The City of Toronto was awarded a franchise in the American League on March 26, 1976 and named Peter Bavasi Executive Vice-President and General Manager on June 18. On August 12, the “Blue Jays” were selected by Directors from over 4,000 names and 30,000 entries in a “Name the Team” contest. Roy Hartsfield became the first on-field Manager and catcher Phil Roof was purchased from the Chicago White Sox, becoming the first player in franchise history.
On March 11, 1977, the Blue Jays played their first spring training game, defeating the New York Mets in Dunedin, Florida, by a 3-1 score. On April 7, 1977, 44,649 fans braved snow and freezing temperatures as the Blue Jays won their first ever regular season game, 9-5, over the Chicago White Sox. Doug Ault became an instant hero, hitting two home runs in the contest. Their inaugural season included a 19-3 win over the Yankees, with Roy Howell collecting nine RBI, while the season total home attendance of 1,701,052 set a record for a first-year expansion club.
Over the next two seasons, in 1978 and 1979, the Blue Jays saw several firsts. Jim Clancy got the 4-2 victory in front of 44,327 fans on April 22, 1978, which is marked by the pitcher starting the first triple play in franchise history. On June 26, 1978, the Blue Jays exploded for a franchise-high 24 runs. Bobby Mattick became the team’s second Manager on October 18, 1979. For his performance in 1979, SS Alfredo Griffin was named co-winner of the AL Rookie of the Year Award. From December 2-7, Toronto played host to the Winter Meetings, the first held outside the United States.
The 1980’s represented a new phase for the franchise, as the club rose from an expansion team to a formidable AL East contender by the end of the decade. In 1980, still in the early years, the club set a franchise record with 67 victories while pushing attendance past six million, an expansion record. Field manager Bobby Cox took over the reins in 1982 and led the club to new heights in his four years as Manager. 1982 saw the team climb out of the basement for the first time in its history, winning 78 games to finish in a tie for 6th with Cleveland.
1983 marked a significant time as the Blue Jays finished over .500 for the first time in franchise history with an 89-73 record, good for 4th place and only nine games out of first. Notable performances included the first 100 RBI season by a Blue Jay (Willie Upshaw) and first 100-run season (Lloyd Moseby). The Blue Jays became only the second team in league history to win Player of the Week honours in three consecutive weeks, when Luis Leal, Dave Stieb, and Lloyd Moseby turned the trick in May. The enthusiasm for the club continued to build as a record 9,104 season tickets were sold for the 1984 season. Fans saw their club march up the standings for a second-place finish at 89-73, solidifying their position as AL East contenders. Over the course of the season, the Blue Jays claimed 19 one-run contests in a row, while Cliff Johnson set a then Major League record mark for pinch-hit home runs with his 19th career shot. All of this was witnessed by 2,110,009 fans, which put the Blue Jays in elite company as just the 18th franchise to top two million fans in a season.
The ascent to AL East Champions was complete in 1985. On the second to last day of the regular season, the Blue Jays defeated the New York Yankees by a 5-1 score to secure their first postseason berth. During the 1985 season a Blue Jays ticket was a hot commodity. On July 27, the club saw average attendance top 30,000 per game for the first time. 47,686 fans showed up for an October 4th contest vs. New York to set a single game mark, while final attendance reaches a new high of 2,468,925. Season ticket sales are capped at 11,500. The Blue Jays’ first foray into the playoffs provided lots of drama and some solid learning experiences for future years. Jumping out to 2-0 and 3-1 series leads vs. the AL West Champion Kansas City Royals, it appeared inevitable that the Blue Jays would make their first World Series appearance. Unfortunately, the Kansas City Royals had other ideas, coming from behind to become only the 5th club in Major League history to win a series after trailing 3-1. George Brett led the way, collecting several key hits while Jim Sundberg delivered the decisive blow off Blue Jays ace Dave Stieb, with a bases-clearing, wind assisted triple off the top of the right-field fence in Game 7.
Heading into 1986, season tickets were capped at 14,000 as the club celebrated its 10th anniversary. On July 10, INF Damaso Garcia became the first player to record 1,000 hits in a Blue Jays uniform, while RHP Jim Clancy became the first to win 100 games for the franchise. SS Tony Fernandez became the first to record 200 hits in a season and RF Jesse Barfield earned the franchise its first Gold Glove award. The Blue Jays dropped to 4th place in the East with an 86-76 record, as Jimy Williams took over as team Manager.
