SB Nation has asked us to write about why we are fans of our teams. SB would like you to do a FanPost on the subject (yeah, I know, we had this as a FanPost Friday topic a little while back, if you wrote one up then, just copy and paste it into a new FanPost. There is a prize) (Oh, I just found out that you have to be a ‘legal resident of the US’ to be eligible for the prize, sorry about that) .
My story? Well, I became a baseball fan when I was very young. I loved Gary Carter. I loved the Expos.
The Expos taught me a lot about baseball. They had some great players Carter, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Steve Rogers and yet, they only made the playoffs once. Why? Well, they surrounded their great players with, what we would now call, replacement level players. Back then I just called them crappy players.
Then, December 10, 1984, the Expos traded Carter for half a dozen players, who aspired to replacement level. It taught me another lesson, bad GMs blame losing on their best player. I’ve seen the same thing over and over ever since. A team has a star and a bunch of bad players. The team, the fans, they all blame the star. He’s not a leader. He’s selfish. He doesn’t care. They don’t think that maybe the reason they don’t win is the crappy players they have playing with their best player.
After the trade, I wasn’t as much of an Expos fan. For a while there I was an anyone but the Yankees fan. I suppose I’m still the same. My favorite teams are the Blue Jays and whoever is playing the Yankees.
Around the same time, I was a fan of managers with big personalities. Earl Weaver, Billy Martin, Dick Williams, Whitey Herzog. Baseball doesn’t have managers like that anymore. I loved them. I would study them. Read everything I could about them.
Weaver was my favorite. He’s remembered for the ‘pitching, defense and 3 run homer’ line, but he was deeper than that. He was one of the first to get that sac bunts didn’t help (he said there was a place for bunting, but most of the time that place was in the back of the closet. He liked players that could take a walk. And, he kept track of how players hit against each pitcher. Yep, he made decisions based on small sample size. But, this was in back in the days before computers. He kept track of the stats himself, writing them, in pencil, on 4” by 6” index cards.
Also around that time, Bill James started doing his Baseball Abstract annuals. It is hard to explain what a big deal he was. He was a good writer, he was smart and he studied the game in a way that none of us had ever seen before. Without Bill James I wouldn’t be the baseball fan I am today.
And, in the 80’s the Jays started to build a decent team.
The first 5 years of the Blue Jays, I would watch the games, but the team was so bad, I didn’t develop an emotional attachment. Then, they started building a team. I loved Dave Stieb. He was so intense. He was like the pitching equivalent of Jose Bautista. He hated to lose. Beyond hated. It drove him crazy to
In 1982, Bobby Cox became manager. He might not have had the ‘big personality’ that Weaver or Martin had, but he was smart. He was interesting. He worked to find the way he could get the most out of the players he had. He ran platoons at several positions. The team played smart baseball. And, likely most important of all, our farm system started producing terrific baseball players.
We soon had the best outfield in baseball. George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield were so much fun to watch. The team taught me the run watching the team bring up young players and seeing them become stars.
Then, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I learned a new way of building a winning team, trades and free agent signings. The first way seemed more sustainable, but the second way got us 2 World Series wins. The World Series wins made me a fan for life.
I’ll admit, the Gord Ash years put that ‘fan for life’ stuff to a test. There were some good moments. Some good players. But, he couldn’t put together a team. At least we had Carlos Delgado to watch.
J.P Ricciardi came along and there was hope again. The hope never panned out, but it did seem like the team had a direction for the first time in years. Again, we had some good moments. Most of those good moment involved Roy Halladay. Unfortunately, we could never put a cast of characters around him that could get us to the playoffs. But JP also got us Jose.
Then came Alex Anthopoulos. He was fun. I enjoyed watching him build up the minor league system again. He said all the right things about building up a team that could be competitive for an extended period. And then he decided to use the strength of his minor league system to ‘win now’. His first try (the big trade with the Marlins, and then the not as but but still interesting trade with the Mets) didn’t exactly work out, though it did light a fire under the fanbase. It did get him into the rhythm of making big trades.
Finally, at the trading deadline of 2015, he found made the big trades that bought our way into the playoffs. These last couple of years have been the most fun, getting back to the playoffs. Having some big exciting wins. Living and dying with every game.
Somewhere, near the end of Ricciardi’s time I found this place. Sharing fandom with a community of good people has deepened my love of the team, and love of the game. I’ve traveled to see the Jays play each year. I’ve made some great friends.
I guess the short answer to the question “why am I a fan of the Blue Jays?” is that even in the bad times, there were good moments and, the good times, were so good. How many teams have had moments as good as Joe Carter’s World Series winning home run. Or Jose Bautista’s ALDS winning home run? Or Edwin Encarnacion’s Wild Card winning home run? Or Roberto Alomar’s home run off Dennis Eckersley?
Welcome to the refreshed Bluebird Banter! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts [over here] to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [‘Why are you a fan?’ reader sweepstakes announcement and official rules]. We’re collecting all of the stories here [Why we are fans] and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!