Ferguson: Surprising history between Jays and Diamondbacks

Scott Ferguson
9/2/2013 11:33:47 AM
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The Toronto Blue Jays conclude the interleague portion of their schedule over the next three days, with three games in Phoenix against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-Backs came into being in 1998 and appear destined to finish second in the AL West after the Tsunami that is the Los Angeles Dodgers swept over them.

I thought it might be interesting to see what the D-backs have done over their 16 years compared to what the Blue Jays have done over their past 16 campaigns. The numbers are just this side of startling. Over the last 16 years, including 2013, the Jays' cumulative record is 1278-1287. Arizona has a very slight edge at 1279-1285.

So what you appear to have on the surface is two mediocre, somewhat underachieving clubs. But the year to year records and accomplishments tell a somewhat different story. Over its 16 year history, the D-Backs have finished in first place in the National League West five times. They also won the National League Championship once, and the World Series in 2001 in a classic seven game victory over the Yankees.

Arizona has also finished second twice (probably a third time this year), third place three times, fourth place once and four times in fifth place.

In just their second year of existence, the Diamondbacks reached 100 victories -- a total the Blue Jays have never attained. In their fourth year, they won 92 games and won a World Series quicker than any franchise in Major League history. After drawing over three million fans in three of their first five years, they've off to where they hover around the two million mark, as they have over the past five seasons.

The D-Backs have been no strangers to change. They've had two principle owners in Jerry Colangelo, and since 2004, Ken Kendrick. They've had five general managers over 15-plus season, including the current boss Kevin Towers. They've also had six managers; the most successful of which has been one-time Blue Jays catcher Bob Brenly, who led the D-Backs to two division titles and their lone World Series victory.

To contrast, this with the Blue Jays over the past 16 years, the Jays have two ownership groups, Interbrew and Rogers, three GM's in Gord Ash, J.P Ricciardi and now Alex Anthopoulos. The Blue Jays have also had eight managers, including John Gibbons twice. Over that same 16 year span, though, the Blue Jays have finished in third place eight times, fourth place five times and fifth place twice if you count this year with four weeks to go. The bright light was in 2006, under John Gibbons, where the Jays finished in second place.

Arizona also showed a propensity for the big turnaround. In 2010, they finished in last place. The following year, they jumped all the way to first place. The 29 game improvement from 2010 to 2011 is tied for third best since 1998.

It's interesting both teams have changed the name of their ballparks; Arizona went from Bank One Ballpark to now Chase Field. The Jays went from Skydome to the Rogers Centre.
There are other connections between these two franchises. In the '97 expansion draft, Arizona chose right hander Marty Janzen and lefty  Omar Daal from the Blue Jays. Dahl went on to throw the first shutout in D-backs history on July 30, 1998; a four-hitter against the Cubs at Bank One Ballpark.

Another ex-Blue Jay, Todd Stottlemyre, picked up Arizona's first ever post-season victory on October 6, 1998. He tossed a four-hitter over six and 2/3rd innings in a 7-1 victory over the New York Mets.

Two other former Jays 2nd basemen figured into hitting marks with the D-Backs. Kelly Johnson hit for the cycle against the Giants on July 23, 2010, then current second sacker Aaron Hill hit for the cycle in 11 days last season -- June 18th versus Seattle and June 29th at Milwaukee. Brooklyn's Babe Herman is the only other player in the modern era to accomplish that feat, and he hit for the cycle three times in his career.

An ex-Diamondback holds a couple of Blue Jays power hitting records as well. Tony Batista, who spent less than three full years in Toronto, slugged 26 homers as the shortstop and 41 homers as a third baseman -- both franchise records for those positions.

Considering the overall records are nearly identical, it's not easy to explain why the Diamondbacks have won five division titles in 16 years and the Blue Jays have none. Part of it is the Blue Jays are playing in the tougher American League East. But that's not even as true as it once was, with the Dodgers spending the way they are and the Giants having won two of the last three World Series.
This, another one of those stats that really sticks out. Since 2008, Tampa Bay has only used 19 starting pitchers. Speaking of the Rays, they're sitting three-and-a-half games ahead of the Yankees in the race for that second Wild Card slot in the American. The Rays have 27 more games left, one more than the Yankees. In terms of the teams they are playing, the Rays have the slightly easier schedule. However, Tampa Bay plays only 11 of those remaining 27 at home. They are currently on a western swing with seven to play, including four against the Angeles and three against Seattle. Their only three remaining games with the Yanks are in New York from September 24 through to the 26th.
The Yankees, on the other hand, still have seven games left with Boston, including four at home this week. Joe Girardi and company also wind up the season with three games in Houston against the lowly Astros. The Rays, meanwhile, play their final three at Rogers Centre against the Blue Jays. It's going to be a very interesting race indeed.

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