George Bell cemented himself as the AL’s best, posting a .308 average with 7 home runs and 134 RBI to earn the honour as AL MVP in 1987. He became the first Blue Jay ever selected by fans to appear in an All-Star Game. The Blue Jays set several club marks, including a 10-home run game vs. Baltimore on September 14, with Ernie Whitt belting three. A franchise record 11-game winning streak began on June 2, while attendance soared to 2,778,429, an all-time high for any AL East club. On Canada Day, a single-game record 47,828 fans packed their way into Exihibition Stadium in a contest vs. the New York Yankees. The season ended in shocking fashion as a 3.5 game lead was lost in the final week with seven consecutive losses. Four of the losses came to eventual champions, Detroit, all of them by one run, including two in extra innings. On the season’s final day, LHP Jimmy Key lost a 1-0 battle to Frank Tanana with the lone run coming from a wallscraping home run to left field by OF Larry Herndon in the 2nd inning. Key injuries to C Ernie Whitt and SS Tony Fernandez down the stretch proved to be too much to overcome.
A 3rd place finish in 1988 (87-75) was highlighted by some individual accomplishments. George Bell began the season the same way he left off his 1987 MVP campaign, becoming the first player in Major League history to hit three home runs on Opening Day and the only player over the course of the season to earn two Player of the Week awards. Dave Stieb continued his dominance of AL hitters, flirting with no-hitters on three occasions, all three one-hitters, including back-to-back one-hitters on Sept. 24 and 30. Incredibly, both games saw him lose the no-hitter with two outs in the 9th inning.
A SIGNIFICANT CHANGE:
The 1989 season began with the naming of Paul Beeston as President on January 10. On May 15, with the team sitting at 12-24, Manager Jimy Williams was replaced by Cito Gaston on an interim basis. On May 28, the Blue Jays played their final game at Exhibition Stadium, defeating the White Sox, 7-5. The team moved into the SkyDome and capped season tickets at 26,000. The SkyDome opened on June 5 with a 5-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. 49,501 watched the Blue Jays on September 16, setting a new single-season record for home attendance. The Blue Jays went on to post a 77-49 record under Cito Gaston and clinched their second division title. Dave Stieb posted two more one-hitters, and came within one out of a perfect game vs. New York on August 4, when Roberto Kelly broke up the bid with a double.
BEEN HERE BEFORE:
For the second time in five seasons, the Blue Jays were East Division Champions and fell in the Divisional Series, this time to the AL West Champion Oakland Athletics. The Blue Jays were no match for Rickey Henderson, who batted .400 in the series with a 1.609 OPS and a LCS record eight stolen bases in the five-game series. They were outscored, 31-16, with the Blue Jays only victory coming in Game 3 behind Jimmy Key.
The Toronto Blue Jays entered the 90’s as an established contender, looking to build on regular season performances that had yet to yield playoff success. With the state-of-the-art SkyDome now their home, it was time to see this vision become reality.
In the first full season at SkyDome, and the first full season under Cito Gaston, the club came up just short of a postseason berth, finishing two games behind the Red Sox with an 86-76 record. The team set a Major League attendance record by passing the Dodgers’ 1982 mark on September 19. Dave Stewart tossed SkyDome’s first no-hitter on June 29 while pitching for the Oakland A’s.
AND THEN HE WAS PERFECT:
On September 2, 1990, Dave Stieb accomplished what had appeared so elusive in his career, tossing his first and only no-hitter vs. the Cleveland Indians. Jerry Browne lined out to right fielder Junior Felix to end the contest.
In December of 1990, the Blue Jays cemented a deal that changed the fortunes of the club, acquiring future Hall of Famer 2B Roberto Alomar and OF Joe Carter from San Diego in exchange for SS Tony Fernandez and 1B Fred McGriff. Another attendance mark was set and the four-million fan barrier was broken as 4,001,526 saw the Blue Jays return to the postseason by winning the AL East with a 91-71 record. Tom Henke set a then record for consecutive saves with 25. On May 1 in Texas, Nolan Ryan no-hit the Blue Jays for his 7th and final no-hitter. Chosen to host their first All-Star Game. 52,382 fans packed the SkyDome to see Jimmy Key pick up the win for the home side.
THIRD TIME A CHARM:
The AL West Champion Minnesota Twins awaited the Blue Jays in the AL Championship Series. The Blue Jays came home to Toronto with a 1-1 series split, primed to make their first World Series appearance. Unfortunately, an 11-inning heartbreaker turned the series as Mike Pagliarulo homered off Mike Timlin to put the Blue Jays down, 2-1. In Game 5, the Twins finished off the series by scoring three runs in the 8th inning, winning, 8-5, and sending the Blue Jays home early once again.
