Infrequently Asked Question: Should the Toronto Blue Jays have won the 1985 World Series?
By Brad Balukjian, firstname.lastname@example.org, 4.20.15
In many ways, the 26-Team Era (1977-92) belonged to the Toronto Blue Jays. They began the era as one of two new expansion teams (along with the Seattle Mariners) and closed it out with their first world championship, in 1992. Their sky blue uniforms typified the garish 1970s palette that dominated MLB wardrobes, and they provided Canada with an alternative to the Europhilic Mon-ré-al Expos.
By 1985, the Blue Jays had built a winner. The lineup had it all—speed (Tony Fernandez), power (George Bell, Jesse Barfield), rejected porn names (Rance Mulliniks, Garth Iorg), and the pitching staff was led by one of the most criminally underrated pitchers of all time, Dave Stieb.
Yet the Jays came up short. There would be no World Series games played in Canada thanks to the Kansas City Royals, who came back from a three-games-to-one deficit to beat Toronto in the ALCS. The Royals came perilously close to being a perennial bridesmaid themselves, having lost in the postseason six times since 1976. Mercifully for them, they beat the Jays and went on to win it all.
But did the best team really win it all in 1985? Here’s four reasons why Lloyd Moseby et al. should have been on the cover of Sports Illustrated in deep October instead of Royal blue:
1. They had the better Iorg.
Few pairs of baseball brothers reached the mediocre parity of Dane and Garth Iorg, whose last name still defies pronunciation. In most cases, one brother is clearly superior to the other (Cal and Billy Ripken; Pedro and Ramon Martinez; Macho Man Randy Savage and Leaping Lanny Poffo—OK, technically not a baseball example, but the Macho Man did play minor league ball in the Reds organization!). But the Iorgs were pretty much the same guy. They could have been a great heel professional wrestling tag team in the mid-1980s named “Iorgy” and managed by “Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart. But instead, they were utility players who almost faced each other in the 1985 World Series. Had it happened, clearly “Gorgeous” Garth (.313/.358/.469 in ’85) and his Blue Jays would have prevailed over “Dangerous” Dane’s (.223/.268/.331) Cardinals.
2. The ALCS should have been 5 games.
Had it been 5 games like every other ALCS before it, the Blue Jays’ 3-1 win in Game 4 would have clinched the pennant. But instead, the new 7-game system installed in 1985 gave the Royals new life which they used to rattle off three straight wins and a trip to the Fall Classic. Since the Royals went on to beat the Cardinals, let’s just invoke the transitive property here (ya know, A beats B and B beats C, so A beats C) and say the Jays would have beaten them too.
3. Danny Jackson was on steroids. Or just a lot of greenies.
OK, that’s almost certainly not true, and definitely not fair. But all potential libel lawsuits aside, Danny F’ing Jackson basically kept the Blue Jays from making the World Series, where we know they would have won. Danny Jackson, the Royals third starter and holder of a decent, lights-dimmed 14-12 record and 3.42 ERA, got the ball in Game 5 (the first elimination game for the Royals) and proceeded to shutout everyone from Barfield to Whitt. The guy was just money—he’d go on to do almost the same thing in the critical Game 4 of the 1993 NLCS with the Phillies. (Sorry for that headline, Danny, please don’t sue us for the toll money we have in our bank account.)
4. The Blue Jays were clearly better than the Royals. The Royals just had sympathy from the Baseball Gods. (And they had George Brett.)
On paper, the Blue Jays were the better team in 1985. They won 99 games to the Royals’ 91, with a +171 run differential to the Royals’ +48. They had the best staff ERA in the American League (3.31) and the second-best batting average (.269); the Royals were 2nd and 14th respectively. And their bullpen, although it lost quite a few leads over the course of the season, had more depth than the Royals, who basically had Dan Quisenberry and Steve Farr. The cream rose to the brim in the first 4 games of the ALCS before Dave Stieb’s tired arm finally gave in (he started three of the seven games for the Jays, twice on three days’ rest, which he had done only twice all year long). Top to bottom, the Jays were a deeper team, but the X factor was George Brett, who earned his ALCS MVP with a.348 average and a 4-4, 2 HR Game Three, which the Royals took 6-5. Brett led them to the Promised Land, where the Baseball Gods ensured (through St. Don Denkinger) that they prevailed.
"Dangerous" Dane and "Gorgeous" Garth: The mid-1980s WWF tag champions, "Iorgy," that never were.
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