BR Team Page
Record: 76-86, Finished 5th in AL Eastern Division (1997 AL)
Managed by Cito Gaston (72-85) and Mel Queen (4-1)
Coaches: Alfredo Griffin, Jim Lett, Nick Leyva, Mel Queen, Gene Tenace and Willie Upshaw
The 1997 Toronto Blue Jays featured multiple young players at the dawn of what would be productive careers. 25-year-old Carlos Delgado, in his second full season, led the club with 30 home runs and 91 RBI, while 24-year-old Alex Gonzalez contributed 12 dingers and 15 stolen bases. Top prospect Jose Cruz, Jr. added 14 home runs in just 212 at-bats after being acquired in a July trade with the Seattle Mariners for pitchers Paul Spoljaric and Mike Timlin, while 24-year-old Shawn Green hit 16 home runs and had 14 stolen bases. 23-year-old Shannon Stewart hit .286 with 10 swipes in 44 games, fully blossoming the next year, 1998. Future Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter debuted, but went just 3-7 with a 5.09 ERA, while Kelvim Escobar arrived as an excellent relief pitcher, posting a 2.90 ERA in 27 appearances, saving 14 games and averaging 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings. 25-year-old Omar Daal, a future 16-game winner, pitched briefly for the club, as well. As with all teams, however, not all the youngsters went on to great things - some were thrown at the wall, but didn't stick. Names like Tilson Brito, Tomás Pérez, Tom Evans, Felipe Crespo, Rich Butler, Julio Mosquera, Luis Andújar, Marty Janzen and Carlos Almanzar passed through that year, and though some had decent stints off the bench, none became lasting starters. But the youth movement didn't do all the work. With a league-leading 292 strikeouts, hurler Roger Clemens won his fourth Cy Young Award and the first of two consecutive Pitching Triple Crowns on the back of a 21-7, 2.05 ERA season, while Pat Hentgen added 15 victories and 9 complete games. The bullpen was solid, with Paul Quantrill posting a 1.94 ERA in 77 games, despite allowing 103 hits in 88 innings, and Timlin posting a 2.87 mark in 38 games before being traded. LOOGY Dan Plesac averaged nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings. On offense, 37-year-old veteran Joe Carter hit 21 home runs with 102 RBI, while 38-year-old Otis Nixon had 47 stolen bases. Escobar was the youngest player on the team, Nixon was the oldest.
Awards and Honors
- Thomas Ayers: "A Canada Day Classic; July 1, 1997: Montreal Expos 2, Toronto Blue Jays 1 At Skydome", in Norm King, ed.: Au jeu/Play Ball: The 50 Greatest Games in the History of the Montreal Expos, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016, pp. 124-126. ISBN 978-1-943816-15-6
- Norm King: "The Montreal-Toronto Rivalry Finds a New Outlet; June 30, 1997: Montreal Expos 2, Toronto Blue Jays 1 At Skydome", in Norm King, ed.: Au jeu/Play Ball: The 50 Greatest Games in the History of the Montreal Expos, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016, pp. 122-123. ISBN 978-1-943816-15-6