Newly acquired Jack Morris led the Blue Jays into the 1992 season by making his Major League record 13th consecutive Opening Day start. He tossed a complete game in a 4-2 win in Detroit. The Blue Jays set a Major League attendance record again in 1992 with 4,028,318 fans and clinched their fourth playoff berth on October 3. Dave Winfield set a Blue Jays mark with 23 home runs as a DH while becoming the oldest player to register 100 or more RBI in a season.
TIME TO CELEBRATE:
An old foe awaited Toronto in the 1992 Championship series in the Oakland Athletics, a team very similar to the club that handled the Blue Jays just two seasons earlier in the playoffs. The Blue Jays split the first two games at home before heading to Oakland for Games 4, 5, and 6. Juan Guzman gave the Blue Jays a 2-1 series lead before a dramatic Game 4 became the catalyst for the Blue Jays first ever World Series appearance. In Game 4 at the Coliseum, the Blue Jays found themselves down 5-1 after three and 6-1 heading into the 8th inning. They came within striking distance with a three-run 8th inning before Dennis Eckersley, one of the league’s best closers, attempted to close out the game in the 9th. With a man on, Roberto Alomar delivered one of the biggest hits in franchise history, belting a game-tying two-run home run to right field. The Blue Jays went on to win, 7-6, in 11 innings and then took the series in six games.
More drama ensued in the Blue Jays’ first World Series appearance, facing perennial playoff club, the Atlanta Braves. After dropping the first contest, Game 2 saw backup C/INF Ed Sprague propel the Blue Jays to their first ever World Series win with a pinch-hit, two-run home run off Jeff Reardon in a 5-4 win. Game 3, the first World Series game played outside of the US, was noteworthy for ‘the catch’ made by Devon White in the 4th inning, resulting in a near triple play. That was key in keeping the score tied at 2-2 in the 9th inning. Candy Maldonado drove in Roberto Alomar for the game-winner and a 2-1 series lead. After a 2-1 win in Game 4, the Blue Jays were unable to close the series out at home. Toronto needed one more dramatic at-bat to bring the World Series to Canada. Tied, 2-2, in the 11th inning of Game 6, Dave Winfield doubled down the left-field line to drive in two runs. When Mike Timlin tossed an Otis Nixon bunt to Joe Carter, the long journey to World Series Champions had concluded.
In 1993, a record-tying seven Blue Jays were selected to the All-Star team (Alomar, Carter, Hentgen, Molitor, Olerud, Ward, White). John Olerud flirted with a .400 average, going as late as August 2 at the .400 mark, and eventually became the first Blue Jay to win a batting title. In fact, the top three spots at season’s end belonged to the Blue Jays (Olerud – .363, Molitor – .332, Alomar – .326), the first time in 100 years this had occurred. The Blue Jays won the AL East again, and on July 31, they acquired OF Rickey Henderson to propel them into another postseason run.
In the 1993 AL Championship Series, the Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox each won two games on opposition soil before the Blue Jays reversed the trend and took Game 5 at SkyDome. In all six games, the team that scored first won the contest. Roberto Alomar once again led the way with a .316 average, including reaching base in all five plate appearances in Game 5. Dave Stewart closed out the series, moving to 8-0 in ALCS play with a 6-3 victory.
In a highly entertaining series, the Blue Jays brought back-to-back championships to Canada, defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. The series was highlighted by a classic Game 4 contest in Philadelphia on October 20 that saw the Blue Jays overcome 12-7 and 14-9 deficits with a six-run 8th inning 10 men came to the plate in the 8th, with Devon White tying the contest with a two-out RBI triple. Rickey Henderson provided the game-winning hit in a contest that took four hours and 14 minutes to play. In Game 6 in Toronto, the Blue Jays trailed the Phillies, 6-5, entering the bottom of the 9th. Phillies closer Mitch Williams allowed a walk to Henderson and a one-out single to Molitor before Joe Carter ended the series with a three run home run to left field. The, “Touch ‘em all, Joe! You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life,” quote was made famous by longtime Blue Jays announcer Tom Cheek.
The 1994 season ended prematurely on August 12 as a player strike began. It did not end until late April of 1995. The Blue Jays did not return to the postseason during the balance of the 90’s, finishing as high as 3rd in 1998 and 1999. Paul Beeston was named Canada’s Baseball Man of the Year in 1994, while Howard Starkman picked up the Robert O. Fishel award for Public Relations Excellence in 1996. The Blue Jays opened their 20th season in Las Vegas vs. Oakland, a season where Pat Hentgen began a string of three successive Blue Jays CY Young award winners, with Roger Clemens winning in 1997 and 1998.
