Today, Josh Donaldson was named the American League Most Valuable Player, making him the first Toronto Blue Jay to win the award since George Bell in 1987. I decided to share a few quick facts about each of these great players, to help give us all a better understanding of two of the most significant players in team history.
There are some similarities, some differences, but overall, you’ve got some dudes that can do baseball things really well and cause some shit at the same time.
1. Was called Jorge Bell until about 1985. 2. Feuded mightily with Jimy “One M” Williams when the manager tried to make him a Designated Hitter against his will. 3. Apparently had a purple butt that he wanted fans to kiss. 4. Was a 5.0 WAR player in 1987, his AL MVP year. 5. Stolen from the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1980 Rule 5 Draft
1. Played the majority of his games at catcher until 2011 2. Became a legend when he said, “this isn’t the try league, this is the get it done league. Eventually, they’re gonna find people who’ll get it done.” 3. Apparently wanted the Anaheim California Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or whatever they’re called, to suck his cock. 4. Was an 8.8 WAR player in 2015, his (first) AL MVP year. 5. Stolen from the Oakland Athletics for a Canadian fellow with a lot of tattoos and some other stuff.
All are clearly deserving inductees, but I’m not here for that. I’m here to knock them down a peg or two.
Sergei Fedorov: I’m not sure celebrating a Stanley Cup win with the Detroit Red Wings is reason enough for that shirt, and those pants, even if it was their first title in 42 years. Hall of Famer yes, Fashion Icon no.
Phil Housley: The Gretzky Jofa is a legendary classic. The one that Housley sports here, even on his way to 97 points, was a disgrace to the game. You can be better, Phil.
Chris Pronger: Someone on the Peterborough Petes’ staff was clearly angry at Chris in 1991-92, which is why they gave him the biggest helmet and visor combo they could find, like ever. Tough to make a 6-6 guy look tiny, but they found a way.
Nicklas Lidstrom: I actually don’t think it’s possible to make fun of Nicklas Lidstrom. I’m not even mad at him for being Swedish, or playing for the Empire of Evil in Detroit his whole career. Let’s just appreciate this Red Wings retro jersey from before the time when retro jerseys were cool.
Congratulations to the inductees.
Now, If only this baseball superstar, Canada’s Bo Jackson, was going into the Hockey Hall of Fame too:
The 2015 Toronto Blue Jays took us on a ride that we haven’t experienced as Blue Jays fans – or Toronto sports fans in general – in a long time. Way too long, really. Even though some of us had grown up with some decent teams in Toronto, 1993 was a generation ago now, and our kids will see 1993 like we saw 1967 – except standard definition rather than black and white.
I’m not even sure we knew how to handle it anymore, all the stress and anxiety, the scheduling conflicts with our real lives and forced conversations with bandwagon jumpers in our social circles, but I think we’ve learned that winning is something we can get used to again as adults.
2015 sure didn’t start the way we wanted, when Marcus Stroman came down off that mound in Dunedin and tore his ACL. He said he’d pitch again this year, but we didn’t really believe him. It all looked lost from the start.
The season didn’t end the way we wanted, either, because by the time they’d made it to the playoffs, we’d decided that wasn’t enough. We wanted it all. Six games in the ALCS wasn’t a World Series title, and we wanted that.
But, you can’t always get what you want, they say, and the part between the beginning and the end sure was a lot of fun. When the sting of the loss to Kansas City fades, we’ll look back on 2015 with a lot of pride.
Above all else, even when we’ve forgotten all the details, there will always be Jose Bautista’s bat flipping, pitcher-staring, beer-throwing ridiculousness against Texas in the ALDS. Dave Bidini put it absolutely perfectly on his one45everyday site about how that moment was the one Toronto needed when he said this:
“Toronto hasn’t had many Jose’s. We’ve had gentle Mats Sundin and salt of the earth Wendel and the Robbie Alomar’s wattage. We’ve had wordless Roy Halliday and good guy Tim Horton and the ghost of Dave Keon. We’ve never had an angry vengeful superstar; at least no one as angry or jilted as Jose Bautista is and will be evermore.”
He’s completely right. That’s the face of this team, and that’s who we are now. We’re going to be the team that nobody likes. We’re not the feel-good Chicago Cubs or the everyman Kansas City Royals. We’re arrogant and angry and obnoxious, we yell a lot and wear our blue hats everywhere we travel with this team. We need to stop throwing stuff on our plastic grass field, but we know that now. In 1992, Winfield wanted noise, but in 2015, Edwin told us to calm down. It’s different here now. Toronto the Good maybe still, but also Toronto the Rowdy.
It sure does suck at the moment, though, right? It doesn’t feel good to lose, although you’d think we’d be used to it by now. But at the end of the day, when you really think about it, 2015 was absolutely good enough, for the Toronto Blue Jays, and us as their fans. But it was only good enough if there is more to come. There has to be more to come. 2015 can’t just be a blip on the radar. It has to be the start of some consistent winning.
