Friday, April 19, 2013

April 19- Toronto Blue Jays

Well, once again I’ve found myself catching up on my New Era blog post. I suppose those are the riggers I face when I actually go to games and crack a few beers with the gang afterward. My bad. Anyway, I’m still recovering from a bit of a hangover so I suppose this is my punishment for falling behind.

There’s a recurring theme in which I bring up anytime I talk about a Toronto Blue Jays which is that they’re bipolar when it comes to hat and uniform designs. So far I’ve written two posts about them (January 13 and March 2) and if you recall I presented you with two examples which prove my point. For some strange reason whenever the Blue Jays decide to update their uniforms they tend to do it with dramatic results, starting over from scratch and generally creating something new. This type of habit might work well for a Minor League team, but with a Major League team it becomes an issue of losing one’s identity, as well as losing general face with the fan base. Now, I realize that I probably should have started with the very first style of hat they used from 1977-1993; however, I’ve been trying to write about each one as it pertains to specific players and moments in the team’s history. Therefore, expect that hat to get its post around September/October. For today, I’ve decided to roll with hat style number four.

The Blue Jays rocked the Jay logo with the backdrop maple leaf from 1997-2002 and featured two different cap styles within that range. This one, the red bill, was only used as the team’s alternate road cap from 1999-2000 while the all blue panel and billed cap was used as a game style during that frame. Unfortunately for me, I’m still trying to track down the all-blue cap so expect that post some time down the road.

The 1997 was the last season (of his first tenure) to feature back-to-back World Series winning manager Cito Gaston at the helm as he was fired mid-season after posting a 72-85 record and failing to have a winning record since their last World Series victory in 1993. The move came as more of a shock to Blue Jays fan because there were still five games left in the season, at which interim manager Mel Queen finished it out with a 4-1 record. Over the next four years the Blue Jays would play under Tim Johnson in 1998 who finished his first and only season with an 88-74 record. Johnson was fired by the general manager Gord Ash, the same guy who canned Gaston, because of credibility issues. What’s funny about this firing is that Johnson did what Gaston couldn’t, get the team playing over .500 ball, yet the team has yet to match or exceed the 88 win mark. Johnson was replaced with Jim Fregosi who only lasted two seasons despite winning 84 and 83 games respectively. Buck Martinez was hired for the job in 2001 and was fired mid-season of 2002 and replaced by Carlos Tosca. Even though Ash made a lot of incredible draft picks from the time he was GM of the Jays (1995-2001), he was also a huge dick who demanded instant results. All I can say with this is that I feel terrible for the Milwaukee Brewers with him in their office. I still don’t know how Ron Roenicke has kept his job for as long as he has.

So I’ll be honest, I made a slight mistake when I decided to mark this cap up back in December of 2011. Instead of looking up the timeline when one of the players played with the team, I just marked it up anyway to par tribute. I realize that my system isn’t perfect, but I try my best.

#9- This is where I made my mistake. For some crazy reason I decided to throw John Olerud’s number up on this hat as opposed to all the other Jays hats I own that I actually wore. Which only goes to show kids: research, research, research. Olerud was drafted in the third round of the 1989 amateur draft by the Jays out of Washington State University as an All-American first baseman and pitcher. Due to my loyal ties to the University of Oregon I am forced to hate this man. Joking of course. He made his debut on September 3rd of that season, making an appearance in only six games in which he hit three singles in eight at-bats (.375) and scored two runs. As the 1990 season came around Olerud found himself as the team’s starting first baseman. From 1989-1996 Olerud played for the Jays and was a major contributor on the 1992 and 1993 World Series teams. His best season came in ’93 when he won the American League batting title with a .363 average. He also finished the year with a league-high 54 doubles, 24 home runs, 107 RBI and an OPS of 1.072. He somehow only finished fourth for the AL MVP that season.

One thing I need to bring up with Olerud is the use of his batting helmet when playing defense for those who don’t know. During his days at WSU Olerud had an aneurysm removed from his brain after he collapsed during practice. His father was a physician for the school and was the one who diagnosed his condition. Surgeons had to drill into his skull to relieve the pressure and remove the aneurysm as it was life-threatening at the time. As a result of his procedure Olerud needs to protect the area.

The use of the helmet really never slowed Olerud down too much, even though at any moment a freak accident could occur and put his life in jeopardy. He won three Gold Gloves in 2000 and 2002-2003, all with the Seattle Mariners. Olerud only made two All-Star Game appearances as well: 1993 and 2000. In his 17-year career he finished with a lifetime average of .295 and 2,239 hits as well as 255 home runs and 1,230 RBI.

#25- This one I didn’t screw up on thankfully. In 1988 a young Carlos Delgado was signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic. For five years Delgado played his way through the Minor Leagues before finally making his Major League debut on October 1, 1993. From then until the end of the 2004 season Delgado played for the Jays, originally back up Mr. Olerud at first base. Delgado’s best years with the Jays came between 1996 and 2004 when he hit at least 25 home runs preseason as well as at least 91 RBI and an average of .262.

In 2000 Delgado was one the best hitters in baseball with a .344 average, 41 home runs and 137 RBI. He also led the league in doubles with 57 and made his first All-Star Game appearance. What’s most unusual about his numbers is that he only finished in fourth place for the AL MVP award despite showing incredible discipline at the plate by drawing 123 walks and maintaining an OPS of 1.134. Kind of sucks when you finish behind Jason Giambi, Frank Thomas and Alex Rodriguez.

2003 proved to be another dominant year for Delgado as he finished in second place for the AL MVP with a .302 average, 42 home runs and a league-high 145 home runs and league-high OPS of 1.019 and made his second and final All-Star Game appearance of his career. With the exception of home runs and stolen bases, Delgado had Alex Rodriguez beat all around. It’s one of the few MVP votes that I still take issue with.

After his time with the Jays Delgado signed with the Florida Marlins in 2005 and was traded to the New York Mets in 2006 where he finished out his career at the end of the 2009 season. His career numbers include a .280 average, 473 home runs 1512 RBI and 2,038 hits. I always enjoyed watching him play. He was one of the few power hitters who looked good at every at-bat. For a Dominican player to show as much discipline at the plate as he did it was surely a rare quality. Everywhere he played he was loved by the fans and still gives back to the communities who took him in.

1 comment:

  1. I'm gonna say this is the ultimate Toronto Blue Jays hat. There, I said it.

    It's certainly my fave. The original white crowned designs are the classic, of course. The current one they wear is a nice hark-back to delight newbies and oldtimers alike. In between there was a lot of crazy shit. But this one, I have to say, is the ultimate.

    It's got a reasonable jay bird image front and centre. You won't mistake it for an oriole or a cardinal. Behind that is a big honkin red maple leaf, which is great because CANADA. The crown is blue for Blue Jays, but there's also these red flairs on the bill and button. I like the stylishness of it all. It's perfect, dammit!

    I think when these hats were introduced, the Chicago Cubs had a similar blue-red colourway on their road(?) hats. Pretty sure those have been retired for some time.

    So if the Jays were to take their present home hats and add the same red flairs, I'd declare it the best Jays hats ever.

    What I'm trying to say is, I really like this hat! It's my favourite by a kilometre. (Metric humour BA HA HA!)