EXCELLENCE IS MEASURED:
The Blue Jays honoured George Bell and Dave Stieb by unveiling their names as the first on the Level of Excellence. Over the years, only the most prominent Blue Jays will see their names on the outfield facade. Joe Carter and Cito Gaston were added in 1999.
Cito Gaston ended a glorious run with the club after being relieved of his duties on September 24, 1997. During his tenure, the club won three divisional titles and two World Series.
Interleague Play began in 1997 with the Blue Jays playing the Montreal Expos in the regular season for the first time. The decade closed out with some significant accomplishments after Gord Ash assumed the role of General Manager in 1998. The same year, Tony Fernandez became the all-time hits leader and Roger Clemens became just the 11th pitcher in MLB history to record 3,000 strikeouts. Shawn Green became the first Blue Jay to post 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 1998. Pat Hentgen became the 4th Blue Jay to win 100 games and Billy Koch posted his 31st save in 1999 to set a then AL rookie record.
Rogers Communications assumed control of the franchise in September of 2000. During the summer of the same year, the Blue Jays put on a power display, becoming the first Major League team to have four players with 20 or more home runs before the All-Star break (Delgado, Batista, Mondesi, Cruz). The 134 home runs at home set a new AL mark and the 244 total home runs set a new franchise record. Carlos Delgado was named Sporting News Player of the Year.
The 2001 campaign saw the club open the season with one game vs. the Texas Rangers in Puerto Rico. Raul Mondesi pulled off the first straight steal of home in franchise history and Carlos Delgado assumed the franchise lead in home runs, passing Joe Carter. Jeff Frye hit for the cycle on August 17, joining Kelly Gruber as the only Blue Jays to accomplish the feat.
Carlos Delgado’s team-record streak of 432 consecutive games played came to an end on August 4, 2002. Pat Gillick was enshrined on the Level of Excellence on August 7, 2002. The 2002 campaign came to a close with Eric Hinske named AL Rookie of the Year. On June 15, 2003, Reed Johnson became only the fourth player in MLB history to hit a leadoff and walk-off home run in the same game. Roy Halladay won 15 straight decisions in 2003 on his way to a club record 22 wins and a Cy Young Award. On September 2, 2003, Carlos Delgado banged out four home runs to become the 15th player in MLB history to accomplish the feat. Legendary broadcaster Tom Cheek had his streak of 4,306 consecutive games come to an end after the sudden passing of his father on June 3, 2004. Later in the season, Cheek was enshrined on the Level of Excellence.
Manager Carlos Tosca was relieved of his duties on August 8, 2004 and replaced by John Gibbons. The final day of the season was overshadowed by the sudden passing of longtime Blue Jay and current broadcaster John Cerutti.
Vernon Wells picked up a Gold Glove Award in 2004 and again in 2005. On April 4, 2005, Tom Cheek called back-to-back home runs by Orlando Hudson and Vernon Wells in his last game as a Blue Jays broadcaster; he later passed away on October 9, 2005.
After key signings of A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan in 2006, the team went on to post its best record of the decade, finishing in 2nd place with an 87-75 record. It marked the first time the Blue Jays placed higher than 3rd since the World Series winning clubs in 1992 and 1993. They saw five players go to the All-Star Game (Halladay, Ryan, Wells, Glaus, Rios).
The Blue Jays signed free agent Frank Thomas to a two-year contract in 2007. On June 28 in Minnesota, he became just the 21st player in MLB history to hit 500 career home runs, accomplishing the feat with a 1st inning home run off Carlos Silva.
Cito Gaston made his return to the dugout as he replaced John Gibbons as Manager with the team holding a 35-39 record. Gaston led the club to a 10-game winning streak in September, finishing with a 51-37 record the rest of the way in 2008. He was rewarded with a two-year contract following the season.
General Manager JP Ricciardi was replaced following the 2009 season by assistant Alex Anthopoulos on October 3. Aaron Hill and Adam Lind had stellar offensive seasons, earning both players a Silver Slugger Award. Hill also was named Comeback Player of the Year, while Lind was recognized as the AL’s best Designated Hitter, picking up the Edgar Martinez Award.