Sure, it’s a bit sappy, but I’m going to close with a quote by Tom Boswell from Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary – because really, let’s be honest. I’m just going to miss watching these guys play.
“I’ve always thought that the six months during the baseball season, there was something in the day that wasn’t there the other six months in winter. It was not that you had to listen to the game, but that you could if you needed it.”
Apparently there’s a hockey season starting now. I’m going to try to get excited about it until pitchers and catchers report in February.
Well, a lot of what I believed in came crashing down around me today. See, today was the day Marty McFly got to the future in Back to the Future Part 2. It’s now October 21, 2015. We don’t have hoverboards. We don’t have flying cars. We don’t have self-drying jackets or self-tightening shoes or fax machines in every room of our houses… which is the one thing I was really counting on. Above all else, the Chicago Cubs will not win the 2015 World Series, so the predictions of Robert Zemeckis et al were just hollow and empty.
I’m left alone in the dark, shattered, wondering what it all means, and I lost a lot betting on the Cubbies. That Gray’s Sports Almanac is full of shit.
Like anyone else, I usually try to find the silver lining in the dark clouds. That silver lining is the baby blue pyjamas that the Cubs wore in the early 1980’s. The best part about these pyjamas is how high you can wear the pants. You can see here how Ivan DeJesus is doing everything he can to pull those elastic waist paints up to his nipples, just like Grandpa would. Another silver lining is that in January 1982, DeJesus would be traded by the Cubs to the Phillies for Larry Bowa and some kid named Ryne Sandberg. I guess that turned out alright.
Bottom line is it’s good to see the Cubs back on the map of successful teams in baseball. They’re being built well and they’re going to be around for a while this time, I think. And I’m rarely wrong.
Shanahan began (in 1987-88) and ended (in 2008-09) his career with the New Jersey Devils. Even though there were four other stops in between, the connection is obvious.
A few things to note about Shanahan’s career between the bookends above:
-His signing with St. Louis as a free agent led to Scott Stevens being awarded to the Devils as compensation… that turned out pretty well for Lamoriello, I’d say.
-He was one of the first Canadian members of the Triple Gold Club after his Olympic gold medal win in 2002
-His request for a trade out of Hartford led to Paul Coffey being traded to the Whalers, where he played all of 20 games, which is more than he played for either the Boston Bruins (18) or Chicago Blackhawks (10). Useless fact, sure, but why else are you here?
We’ll see how this goes for the Leafs this season, but who wouldn’t pay money to be a fly on the wall for some of those conversations between Shanahan, Lamoriello and Mike Babcock? This is going to be fun.
In exciting news, pitchers and catchers reported for the Toronto Blue Jays today, February 22… along with the Minnesota Twins, they were the last team to report to Spring Training. Which means the injuries to their pitching staff will take place just slightly later than all the other teams. That counts as win number one, I’d say.
Now, speaking of Blue Jays pitchers, we need to talk about someone important. He is the man who saved the first win in Toronto Blue Jays history – you might recall a snow covered plastic field and a win over the Chicago White Sox (the team that let him go in the Expansion Draft) – and who also pitched the first shutout in Jays history, a 12-strikeout masterpiece over the Baltimore Orioles. I’ll bet there aren’t a ton of guys with stats like that. His name is Pete Vuckovich.
Vuckovich, now a Special Assistant to the GM with the Seattle Mariners, despite his contributions to Blue Jays history, should be most famous for his facial hair, and slightly less famous for his regular hair. He perpetuated the former image of “Toronto the Good” with his clean-cut, preppy image during his brief time in Toronto, but later, blew that shit out of the water when he decided to look like he did on the card above, a little bit in St. Louis, and then a lot with the Milwaukee Brewers. Put the moustache, the bowl-cut mullet, and the “I’m going to kill you with a hammer” facial expression together and you’ve got yourself a legend.
Maybe a team that went 54-107 in their first season should have tried to keep this guy for another year or two, even if they didn’t know he’d end up with the moustache.
So, the Toronto Blue Jays have signed a Canadian catcher to a five year contract worth about eleventy billion dollars. His name is Russell Martin and he does not usually have a moustache. He is pretty good at baseball, but I think they signed him because they thought it would be easier to just sign a Canadian catcher rather than spend years trying to convert one.
Let me explain. They used to have a catcher named Ernie Whitt. Ernie Whitt definitely had a moustache. He may have, in fact, been born with one. By 1989, he was also the last player to play for the Blue Jays that started when they first took flight (see what I did there?) in 1977.
An internet search leaves things a bit murky as to whether Whitt actually ever became a citizen, but the Blue Jays fought the good fight for years, and eventually Whitt was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009. Citizenship or not, mission accomplished.