag with the recent attempt at signing Ohtani.
However, the Blue Jays also have a lot of challenges and competition. They have a lot of players who will be eligible for arbitration or free agency in the next few years, (see Vladdy and Bo) which could increase their payroll and limit their flexibility. They have a lot of rivals, both in their division and in their league, who will also try to improve their teams and challenge them for the playoffs. All four divisional teams have made strides toward significant improvement for the upcoming season already. The Blue Jays will always have a lot of expectations, both from their fans, from themselves and from the Country.
So, how can the Blue Jays shape their future? By making smart and strategic decisions, and by being proactive and adaptable. This can be accomplished by balancing short-term and long-term goals, and by finding the right combination of players and personnel. What about a Pat Gillick like trade with the Cleveland Guardians? Vladimir Guerrero and Alejandro Kirk for the Canadian “Naylor” brothers? Signing a slugging first baseman is easier than filling other positional players, isn’t it? Just a hypothetical scenario from which fans will have many of in the years to come.
The Blue Jays have a history of glory, a present of promise and a future of hope. They have the potential to be champions, if they heed the wisdom and the spirit of “A Christmas Carol” in their own unique way.