In 2010, Jose Bautista won the Hank Aaron award and a Silver Slugger award, after setting a club mark with 54 home runs. He became just the 16th player in MLB history to record 54 home runs and the 7th player to post 50 home runs, 30 doubles, and 100 walks in the same season. Overall, the team hit 257 home runs, tying for the 3rd highest total in MLB history. Brandon Morrow turned in one of the most impressive performances in franchise history on August 8 vs. Tampa Bay as his no-hit bid ended with two outs in the 9th inning. However, he finished with a one-hitter and 17 strikeouts. Cito Gaston was honoured in the final home game with a pregame ceremony on September 29, 2010.
THE HALL IS CALLING:
Roberto Alomar, a 12-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glovewinning second baseman, was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on July 24, 2011 at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, NY. The two-time World Series Champion donned the Toronto Blue Jays cap in the Hall, marking the first ever Blue Jays player to be elected into the Hall of Fame. Alomar, who was in his 2nd year on the ballot, received 523 votes which then represented the 3rd highest total in history, for a 90 percent majority.
John Farrell was appointed as the 12th Manager in franchise history and led the club to an 81-81 record in his first season. Jose Bautista was once again the offensive leader, earning a second consecutive Hank Aaron award as the league’s best hitter. He led the AL in home runs with 47, while also posting league leading numbers in walks (132), slugging percentage (.608) and OPS (1.056). Bautista became the first player to lead the Majors in all of the above categories since Barry Bonds in 2001, and the first AL player since Ted Williams in 1942. The fans also recognize his dominance by registering 7,454,753 All-Star votes, then the most in MLB history. In the minors, four of the Blue Jays affiliates made the playoffs, with two clubs (New Hampshire and Vancouver) winning league championships. Baseball America rated the Blue Jays Minor League system 4th, up from 19th just one year prior. On November 18, 2011, the Blue Jays unveiled a new logo that brought the “blue” back to the Blue Jays, recognizing the classic Toronto look.
In June of 2012, Jose Bautista recorded 14 home runs, 30 RBI, 22 walks and 24 runs scored in 27 games to capture his 5th career monthly award. He also finished at the top in homers, RBI, and slugging percentage (.750), and tied for 1st in walks and extra-base hits (18). His 14 homers established a new club record for the most home runs in any single month and marked the most in a calendar month by any player since Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki hit 15 round trippers in September of 2010. It also was the most for an AL player since New York’s Alex Rodriguez hit 14 home runs in April of 2007. On Sept. 18, 2012, the club announced that they had entered into a Player Development Contract with the Buffalo Bisons of the International League (AAA). On Oct. 21, 2012, the Blue Jays released Manager John Farrell from his contract as he was hired by the Red Sox to take over that same position with them, an agreement reached by both teams. On Nov. 19, 2012, the Blue Jays and Marlins completed the biggest trade in baseball history, measured in number of players changing hands, as Toronto acquired RHP Josh Johnson, LHP Mark Buehrle, SS Jose Reyes, IF/OF Emilio Bonifacio, and C John Buck in exchange for C Jeff Mathis, SS Yunel Escobar, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, RHP Henderson Alvarez, LHP Justin Nicolino, OF Jake Marisnick, and RHP Anthony Desclafani. On Nov. 20, the Blue Jays hired John Gibbons as Manager to take over for John Farrell. Gibbons became the second person to have two tenures as Blue Jays Manager, along with Cito Gaston. General Manager Alex Anthopoulos made another big splash in the offseason by acquiring the 2012 NL Cy Young award winner, RHP R.A. Dickey, from the New York Mets on Dec. 17, 2012, along with C Josh Thole and C Mike Nickeas in exchange for two of Toronto’s top prospects, C Travis d’Arnaud and RHP Noah Syndergaard, along with C John Buck and OF Wuilmer Beccera.
Major League Baseball and Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig named the Toronto Blue Jays as the 2012 recipient of the Commissioner’s Award for Philanthropic Excellence, which was created in 2010 to annually recognize an extraordinary charitable and philanthropic effort of an MLB club.
Toronto had four players participate in the 2013 All-Star game along with Manager John Gibbons, who was one of the coaches selected by Jim Leyland. OF Jose Bautista, 1B Edwin Encarnacion, LHP Brett Cecil, and RHP Steve Delabar represented the Blue Jays at the 2013 Classic at Citi Field. Delabar was the winner of the mlb.com Final Vote, becoming the first Toronto player to win with 9.6 million votes. On July 21, 2013, Carlos Delgado became the 9th member inducted into the Toronto Blue Jays Level of Excellence.
