Volume 92, Issue 2

Friday, May 22, 1998

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Toronto's teams lining the bottom

The once glorious sports town, Toronto, has died. It has become the wasteland for professional sports teams and their participants. Players and coaches do not want to enter this black hole of broken promises and unfilled potential. Old stars come here to die and young stars blossom once they have found a way to leave.

At one point in the spring of 1998, all three of the major professional sports franchises located in Toronto (the Maple Leafs, the Raptors and the Blue Jays) were last place within their respective divisions. The Leafs and Raptors finished there. There is an outside shot that the Jays could join them but that seems unlikely with the expansion team Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the same division.

Why have these teams been at the basement so frequently lately?

The Maple Leafs have stunk since the '70s. Money grubbing owners have robbed this once storied franchise of its honour and tradition. It has become an "Original Six Team" in the history books only. The Maple Leafs do not have the same on or off ice mystique as the Montreal Canadiens and they refuse to remain competitive, save two seasons in the early '90s.

Despite some early optimism, the City of Toronto and the Raptors have become the last place any self-respecting superstar would want to wind up. Who would want to play with Oliver Miller? The Isiah Thomas spectacle seriously injured the team's reputation and they had to be bailed out by the Leafs, which will probably only make things worse for the basketball team in the long run.

The Blue Jays, however, are a different story. Since they became a team in 1977 there has been a commitment from management and ownership towards winning, which resulted in some very successful seasons in the '80s and early '90s. However, over the last four years they have become one of the worst teams in baseball and everyone seems to have forgotten about those two World Series championships. The offense isn't there and it seems like the pitching staff can only have one quality pitcher a year.

For whatever reason, Toronto receeded from being a premier sports town in the early '90s. The Maple Leafs had two consecutive playoff runs, the Blue Jays experienced two World Series wins, while shattering attendance records and expansion of the NBA into Toronto emerged – a place where no one wants to play any longer and a place where no one seems to be able to win.

The question now is, how is this going to be fixed? For the Leafs and the Raptors, the opening up of pocket books would be a step in the right direction. Sign a few high profile free agents over the summer and try to reverse the losing trends of the last few years. Management is seemingly going in the right direction but now the owner must be convinced of this and results have to come.

For the Blue Jays it is not so simple. They have signed the big free agents and have not been shy about making changes – but it is not working. What's needed is better baseball people running the baseball operations. Better coaches are needed in the minors, more emphasis on developing talent and a general manager who has played baseball and knows how a team works.

Luck and better decision making are required by all of the franchises in order to turn this situation around and despite the hopes of many Toronto fans, it may not happen at all.

Oh well, there's still the Argos!

To Contact The Sports Department: gazette.sports@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998