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Today in Blue Jays History: The Big Trade

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Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Today, it was 31 years ago that Stand Pat Gillick made perhaps the most significant trade in Blue Jays history. Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff went to the Padres for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter. 31 years ago? Time flies. I remember, years ago, someone telling Paul McCartney that some Beatles album came out 25 years ago, and he said ‘everything was 25 years ago.’ Of course, now everything is 30 to 50 years ago.

I’ll admit I wasn’t a big fan of the trade at the time. We had a team in the race for the playoffs each season for the past few years. In 1985 and 1989, we made it to the playoffs. Then, suddenly, we traded the best shortstop the team ever had (and a personal favourite of mine) and a first baseman who, I thought, had a shot to be in the Hall of Fame one day. I still think he should be in the Hall of Fame.

We got back:

  • A 23-year-old second baseman who had a .283/.339/.379 batting line (with 90 stolen bases vs. 30 time caught) and a flair for the spectacular defense. I didn’t see a Hall of Fame player there. I should have noticed a player who came up at age 20 who more than held his own. If there is a 20-year-old who’s holding his own in the majors, bet on him. I did like that we finally had a player that, I thought, would be a great leadoff hitter. Of course, we never used him in the leadoff spot. Cito Gaston liked Devon White there. A couple of years later, we signed Paul Molitor, and I remember the guy on TSN saying we ‘finally had a leadoff hitter,’ and I thought no, we had one who would be great. We didn’t use him in that spot. We wouldn’t hit Molitor leadoff either.
  • An outfielder, who would be 31 next season, and who seemed overrated. His best stat was the RBI. The season before (his only one with the Padres), he hit .232/.290/.391 with 24 home runs and 115 RBI. Before that, he had six seasons, with Cleveland hitting .269/.309/.472. We would never call a player like that a star these days. He found a manager who loved him in Toronto, which can never hurt a player.

The trade worked out. I’ll admit that I wonder if we would have won a couple of World Series anyway in the alternate universe where the Jays didn’t make the trade. But then, there is no way we could have had a better finish than we had in the 1993 game with Joe Carter hitting that home run.

We held on to Joe for too long. His last few years with the team weren’t good, and Alomar left as a free agent, but for a couple of years, they helped make the Jays the best team in baseball and gave us a lot of great memories.

It was one of those trades that the teams got equal value from the players, but we won two World Series, so we won the trade.

The thing I always forget is that the team didn’t win the World Series the season after the trade. In 1991 we finished first, at 91-71, but lost in the ALCS to the Twins four games to one. Then in 1992 we won our first World Series, finishing 96-66, beating out the A’s and Braves. In 1993, it was a 95-67 finish, beating out the White Sox and the Phillies on the way to the win. I don’t remember much about that series with Chicago, other than Juan Guzman made two terrific starts.