In July of 2013, Tom Cheek was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum as the Ford C. Frick winner, having called the first 4,306 games in club history. Cheek also called the team’s first 41 postseason contests, and his “Touch ‘em all, Joe!” call still resounds in the hearts and minds of fans across the country. The lengendary broadcaster saw his name placed on the Level of Excellence in 2004 and passed away the following year after a lengthy and brave battle with brain cancer.
On Dec. 9, 2013, at the Winter Meetings, Roy Halladay signed a contract with the Blue Jays. This agreement ensured that the legendary right-hander retired as a Toronto Blue Jay. Halladay finished a distinguished 16-year career with a record of 203-105 (.659 winning percentage) in 416 games (390 starts) with an ERA of 3.38. Roy is among the Blue Jays club leaders in many pitching categories, ranking 2nd in wins (148), strikeouts (1,495), and shutouts (15), 3rd in ERA (3.43), starts (287), complete games (49), and innings pitched (2,046.2). His 148-76 record as a Blue Jay resulted in a .661 winning percentage, the highest mark in club history. Jose Bautista once again led the Majors in the 2014 fan voting (5,859,019) and made his 5th consecutive appearance in the All-Star Game, joining Roberto Alomar as the only Toronto players to earn four consecutive starts. Bautista was named the AL captain for the Home Run Derby and was eliminated in the semi-final by the eventual winner, Yoenis Cespedes. His 10 homers in the 1st round were the most by any participant. On Sept. 8, 2014 vs. CHC, Bautista hit his 200th career homer as a Blue Jay, becoming just the 5th player in club history to accomplish the feat. Edwin Encarnacion led the Majors in May, 2014 with 16 HR, 22 XBH, a .763 SLG, and was 2nd with 33 RBI. The 16 HR in May set a club record for any month and was the most by any player in May since Barry Bonds hit a MLB record 17 HR in 2001. The 16 homers in May were tied for 2nd on the all-time MLB list with Mickey Mantle (1956) and Mark McGwire (1998). It was the most hit in any month since Sammy Sosa hit 17 HR in August, 2001. Encarnacion’s five multi-HR games in May tied an MLB record for most multi-HR games in any calendar month (Albert Belle: Sept., 1995 and Harmon Killebrew: May, 1959). He was named AL Player of the Month for May. On June 6, 2014 vs. STL, the Blue Jays celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Rogers Centre. Like they did back on June 5, 1989, they sent Jimmy Key to the mound to throw out the Ceremonial First Pitch to former catcher Ernie Whitt. Joining them to deliver the game’s starting lineup was former Blue Jays Manager Cito Gaston, who managed the first game at the ballpark. On April 10, 2014 the Toronto Blue Jays announced the creation of the Howard Starkman Award to be presented annually to the Employee of the Year. Starkman officially retired on April 11 as the longest serving employee in the organization and was the inaugural recipient of the award named in his honour. On Sept. 10, the Toronto Blue Jays were named the winners of 2014 Steve Patterson Award for excellence in sports philanthropy, granted in recognition of the Jays Care Foundation’s charitable and community efforts across Canada.
RETURN TO THE PLAYOFFS:
In 2015, the Blue Jays had Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Russell Martin represent them in the 86th All-Star Classic. Donaldson was the MLB leading vote-getter, setting an all-time record after accumulating 14,090,188 votes. He was the first Toronto third baseman and fourth Toronto infielder to win a fan election, joining Roberto Alomar (1991-94), John Olerud (1993), and Carlos Delgado (2003). For Bautista, it marked his 6th straight overall All-Star selection (2010-2015), his first time being chosen by the players. For the 5th straight year he was selected as a starter, the only Blue Jay to accomplish the feat. His six All-Star appearances also represent the most by any Blue Jay (Roberto Alomar-5, Joe Carter-5). Prior to the July, 2015 trade deadline, GM Alex Anthopoulos pulled off four separate deals as Toronto acquired Troy Tulowtizki and LaTroy Hawkins from the Rockies on July 28. The Jays also acquired David Price from the Tigers on July 30 before adding Ben Revere from the Phillies and Mark Lowe from the Mariners on July 31. After that point, Toronto posted a record of 40-18 the rest of the way for the best record in baseball. On Aug. 31, 2015, Rogers Communications announced that Mark Shapiro had been appointed President and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays and Rogers Centre, to take place following the completion of the team’s 2015 season. Shapiro assumed the role from Paul Beeston, who retired at the end of the season. The team clinched its first division title since 1993 after defeating the Orioles in Baltimore by a score of 15-2 in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Sept. 30. The victory ended the longest active playoff drought by any team in professional sports, and marked the 6th division title in franchise history. The Blue Jays defeated the Texas Rangers in the best-of-five Division Series after trailng 2-0. In the finale, Jose Bautista put Toronto in front for good, crushing a three-run homer in the 7th inning to break a 3-3 tie. Toronto then lost their ALCS series vs. the Royals in six games. On Oct. 29, 2015, Alex Anthopoulos stepped down as Senior VP of Baseball Operations and GM. Vice President of Baseball Operations and Assistant GM, Tony Lacava was named Interim General Manager following Anthopoulos’s departure.
