2011 has been quite a unique year for the Blue Jays, not only in the many acquisitions and moves we have made to our own team but the impact we have had on baseball, in general, as a result of many of our trades. Say what you will about Toronto's obscurity, our image being muffled in the AL East, but we have had a real, albeit indirect, impact on the scope of baseball in general.
All four NL teams set to compete in the playoffs contain at least 1 player that was a Toronto Blue Jay in the last few years, many containing players that have departed during this off season or even during the season.
The Philadelphia Phillies, although have not obtained a Blue Jay player recently, may have the highest profile former Jay. Roy Halladay is set to anchor the Phillie's amazing starting rotation for the second straight year since leaving TO.
The St. Louis Cardinals participated in a blockbuster trade with the Bluebirds on July 27 of this year. The Jays obtained a high upside player in Colby Rasmus and, in return, the Cards received Octavio Dotel, Corey Patterson, and Mark Rzepczynski. With the Cards over taking the Braves for the NL wildcard, that increases the total of former Jays in the post season to 4.
The Milwaukee Brewers easily took the NL central and put Shaun Marcum in the playoffs for the first time in his career. He was obviously acquired for Brett Lawrie in a trade that few Brewer or Jay fans would regret. As close to a win-win as AA has gotten in his short career of fleecing teams.
Those four teams represent to Toronto fans, 7 former Jays, and offers Toronto a 100% of influencing the NL champion in a very real way.
The purpose of this fanpost is not to discuss which deal was best for Toronto but to discuss how, we as fans, remember former players. What separates Roy Halladay from Vince Carter? May be obvious, but what about Aaron Hill and Mark Rzepczynski or Marcum and McDonald? What criteria determines whether a former player is booed or cheered upon return?
There is no definitive answer, but just general questions that can be asked. How long did they play for your team? How well did they play? Were they considered fan favourites? Most importantly, on what terms did the two sides separate.
Roy Halladay was obviously a long time and great Jay, arguable the greatest Blue Jay of all time. That accounted for his incredible popularity with fans during his long tenure in Toronto. Yet, past examples have shown that no player, regardless of how great, is immune from being ostracized from his former home. If a player demands a trade, obviously is not performing as hard as he can, or is arguing with managements/team mates/fans, the player is liable to lose his local fan base. Lebron James is not longer welcome in Ohio, let alone Cleveland, and Vince Carter is repeatedly booed everytime he touches the ball in Toronto. Roy Halladay left on good terms and has been encouraged by the majority of Toronto fans since his time in Philly. It helps that he is in another conference and isn't competing against us on a daily basis.
Of the St. Louis players, the one most missed was Scrabble. He was serviceable and developed as a fan favourite, if not for his consistency, for his cool last name. Patterson and Dotel, on the other hand, would have been personally escorted to St. Louis by a plethora of willing Toronto fans. They had short stays, played poorly, although not necessarily worse than predicted, and Patterson, at least, had a habit of playing it easy in the outfield. It drove fans crazy and made him unwanted in our community.
Shaun Marcum was a tough person to let go. He was developed in our farm system and was our ace last year. The great prospect made the news of losing Marcum a bit easier to swallow, but left many casual baseball fans scratching their heads. It is obvious that Marcum is missed and his matchups against Doc lead to debates over who's rooting for which team.
The last people to leave Toronto also left behind a fair number of fans. Aaron Hill is another one of our farm system products but never was able to repeat his amazing 09 season and left a bad taste in collective mouth of Toronto fans. I won't go into detail, but his last two seasons were bad. John McDonald, on the other hand, never had as high of expectations to live up to. He was expected to play great defense and lay down bunts. He seldom played regularly and his occasional clutch perfomances and amazing D was enough to make him a fan favourite, despite being the seventh worst offensive player with at least 1000 ab's. Many BBB'ers have been wanting him back, as a bench player, or more ideally, as a coach. The notion that people want him back, one way or another, is a great testament to his likability. He asked for a trade, but perhaps in the only way a player can without turning his back on his organization. He wanted the chance to play in the play offs, at least once, before he retired, and let AA know his wishes. AA, being the wizard that he is, got him on a play off bound team, and regular playing time to boot. Quick mention that Overbay is also playing for the Diamondbacks, making 75% of their infield former Toronto Players.
I also want to give Vernon Wells a brief mention, because he has received mixed feelings from fans since leaving. He has alternated good and bad years in Toronto but was consistently a great guy. He was, perhaps unfairly, blamed for his crazy contract, and the trade that sent him to LA left many fans happy, not because they disliked Vernon, but because his contract made it hard to cheer for him at times. BBB made it a point not to boo Vernon because he never did anything to deserve our disdain. It worked, for the most part. I wonder how much support he would have had if the Angels made the playoffs.
It is clear that there are many players out there with connections to Toronto playing for Baseball's biggest prize. My question is obvious, although not simple. What team/player are you cheering for? Do you want Doc to cement his hall of fame credentials? Do you want Johnny Mac to finish his career out on top? Do you want Marcum to achieve success, only because you'd feel bad about fleecing Milwaukee if he didn't? Do you want Scrabble to help lead the come from behind Cards? Leave answers and reasons below.
I personally want Halladay to win because he was, is, and will continue to be, my favourite baseball player of all time.