The last time the Toronto Blue Jays were in the MLB playoffs was 1993. They were looking like a powerhouse at the time, having won consecutive World Series championships in 1992 and 1993. Toronto had also been in the ALCS in 1985, 1989 and 1991, and notched between 91 and 99 victories on five occasions in that nine-year stretch. For a franchise that was all of 17 years old at the end of 1993, that was an incredible start and it looked like a sign for a positive and successful future.
As we know, that wasn't the case: the Jays were 55-60 at the time of the strike in 1994. They sat in third place 16 games out of first in the newly redesigned AL East, and wouldn't finish any higher than that until 2006. That was only a brief reprieve, too, as the Jays finished third or worse for the next eight seasons. That only changed in 2015, when they surged past the Yankees into first place in the East, following the trade deadline acquisitions of Troy Tulowitzki and David Price.
A whole lot has happened since the Jays were last in the postseason. As we did with the Royals a year ago during their own drought-ending campaign, let's take a look and see what's gone down since Toronto last had a season to be excited about.
Alex Rodriguez's entire professional career
A-Rod was the first overall pick in the 1993 MLB Draft, but he didn't debut professionally until the next season. Everything A-Rod has ever done in his career, up until the day the Jays clinched a playoff spot in September, occurred during Toronto's 22-season playoff drought.
Rodriguez played 114 games in the minors in '94, as well as 17 in the majors -- yes, he was a special talent from the start. He became a full-time big leaguer in '96, and in the 21 seasons and 22 years since his debut, amassed 3,070 hits, 687 home runs and more than 1,300 walks and 2,000 runs. He's the active leader in games, at-bats, plate appearances, runs, homers, RBI, walks, strikeouts, total bases and intentional walks. He's won three MVPs, appeared on 14 All-Star teams and missed more entire seasons due to suspension than the Jays had seasons with playoff appearances.
The Division Series was created
This isn't just the Blue Jays' return to the postseason: it's also their very first American League Division Series. The concept didn't come around until 1994, when the Wild Card -- just one per league -- was introduced, and four divisions were split into six. If they want to get back to the ALCS for the sixth time in their 39-year history, they'll have to defeat the Rangers in a round that didn't even exist the last time the organization played meaningful October games.
The rest of the AL East dominated
The Blue Jays won consecutive World Series in '92 and '93 and were nearly in the '91 World Series as well, so they get some credit for the AL East's domination of the past few decades. Since the Jays helped kick things off, though, the division got some realignment and it was basically everyone else destroying the competition. The AL East has sent 11 teams to the World Series since the last time the Jays were there: the Yankees on seven occasions, the Red Sox three times and the Rays once.
The Yankees were victorious in five of those visits, with most of that coming between 1996 and 2003 when New York earned entry six times and won on four occasions, including three in a row in 1998, 1999 and 2000. The Red Sox made it in 2004, 2007 and 2013, coming away with a trophy each time, and the Rays lost to the Phillies in their one franchise-changing visit in 2008.
It's not just World Series wins that have had the AL East -- save the Jays -- on top, though. All told, between 1995 (remember, there were no playoffs for anyone in 1994) and 2014, the AL East sent 35 teams to the postseason: the Yanks 17 times, the Sox 10 times and the Orioles and Rays four each. Toronto still has some catching up to do.
SkyDome became Rogers Centre, and also old
The SkyDome opened in 1989. When it hosted three World Series' games in 1993, it was the third-newest stadium in the game, only older than Camden Yards and Comiskey Park, now known as US Cellular Field. Fast-forward to the present day, and the SkyDome not only got a name change, but it also aged rapidly, as it's now the seventh-oldest stadium in Major League Baseball.
It's only going to get older, too, in ways other than years. Turner Field, home of the Braves, was built for the 1996 Olympics, but Atlanta is planning to move into SunTrust Park in Cobb County for the 2017 season. Once that happens, Rogers Centre will move up (or down) in the rankings once more.
The Blue Jays' closer was born, signed, developed and debuted
Roberto Osuna is 20 years old. He's also Toronto's closer, notching 20 saves since taking over the gig in late June, and posted a 2.58 ERA with nearly 10 strikeouts per nine in the process. You can probably do the math there: If Osuna is 20, then he wasn't alive the last time the Blue Jays were in the playoffs.
In fact, Osuna was born around the time the 1995 spring training would have been happening, if not for the continuation of MLB's strike. He was just shy of 2 months old when it ended in early April, and was signed in 2011, in the midst of the Jays' drought. He debuted just in time for it to end, though, and was a major reason for that.
Osuna isn't the only Jays' player who wasn't around in '93 -- and had a part to play in 2015's success. Miguel Castro was born in December of '94, and was sent to the Rockies as part of the Tulowitzki trade after appearing in 13 games for the Jays as a rookie. Daniel Norris was alive for the '93 season, but only just: he was born in April of that year, so he's only a few months older than the drought. He's also no longer on the roster, as he was part of the package that netted the Jays' Price.
CBS' own drought began
The last time CBS aired an MLB game was Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. MLB turned down a deal for two years worth $120 million with $150 million in advertising revenues, and CBS has never had another shot at broadcasting the games. For reference, the deal MLB signed with FOX and Turner in 2012 was for roughly $800 million annually, and ESPN pays $700 million by themselves in their own deal with MLB -- so, uh, things seem to be going OK for them on that front.
To give that a little more perspective, in terms of MLB's growth and spending power: The Blue Jays spent the most of any team in 1993, just shy of $52 million. They opened the 2015 season with a 25-man payroll of over $125 million, and that's just middle of the road. The Dodgers led all of baseball at $271 million, which is a little more money than CBS was offering MLB over two years to broadcast games when you include the ad revenue. Well, when you ignore inflation, anyway, which I am totally doing since the point is just to show how things have changed, not lecture y'all on economics.
Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte happened
Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte all debuted in 1995, which is the "official" start of the Jays' drought if you want to knock 1994 out of the mix, considering the strike and all. All three have retired after wrapping up Hall of Fame careers in the past couple of seasons, and they made the postseason roughly one billion times more than the Jays did during said careers. Rivera and Jeter both made it on 16 different occasions, while Pettitte got there 14 times, including once with the Astros.
The careers that began in '95 and have already ended are staggering, especially when you consider the Jays didn't make it to October during any of them. Jorge Posada also debuted in '95, as did Jason Giambi, Brian Giles, Mike Cameron, Brad Radke, Ray Durham, Jason Schmidt, Edgardo Alfonzo, Billy Wagner, Craig Counsell -- who is now an MLB manager -- Hideo Nomo, Troy Percival ... and the list goes on.
In fact, the list also includes Gregg Zaun, who is an analyst with Canada's Sportsnet, and LaTroy Hawkins, who is currently in the Blue Jays' bullpen. You all make jokes about how old Hawkins is and how long he's been around, but the dude has been playing for less time than the Jays went between postseason appearances.
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Regardless of whether the Jays defeat the Rangers and move on, at least this drought has ended. Like the Pirates and Royals before them, they were able to at least hit reset, and have an opportunity to do so much more. Chances are good they won't go decades in between playoff appearances next time, either, but this is baseball we're talking about, so who knows?