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Don’t Panic: What 1993 Can Teach Us About the 2016 Blue Jays

It’s a tense time to be a Blue Jay fan. As September marches on, a team that once felt bulletproof is starting to show some serious cracks in their armor. As the Blue Jays slip further behind the Red Sox for the division lead, it can be hard not to worry, no matter how talented the team is. As the end of the season creeps closer and closer, is it really possible that the Blue Jays are staring down a premature end to a season that had showed so much promise mere weeks ago?

As nerve-wracking as the past couple weeks have been, this is not anyone’s first party with balloons. The team (and fans for that matter) has been here before. One way to ease concerns about a floundering team is to take a closer look at the last Blue Jays team that did some serious winning – the 1993 World Series Champion Toronto Blue Jays.

Losing Streaks Happen

In September of 1993, the first place Jays also hit the skids– losing six in a row from September 3rd through September 9th. This came after losing 10 of 11 heading into the All-Star break. While it’s natural to want to throw your TV out the window and wish whooping cough upon the Red Sox starting lineup (it’s totally curable and not life threatening), don’t worry. These kinds of streaks are very much a part of any baseball team’s season. Even a World Series champion’s. Just think of these skids like it’s Aaron Sanchez’s goatee – mostly smooth with just a little rough patch every once in a while.

Whatever John Gibbons is Thinking Now, Pat Borders was Thinking in 1993

The tobacco chewing, southern-drawling catcher from 1993 has a lot in common with the tobacco-chewing, southern-drawling manager from 2016. From their dust-ups with both players and umpires, to their affinity for chatting up just about anyone, Borders and Gibbons may have been cut from the same hard-nosed cloth. Borders is currently following in Gibby’s footsteps, managing in the minor leagues. Like the Blue Jays current manager, Borders is also likely voting for Trump this November too.

Heroes May Cross Enemy Lines

With everyone in Toronto nervously anticipating Jose Bautista’s possible offseason defection, ‘93 can give us a little perspective on the impact departing franchise icons can have on a team. The answer: not a lot. For all the story lines that came up around the 93 Championship team, Dave Stieb’s departure wasn’t one of them. And he left for the Chicago White Sox. The team they played and defeated in the ALCS. The ALCS as in the playoffs. Enjoy Jose while he’s here and be comforted by the fact that even if he does leave, winning really does fix everything.

And Speaking of Designated Hitters…

In 1993 the Blue Jays had a 36-year-old DH/first baseman that slashed .332/.402/.509 with 22 stolen bases in Paul Molitor. So yeah, that’s pretty different (although that likely has to do with injuries) from this year’s soon-to-be 36-year-old free agent who probably should be playing DH and first base.

Don’t Be Mad that They Hit Into Double Plays

If you are mad because it feels like so many of the Blue Jays’ 2016 rallies have been undone by double play balls, don’t be. It’s true, the Jays are near the top of the league when it comes to grounding into double plays – they currently rank 3rd in baseball, with 128…just like they were in 1993, when the Blue Jays finished the season 4th in all of baseball after hitting into 138 double plays. Keep in mind it’s also a lot easier to turn double plays now than it was in the early 90s. Players in the 90s could do anything that was allowed in the Road Rash video games around the second base bag – they were free to crowbar, taser, or shank middle infielders. It’s a miracle they turned any at all back then. And with today’s rules prioritizing player safety (legitimately a great thing, no doubt) it’s a miracle this year’s Jays haven’t hit into 300.

We Will Buy Anything the Blue Jays’ Players Wear Off the Field

Whether its 1993 or 2016, the Toronto Blue Jays will help your brand move some serious units. Whether it’s Roberto Alomar donning a No Fear headband and t-shirt or Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson throwing their weight behind the “Toronto vs. Everybody” moniker, the Jays’ brand is one of Canada’s most beloved. It’s really saying something that even the power of the mighty Blue Jays’ endorsement couldn’t save the logo redesign and black color scheme of the early 2000s.

Ed Sprague Was Kevin Pillar Without the Defense

Kevin Pillar 2016 so far – .264/.298/.380

Ed Sprague 1993 – .260/.310/.386

We’ve Always Had a Thing for Canadian Players

Getting excited for Canadians on your favorite team certainly isn’t something new. Despite his role as a utility outfielder that didn’t get an at-bat in the American League Championship Series, Rob Butler got more face time and fan love than fellow utility outfielders Turner Ward and Darnell Coles combined. And a certain National League first baseman has enjoyed a far more illustrious career than Rob Butler. You’re gonna be a lot nicer to Melvin Upton Jr. when you look up Butler’s numbers too.

They Got Shutout By….Wilson Alvarez?…In the Playoffs?

It happens. Good teams get beat by pitchers that aren’t elite. Despite one of the best offences in the league, the ‘93 Jays were stymied by Alvarez in the ALCS. This all happened with Alvarez’s BB/9 at 5.83 and a pedestrian FIP of 4.25 – a run and a half higher than his 2.95 ERA. Don’t worry if Drew Smyly does it to the 2016 team.

Was the Coke Song A Precursor to Hooked on a Feeling?

One of the most polarizing elements of the Blue Jays’ in-game fan experience is the 8th inning tradition of playing Hooked on a Feeling. Strangely enough, the Blue Jays’ 1993 rally anthem was the brainchild of a more benign kind of coke than its 2016 counterpart. Both songs are undeniably sugary and can rub a lot of fans the wrong way while simultaneously bringing joy to some others. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I sure hope all the royalties from that Coke song went back into the payroll. Maybe Rogers wasn’t the first corporate overlord to pocket money that should have gone back to the team after all…

There Were No Wildcards in ‘93

This is both terrifying and comforting at the same time. While it can be frightening to think about the possibility of the Blue Jays’ playoff lives coming down to a single elimination game in early October, it’s nice to know that the team will still have a chance to go to the big dance even if they finish a game behind in the fight for the division.

Even great teams struggle. If we take the time to pop in the old ‘Back to Back’ VHS tape we might realize that the problems of the 1993 Blue Jays were not that different than the problems currently facing the 2016 Blue Jays. This isn’t to say that this year’s team is destined to go all the way, but it does mean that the challenges the Blue Jays are currently staring down are good problems to have.

Lead Photo: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

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