(Not OT) Remember the Tigers-Blue Jays rivalry?

Submitted by jmblue on August 26th, 2010 at 4:44 PM

For those of us that were kids in the '80s, the Blue Jays were the team to hate if you were a Tiger fan.  The two teams competed for the AL East title on a yearly basis and the games between them were intense.  There would always be a ton of Jay fans in Tiger Stadium, and a ton of Tiger fans making the trip to Exhibition Stadium and then the Skydome.  Who can forget the legendary 1-0 game on the last day of the 1987 season, when Frank Tanana went the distance to clinch the pennant? 

In 1998, the two teams were separated, with the Tigers moving to the AL Central.  They still meet for a few series every year, but it's not quite the same, is it?  There's not much riding on the line.  Overall records do matter in the standings, but when you play a team you aren't competing against in those standings, it's not as important as the ones against those you do compete against.  Since '98, the White Sox have gone from being just another AL opponent to basically an archrival.  Likewise for the Twins.  Those are now the rivalry games.  But I still miss the Toronto rivalry, and I'd imagine their fans feel likewise - they're playing second fiddle to Yankees-Red Sox in their division.

I know, it's pro sports, but there are some parallels here.  Big Ten division standings, I presume, will be determined by overall conference record, so cross-division games aren't 100% meaningless.  But when you aren't competing in the standings with half the teams in your league, that really changes the dynamics.  In the future, when OSU wins or loses a game to someone else, that won't affect us at all.  Likewise, it won't matter to them how we do against anyone else.  Meanwhile, if Indiana's in our division, all of their games will be relevant to us, because we'll be competing in the standings.  How backward is that? 

I'm increasingly regretting the addition of Nebraska.  It's not just the OSU rivalry that will be diminished in importance, but all series against teams in the other division.  We're basically going to have two six-team mini conferences.  The other five teams in our division are going to be the ones we keep an eye on, whereas the six teams in the other division might as well be playing exhibition games, for as much as it matters to us.  Adding a single game in an NFL stadium in December won't be enough to tie it all together. 





Mitch Cumstein

August 26th, 2010 at 4:51 PM ^

I hadn't thought of this.  But the divisions will really water down mini rivalries we have with teams like Minnesota and Penn State also (if they are in the other division).  20 years from now OSU might not even be a rival.   I don't think any Tigs fans would consider the Jays rivals.


August 26th, 2010 at 4:55 PM ^

Your point about the diminished importance of standings is the single best criticism anyone has yet come up with for my divisional proposal.

I am now seriously considering trashing it and starting over, but then that would be YET ANOTHER diary before HERO III and I can't even find the time to pen HERO III


August 26th, 2010 at 4:57 PM ^

man, i used to hate the bluejays.  this was pre-strike when any team could be good at any time, not who was richest.  kelly gruber, tony fernandez, dave steib, john olerud.  previous to them getting all the big guns like clemens and dave stewart and joe carter and alomar was when the tigers were good too.

Blue boy johnson

August 26th, 2010 at 10:24 PM ^

John Olerud suffered a brain aneurysm as collegiate player, which is why he always wore a helmet in the field as well as at bat. Olerud was a fantastic college baseball player both as a fielder and a pitcher, I never thought of him as a dork, but as one helluva baseball player. In fact Olerud was so talented he just up and skipped the whole minor league scene.


August 26th, 2010 at 4:58 PM ^

jmblue knocks it out of the park.

I guess a good way to get perspective on this would be to talk to an ACC fan or B12* fan about the before and after of conference expansion, divisions, and rivalries.

*you'd have to find someone who used to root for an SWC or Big 8 team that moved to the B12.


August 26th, 2010 at 5:56 PM ^

We're no help in the ACC.  Obviously we lost the play-every-team dynamic when the ACC expanded, but the Big Ten has never had that in my memory, even prior to Penn State.  That was what people disliked about the expansion more than anything else.  The ACC has the permanent cross-division opponent and the main disadvantage is that it's three years in between playing a traditional ACC team that you used to play every year.  But other than the fact that teams played each other every year, no rivalries were lost.  In fact, the expansion was good for the UVA-VT rivalry (except for the part where we lost our recruiting advantage) because we now play it the last week of the season every year.  It used to float.

HOWEVA.  My mom is a Texas alum from back in the days when Arkansas was a HUGE, HUGE deal.  She hates Arkansas.  Maybe more so than she hates A&M or OU, cause she thinks Arkansas fans were the worst of the three.  UT fans these days probably don't have the same feeling about it.  So that's a rivalry gone.


August 26th, 2010 at 5:02 PM ^

I couldnt disagree with you more. I guess I could mention, lets see, the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles even the Indians and Brewers carry much more merit. Toronto was an expansion team, and a terrible one at that in the late 70s and early eighties. Yes they ran into some money hired men like Bobby Cox and Pat Gillick (GM) to and were on there way, so Im not taking anything away from their short lived run. To reference this to the Big Ten and the rivalries....The best anaolgy I can come up with is if the University of Phoenix joined the Big Ten and got a great recruiting base.because of their ability to SPAM recruits from all 50 states

The Tigers and Jays were a fling in comparison to a rivalry. So what i think you are trying to stay is. I love fall because of College Football rivalries are cool AND remember Tanana's gem in 1987.