On Nov. 19, 2015, Josh Donaldson became just the second player in franchise history to win the AL MVP Award (George Bell in 1987). Donaldson finished with 23 first-place votes (385 points overall), 81 more points than the 2nd place finisher, Mike Trout. On Dec. 3, 2015, Toronto named Ross Atkins as Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager. He became the seventh GM in franchise history. Tony LaCava was then promoted to the position of Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations and Assistant GM after serving as the Interim GM.
In 2016, the Blue Jays secured the top Wild Card position after going 89-73, representing the seventh postseason in franchise history. It marked just the second time in club history to earn a postseason berth in consecutive seasons (last: 1991-1993). The Blue Jays defeated the Orioles at Rogers Centre in the Wild Card game on Tuesday, Oct. 4, after Edwin Encarnacion hit a walk-off three-run homer in the 11th inning. Toronto won the Division Series, 3-0, over Texas for their first ever postseason sweep. The Jays appeared in consecutive ALCS series in back-to-back seasons for just the second time in franchise history (1991-1993), but fell to the Cleveland Indians, 3-1, in the ALCS. Toronto drew 3,392,099 in attendance for an average of 41,878, which represented the most in the AL and third most in the Majors (LAD - 45,720; STL - 42,525), their highest total since 1994 (49,287). Aaron Sanchez led the American Leage in ERA at 3.00, becoming the 5th different Blue Jays pitcher to lead the AL in ERA, joining Roger Clemens (2x), Dave Stieb, Juan Guzman, and Jimmy Key. J.A. Happ was one of just three pitchers to finish the year with 20 wins (Rick Porcello - 22, Max Scherzer - 20) as he became the 6th different 20-game winner in club history (8th time), joining Roy Halladay (2x), Roger Clemens (2x), Jack Morris, Pat Hentgen, and David Wells. It marked the second time that a left-hander recorded 20 wins in a season (David Wells - 20 in 2000). Edwin Encarnacion became the third player in club history to record four seasons of 35+ HR and 100+ RBI, joining Delgado (5x) and Bautista (4x). The Jays also averaged over 1 million viewers per game on TV nationwide (Sportsnet).
In 2017, Roberto Osuna and Justin Smoak represented the Blue Jays at the All-Star Game. At 22.352 years old, Osuna became the youngest player to appear in an ASG in team history. Smoak went 1-for-1 with a walk to become the third Blue Jay to reach base more than once in a Midsummer Classic contest. The first baseman hit a career-high 38 homers in 2017, the most all-time by a Toronto switch-hitter. He also set an MLB record with 11 home runs in the 9th inning or later. Marcus Stroman became the 2nd pitcher in team history to win a Gold Glove Award (R.A. Dickey - 2013) and while leading the Majors in ground ball percentage (62.9). The team played in an AL-high 53 one-run games. Despite finishing 76-86, Toronoto led the AL in attendance, selling 3,203,886 tickets.
In 2018, the season began with the retiring of a workhorse starter, as the late Roy Halladay had his number 32 lifted to the rafters on Opening Day. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. recorded multiple hits in 11 straight games from July 11-29. The multi-hit streak was the longest in team history and marked the seventh 11+ game multi-hit streak since 1900. The shortstop took AL Rookie of the Month for July with a .423 (30-for-71) average over the course of the month. Kendrys Morales also had a club-record streak as he homered in seven straight games from Aug. 19-26. The seven-game stretch was the longest ever by a switch-hitter and tied for 4th longest all-time, one back of the leaders. J.A. Happ was Toronto’s lone representative at the All-Star Game and picked up the first save ever by a Blue Jay at the Midsummer Classic. Rowdy Tellez joined the club in September and became the first player in the live-ball era to have an extrabase hit in each of his first three MLB plate appearances. He then became the first player to record seven doubles in his first seven career games and tied an MLB record with 10 XBH in his first 40 PA. The team set a franchise record, using 63 different players to get through 2018.
