TORONTO -- Back on that October night in 1993 when Joe Carter launched his home run off Mitch Williams that won the World Series, Toronto was on top of the baseball world.
The Blue Jays were back-to-back champions, selling out every game at a rollicking SkyDome, with its first-of-a-kind moving roof. The first team to draw 4 million fans in a season, Toronto hosted the 1991 All-Star game, beat the Braves in the 1992 World Series, then followed up with a dramatic win over Philadelphia. They had the highest payroll in the game and a lineup loaded with talent.
"The fans were so behind us it was incredible," recalled bullpen coach Pat Hentgen, who pitched for both championship teams. "That ‘93 team, we had a heck of a deep pitching staff. We had two-way players. We had guys that could play defense and run the bases and hit."
Two decades later, after a long time out of the limelight, Toronto is fielding a team that could recapture those glory days, and put the city back on the major league map, thanks to a whirlwind of winter moves.
There's speed in table-setters Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera. There's power in sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. There's pitching, with Cy Young knuckleballer R.A. Dickey at the top of a deep rotation.
And for the first time in a while, there's belief.
"It's been a long time, but everybody's excited," said John Gibbons, starting his second stint as Toronto's manager. "We're excited. We expect a lot. A lot is expected out of us. It could turn into just like it was back in ‘90s. That's the goal."
The Blue Jays haven't been back to the postseason since Carter's famous homer in Game 6 finished off the Phillies, meaning any fan who isn't a college graduate is probably too young to even remember it. But after remaking the roster in a winter flurry of trades and free agent signings, they're being tabbed to end that playoff absence, the third-longest active drought in baseball. Only Pittsburgh (1992) and Kansas City (1985) have been waiting longer.