When the Toronto Blue Jays won back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993, they did so in a remarkable, quintessentially 1990s way. The 1991 Jays had won the AL East, but had little chance against Minnesota in the ALCS due to modest pitching and a merely above-average lineup.
But through free agency, Toronto added Dave Winfield and reigning World Series MVP Jack Morris, and both went on to great seasons in 1992 despite their advanced ages. Winfield got the winning hit in the decisive Game 6, started by mid-season trade acquisition David Cone and finished by homegrown southpaw Jimmy Key.
In 1993, however, several key contributors to that team were gone. Key, Cone, Winfield, left fielder Candy Maldonado, closer Tom Henke and shortstop Manuel Lee all departed via free agency. Third baseman Kelly Gruber went to California in a trade that netted only Luis Sojo. Into the voids, the team plugged more free-agent signees (ancient veterans Dave Stewart and Paul Molitor), as well as some homegrown players who took advantage of their new opportunities (Ed Sprague, Duane Ward).
When, a few months into the year, it became apparent that the team needed help, GM Pat Gillick added shortstop Tony Fernandez and left fielder Rickey Henderson in spectacular deals. The Blue Jays won the Series on a dramatic Joe Carter home run, and a true achievement in team0building was complete.
On the other side of realignment, a strike and two near-strikes, revenue-sharing and the rise of the power corridor along the Eastern seaboard, Toronto's feat is almost unimaginable. The Jays could well finish with a winning record for the fifth year out of the last six with a strong finish this season, but during that time, they have not so much as smelled the playoffs.
Toronto fans are frequently found despairing in Augusts like this one over the idea that their team will never beat the Yankees and Red Sox. They need not and should not. Here are five reasons the Jays are worthy of your affection, whether they succeed in toppling the giants of their division or not.