Volume 93, Issue 41

Thursday, November 11, 1999


Athletics, academics or both?

Pondering the funding question

The Toronto farm team

The Toronto farm team

A Blue Jay has flown South for the winter and like many before him, this one is staying for good.

Shawn Green, the extraordinary right-fielder for the Toronto Blue Jays, was recently traded and signed a multi-year multi million dollar deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Lurking on the horizon is the possibility of first baseman Carlos Delgado also leaving the nest, also the result of failed contract negotiations.

This scenario is all too common in the professional sport of baseball, but is particularly bitter sweet in relation to the Toronto Blue Jays. Ever since their consecutive pennant runs in 1992 and 1993, the Jays' once great wealth of talent has picked up and gone, leaving the team a volatile mess.

Pivotal names, such as pitchers David Cone and Roger Clemons, second baseman Roberto Alomar, first baseman John Olerud and outfielder Jose Canseco have all come, stayed a season or two and departed from the confines of the SkyDome.

In the last seven years, most of these players rejuvenated their careers on Toronto's artificial turf, going on to command huge contracts in the hardball market. Many of them are currently at the top of the league in their baseball expertise. However, none of them stuck around long enough to see if the Jays could rekindle their past glory.

The question is – why?

Are the cold Canadian winters too much for these "boys of summer?" Are the economical implications of sports so great that ball players would be "loonie" to take a Canadian dollar over an American one? Or are the Blue Jays destined to fall into the same sinking boat the Montreal Expos currently inhabit?

Remember when the Expos were at the top of baseball before the player strike of 1994? Montréal boasted the best record in the sport, their level of talent almost paralleling the Blue Jays of the past.

Pitcher Pedro Martinez, outfielders Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom and Moises Alou, as well as pitchers John Wetteland and Dennis Martinez all dawned the fleur-de-lis at one point in their careers, but have long left "La belle province" for fame and fortune in larger markets. The aftermath of such decisions left Montréal not only in the basement, but the laughing stock of Major League Baseball.

So as Green and potentially, Delgado move on to seemingly bigger and better things, the Blue Jays will be forced to scrounge for players to fill the gaping holes left by these young greats.

What else can Toronto do?

Sadly, it's only a matter of time before Canada's other ball team falls in line with their Québec counterparts and become a MLB farm team – grooming talent it's unable to hold.

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