Poor Jeff Blair. The Globe and Mail’s sports columnist and host of Sportsnet 590 The Fan’s Jeff Blair Show comes out with a book about the Toronto Blue Jays in what is anticipated to be the club’s most exciting season since 1993. The timing seemed perfect.
Then the team lays an egg in April, winning just 10 of their first 27 games, and the air has come out of the Blue Jay balloon faster than Colby Rasmus strikes out with the bases loaded.
Unfortunately, like the team’s start, Blair’s book leaves the reader wishing for more. Long on quotations but short on insightful commentary, Full Count will appeal mainly to those who are super keen Jays fans, rather than someone looking for an in-depth or multi-dimensional analysis of the team’s past.
Despite the book’s subtitle – Four Decades of Blue Jays Baseball – fully two-thirds of the book chronicles the Rogers-era ownership of the Jays which dates back just to 2000. (The 1980s? Two American League East titles but only 10 pages here.)
From J.P. Ricciardi to John Farrell, Blair knows this period of Jays’ history best, since he was covering the team for this newspaper. It is also the strongest section of the book.
He details every significant move made by the club in the boardroom and between the foul lines.
Carlos Delgado, A.J. Burnett, B.J. Ryan – they’re all here. But as I read, I kept waiting for Blair to step in with his own knowledgeable baseball voice. We know from his columns and radio show that Blair has strong opinions and this book would have been strengthened by more of his own analysis, opinion and insight.
There were numerous occasions for it. From former Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston, who viewed criticism of his managerial style “through the prism of past racial battles won and lost” to the whole question of steroids in baseball – Roger Clemens was a Blue Jay for two seasons – Full Count raises the issues but does not delve deeply into them. Doing so would have made for not only a stronger book, but also one with appeal beyond the Moneyball aficionados.
Other defining moments in Blue Jays baseball history (some of them nationally significant) would have benefited from greater context. Blair gives a great play-by-play, but he needs a colour man.
Full Count will satisfy those looking for a quick recap of key moves and challenges faced by the Blue Jays, particularly in the recent past. But like the Toronto Blue Jays team it covers, it leaves the audience wanting more, at least from this reader’s perspective.
The full account of four decades of Blue Jays baseball has yet to be written.
J.D.M. Stewart teaches Canadian history at Bishop Strachan School in Toronto.