I vaguely remember it. Though, I’m not even sure if it’s a real memory, or just one my brain’s constructed over the years after having watched, listened to, or talked about that beautiful evening countless times.
“Touch ’em all Joe.”
The phrase should give any Blue Jays fan, any baseball fan in fact, goosebumps. I know it does to me, and I can’t even be sure I remember when those words were first uttered by the immortal Tom Cheek. The call of Joe Carter’s walk-off home run to seal the 1993 World Series is a moment in time that’s up there with Gehrig’s speech, the Shot Heard ‘Round the World, and Don Larsen’s perfect game.
I had just turned six when he cleared the left field fence. I’m now 27, having spent far too much time during the past two-plus decades focusing on the team I’ve always loved. And not once during those years have I had the chance to experience the thrill of postseason baseball. I can’t say for certain that I know what’s it’s like to watch the Jays int he postseason, the memory’s just too foggy.
Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates ended a 21-year playoff drought. This year the Kansas City Royals will end a streak of 29 years without playing postseason baseball. That leaves Toronto as the team with the longest postseason drought, not just in baseball, but in the four major North American sports.
I have friends who cheer for the Red Sox and Yankees (ew, gross, I know). October baseball has come to be more or less expected for them. There are also Rays and Orioles fans I know (seriously. OK, just one O’s fan), for whom postseason baseball is a more recent experience, but an experience nonetheless.
There’s even a guy I know who cheers for the Royals. I’m sure he’s through the roof with excitement these days.
At times it seems strange to devote so much time to a team that’s so often disappointed. I watch the vast majority of the 162 regular season games. I write about the team as often as I can. I visit blogs and websites, share opinions in comments sections, or talk to friends and family about the team.
And while the years of futility are not something we as Jays fans should be happy about, there’s both nothing we can do about it and no reason to lump it all together into one stew of ineptitude. The failings of past teams, of past front offices, have little to no bearing on the 2014 Blue Jays. You can argue the former GM left Alex Anthopoulos with a bare farm system that has plagued AA as he tries to rebuild it by drafting younger, higher upside high school players who are only now ascending to the upper levels of the minor leagues. But that’s it. The ghosts of Gord Ash and Carlos Delgado don’t haunt today’s clubhouse.
So perhaps that’s the secret. There’s always next year, as they say.
This season was exciting, perhaps the most exciting season since ’93. What’s more, this team is exciting. Two of the best hitters in baseball, a handful of exciting, homegrown and young arms, two veterans in the rotation whose stories are equally amazing. There’s a young outfielder who grew up in our own backyard who surprised everyone this year and is hopefully on the cusp of becoming Canada’s next great Major Leaguer.
It’s a long, cold winter, only made longer by another year of being on the outside looking in. But echoing the words of the team’s GM, it’ll also be an exciting winter. There are holes to fill, but this team seems to almost be there.
I’m heading into the offseason with a quiet confidence. It’s not the crazy hype from two winters ago when The Trade happened. While that was fun, this seems better. There’s no flash, no hype.
The team’s not selling the sizzle this year, you’ll just have to wait to enjoy the steak next spring.