33 Years Ago
Stand Pat Gillick made the most significant trade in Blue Jays’ history. Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff went to the Padres for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter.
I remember when 32 years was a long time ago. Now, not so much.
I wasn’t a big fan of the trade then. 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. And, finally, it turns out I was right. Thank you to the Veterans Committee or whatever you call yourselves.
We got back:
- A 23-year-old second baseman had a .283/.339/.379 batting line (with 90 stolen bases vs. 30 times caught) and a flair for the spectacular on defense. I didn’t see a Hall of Fame player there. I should have noticed a player who came up at age 20 and 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 who 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 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. But Carter found a manager in Toronto who loved him, which can never hurt a player.
The trade worked out. I’ll admit I wonder if we won a couple of World Series 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 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 baseball team and gave us many great memories.
It was one of those trades in that the teams got equal value from the players, but we won two World Series, so we won the trade.
I tend to forget that the Jays 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. 1993 it was a 95-67 finish, beating out the White Sox and the Phillies on the way to the win. I only remember a little about that series with Chicago, other than Juan Guzman made two terrific starts. I remember the series against the Phillies perfectly.