With a disappointing September to end the 2016 season, fans of the Toronto Blue Jays are hoping 1987 doesn’t repeat itself.
It’s the month of September, and many dub this time as “meaningful baseball” for a reason. The games, getting fewer and fewer start meaning more and more. The Blue Jays, unfortunately, have been experiencing a bit of a slide. The Jays have gone from first place in the American League East to fighting their way into a wild card spot. It has left many fans reeling and lamenting what could have possible gone wrong? It hasn’t escaped some fans that this situation is eerily similar, a déjà vu so to speak. Do you remember 1987? You can tell the fans that do, they are the ones holding their breath and hoping to avoid a repeat.
In the 1987 baseball season, The Blue Jays were owned by Labatt Breweries, Imperial Trust and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Pat Gillick was the GM, and Jimy Williams was the manager of the Blue Jays 11th season of Major League Baseball. The season was going well, the Blue Jays were in first place that year, three and a half games up on the Detroit Tigers with only a week of games left to play in the regular season. It was in that week that it all went wrong.
In that last week of the season, the Blue Jays managed to drop their next seven games in a row. This horror was capped off by a sweep by the Detroit Tigers at Tiger Stadium on the last weekend of baseball. The Blue Jays lost the division by two games. The season was over, and fans were heartbroken.
Looking what is going on now with the 2016 Blue Jays, comparing the two seasons at this point is not a far stretch. The 1987 Blue Jays team had some superstar players and great pitching. The team was made up of baseball greats like pitchers Jimmy Key and Dave Steib. The players on the field also came with impressive resumes. There was Jesse Barfield, George Bell, Tom Henke, Tony Fernandez, Fred McGriff, Lloyd Moseby, Ernie Whitt, Willie Upshaw. Many of these players have made it onto the “10 Blue Jays Every Fan Needs To Know” list JFtC brought out before the 2016 season officially began.
The expectations were high for the 1987 Blue Jays, the team and fans alike were preparing for a post season to remember. No one saw the crash coming. Going into that last week ahead by the 3 1/2 games, the slide began, and seemed to come out of nowhere. They proceeded to lose all seven games, including the last four against the Detroit Tigers, by one run. Seven consecutive losses. By one run.
The last game played, in 1987, against the Detroit Tigers is eerily similar to what Blue Jays fans have witnessed this season. Jimmy Key was pitching a pretty good game. Aside from a home run hit off the bat of Larry Herndon, Key only allowed one runner to reach second base. He retired the side in order in six of his eight innings. The pitcher for Detroit didn’t fare as well. Frank Tanana had ten base runners, three walks, one reaching base on a wild pitch, and six hits. The 1987 Blue Jays had a lot of trouble with cashing in runners in scoring position, and to make matters worse, George Bell, the big bat for the Blue Jays at that time, fell into a slump at the worst time possible, with only two hits in his last 26 at bats.
Fast forward to 2016. The Blue Jays had the lead on August 26, 2016. With a 15-8 win against the Minnesota Twins, the Jays seemed to be back in form. The incredible offence from the season before rearing its wild form to put the Blue Jays one game up on the Boston Red Sox and two games up on the Baltimore Orioles. But alas, September hasn’t been kind to the Jays.
Going into the series with the New York Yankees, the Jays had won just seven out of 19 games in September. With taking three games out of four from the Yankees, the ghost of 1987 seemed to slip quietly into the background. It is rearing its ugly head again after the crazy, brawling loss in their final game against the Yankees and the realization that the final six games are going to be played by the team currently in first place in the ALE, The Boston Red Sox, and the Baltimore Orioles, whom Blue Jays fans know are fighting just as hard for that wild card spot.
One thing is certain. This is not 1987, and though there are some similarities, there can’t be a long losing streak to end the season in the Blue Jays future, can there? This team has the ability to fight the ghost of seasons’ past. The Jays still have some fight left in them, and have the ability to not only take the wildcard spot, but surge forward to win the American League. As much as attention is payed to history in this game, it is also a game where crazy things, unexpected things, happen all the time. It’s time to buckle up Marty, set the DeLorean to 2016 and enjoy the ride while not looking back.
*Featured Image Credit: Johnny Peacock UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Catherine Stem is a Blue Jays fan and writer who has combined both of these great things by writing for Jays From the Couch. Through all the ups and downs of baseball, all aspects of the game are explored. Keeping a close eye on the Blue Jays Triple A team, the Buffalo Bisons has also become part of her make-up.