Toronto wrapped up the decade with an average roster age of 26 years and 266 days in 2019, the second youngest in the Majors, as Charlie Montoyo took over as Manager. The average age of their position players was 25.298, the youngest among all 30 clubs. The Blue Jays had an MLB-high 840 games played by rookies during the campaign and led all teams in rookie hits (535), doubles (115), home runs (97), RBI (284), walks (224), and extra-base hits (218). The club set team records in rookie doubles, homers, RBI, walks, and extra-base hits, having only more hits and games played in their 1977 inaugural season. They also became the first team ever to have double-digit home runs from six different rookies, surpassing the 1958 San Francisco Giants. Cavan Biggio recorded the third cycle in franchise history as he accomplished the feat on Sept. 17 in Baltimore. Bo Bichette set an MLB record with a nine-game doubles streak from July 31-Aug. 8, and became the first player to ever record 15 extra-base hits in his first 15 career games. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. led AL rookies with 126 hits and became the first rookie in team history to win two Player of the Week Awards. The 20-year-old also became the youngest player to ever participate in the Home Run Derby and set an MLB record as he hit a total of 91 homers in the competition, surpassing Giancarlo Stanton’s total of 61 in 2016.
The 2020 season was like no other. After the COVID-19 pandemic delayed Opening Day until July 24, the Blue Jays made Sahlen Field in Buffalo, NY, their “home” for the 60- game season - the first season without Major League Baseball in Canada since 1968. Toronto managed to go 17-9 at home and finished with a 32-28 record, good enough for a Wild Card spot in the newly expanded 16-team postseason format. The Jays lost both playoff games in Tampa Bay, 3-1 and 8-2, after making the postseason with the youngest average roster age of all 16 clubs. They were also the first team in 105 years to make the playoffs without a single player who had been in the Majors for at least 10 seasons. Toronto finished the 2020 campaign with a .533 win%, after a .414 win% (67-95) in 2019, for a year-on-year improvement of +.119, the 2nd largest in team history. The Blue Jays made their mark with a stretch of 28 games in 27 days in which they went 18-10, the most wins in the AL over that span. Teoscar Hernández slugged 16 home runs, tied for 5th most among AL batters while ranking 7th in SLG (.579) and 7th in OPS (.919). Lourdes Gurriel Jr. finished 6th in the AL with a .308 batting average. Cavan Biggio ranked T-2nd in walks (41), T-3rd in doubles (16), and T-4th in runs (41) in the AL. Hyun Jin Ryu ranked 4th in the AL with a 2.69 ERA while 3rd in MLB with a 3.0 bWAR. Toronto was also named the recipient of the 2020 Allan H. Selig Award for Philanthropic Excellence, recognizing the club’s Blue Jays Community Commitment, a $7.5 million COVID-19 response plan that supported those disproportionately affected by the pandemic across Canada.
As border closures continued into 2021, the Blue Jays started a season south of the border for a second consecutive year. They played their first three homestands in Dunedin, FL, becoming the first team ever to hold a home opener in three different cities in three consecutive seasons. The club went 10-11 at TD Ballpark, then 12-11 at Sahlen Field, and finished 47-33 overall at home. The team returned to Rogers Centre on July 30 after 670 days away, the longest such stretch in MLB history. The Blue Jays became the 1st team to play home games in three different states/provinces in the same campaign. Toronto hitters connected for an MLB and franchise-high 262 home runs. Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Teoscar Hernández, and Marcus Semien were all named All-Stars for the 1st time in their careers. Guerrero Jr. tied Salvador Perez for the MLB home run lead at 48, the most home runs in a season all-time by a player age 22 or younger, and became the youngest ever to win All-Star Game MVP. Bichette led the AL with 191 hits while his 29 homers were the most by a shortstop in team history. Semien ranked 1st in the Majors with 86 extra-base hits and his 45 home runs were the most in MLB history by a second baseman. Hernández finished 3rd in the Majors with 116 RBI and ranked 7th in the AL with a .296 average. All four All-Stars also reached the 100-RBI plateau, marking the 1st time in club history to have four players do so in the same season. Guerrero Jr. and Semien ended up finishing 2nd and 3rd in AL MVP voting and each claimed a Silver Slugger Award, along with Hernández. Robbie Ray became the 1st Blue Jay to lead the Majors in strikeouts (248) and was the 6th in team history to lead the AL in ERA (2.84) as he claimed the AL Cy Young Award. Toronto’s 91 wins finished 4th in the division and were one shy of a Wild Card spot, as the 2021 AL East was the first division since realignment in 1994 to have four 90-win teams.