Respectfully Yours,


Doyle Alexander


August 26th, 2010 at 10:44 PM ^

And your perspective on changing divisions is spot on, changing rivalries, moving something that means something to you is quite important. I get it.  Your reference to Tigers/Blue Jays/Michigan/Big10 is somewhere in left field with Jesse Barfield or George Bell.


August 26th, 2010 at 5:05 PM ^

Great point. I honestly didn't even know the Tigers and Jays were ever rivals. Granted, in 1998 my Tiger's fandom was pretty much limited to any time my family traveled back to D-Town to visit family; otherwise, I was pretty oblivious to anything except backyard baseball/football/soccer and Age of Empires 1.


August 26th, 2010 at 5:13 PM ^

... I do NOT regret the addition of Nebraska. Personally, I can't wait for the first UM - Nebraska, Nebraska - OSU, Nebraska - Penn State, Nebraska - Iowa, Nebraska - Wisconsin while still hating OSU and anticipating the game, whenever it is. 

st barth

August 26th, 2010 at 5:58 PM ^

The last ten days of the 1987 season was absolutely epic.  The Blue Jays & Tigers met seven times with all of the games being decided by a single run.  The first four game set was at Toronto's Exhibition Stadium and the Jays won the first three games but failed to deliver the mercy blow in the fourth game and the Tigers managed to roar back to life by winning the final three games in Detroit on the next weekend.  All of it capped off by the Tannana complete game shutout on the last day of the season aided by Larry Herndon's first inning solo home run which barely cleared the left field fence.  It was a razor thin margin of victory that capped an all or nothing season and it was absolutely the most electric set of sports games that I've ever witnessed.  And then, of course, those fucking Twins, those fucking homer hankies, that fucking dome...

Having said all of that, I don't think the Tigers-Blue Jays rivalry really holds much comparison to M-OSU because it was pretty short-lived.  If they had been competing like that for decades then maybe it would be a better comparison.

Then again, I think the relevant point is that the 1987 baseball season actually played out in a fashion that resembled football.  Part of what makes football special is that by its nature, the last game of the season is most important and thus it makes sense to play your rival on that day in a winner-take-all-mentality.  The 1987 Tigers & Blue Jays were the two best teams that year.  The Tigers won and the Blue Jays got nothing.  Today, they'd both make the playoffs under MLB rules.  With that in mind, M-OSU have to play each other in the same division in the last game with a win-or-go-home scenario on the line.  Anything else will simply never be satisfying to the victor again.


August 26th, 2010 at 6:45 PM ^

Wholly agree with this simple statement:

"Overall records do matter in the standings, but when you play a team you aren't competing against in those standings, it's not as important as the ones against those you do compete against."

I think the U-M / OSU debate has made us all look a little closer on what exactly expansion, divisions, and a championship game is going to do to our conference. Obliquely, we can also see into the future regarding a college football playoff.

The argument against a playoff is that it diminishes the importance of regular-season games, which right now are very important. They are dire, in fact. We are seeing how Big Ten divisions lessen the importance of not only the U-M - OSU game, but maybe half the conference slate!

Remember how this sounds or feels next time we are arguing about a playoff. I am in favor of "Cool, we play our way to the championship," but very much against, "Okay, losing to Indiana would not hurt us here - our seeding is locked up. I've got time to reorganize my Erasure LPs instead of watch the game."

Of course, the counter-argument is that the SEC has been this way forever, and they are nutso about everything. Also, duffing a game against Indiana kills your BCS at-large hopes. Mostly. Mostly.

Louie C

August 27th, 2010 at 12:57 AM ^

Wow. You took it back. I'm ten years old all over again. Every morning, I would read the sports section of the LSJ to see if the Tigs gained any ground on Blue Jays following a victory. I remember being bummed out going on a family vacation to Massachusetts because I wouldn't be able to watch any games and keep tabs on the standings. The day we left, they were 10 1/2 games back, but when we got back home two weeks later, I damn near peed my pants when I found out that they not only gained ground on Toronto, they were atop of the AL Central by 1 game. I remember when the Jays won the Series my dad thought it was big deal because Cito Gaston became the first African American to lead a team to a title.  I thought it was cool, but I still hated them. Those were the days.


August 27th, 2010 at 8:55 AM ^

Perhaps the newest team to our conference would provide an example everyone could agree with? Isn't one of the reasons Nebraska left the Big 12 that their traditional rivalries with Oklahoma and Texas had become less important, while the rivalry between those two schools had become the top matchup in the Big 12?


August 27th, 2010 at 8:59 AM ^

I remember it vividly from my childhood. Now that they went to the unbalanced schedule so New York can play Boston 30 times a year (The TV People liked it!), they only meet once or twice a year and the rivalry is pretty much dead...