Typical of the team's balance is unheralded rightfielder Jesse Barfield, 25, finishing his first year as a regular. Last week he was a 20-20-20 vision as he recorded his 27th homer, his 21st steal and his 21st outfield assist. "I'm an optimistic guy," says Barfield, who is disputably the team's most valuable player. "Life is a self-fulfilling prophecy." Who could have prophesied, though, that this ninth-round pick in 1977 would now be hitting .290 with 84 RBIs?
LESSON 7: Call to Arms
For two years the Jays have been knocking on the door. This year they have enough arms to open it as well. The staff leads the league in ERA. and the bullpen has a league-high 47 saves—up from 33 last season. "The most important thing about pitching is that it keeps you out of a slump." Mulliniks says. "We know the pitchers will keep us in the game. So if we don't play well one day, it doesn't affect us the next."
The assembling of the staff has been Gillick at his finest. When he lost two-fifths of this season's starting rotation to injuries and ineffectiveness, he had on hand such castoffs as Tom Filer (7-0). His bullpen acquisitions of Caudill and Gary Lavelle enabled former stopper Dennis Lamp to become a middle reliever, in which capacity he's 11-0. When Caudill faltered, Gillick trotted out Henke, who was overpowering Triple A batters. Henke was chosen after Gillick called an ex-Texas exec to get the inside word on the 6'5" righty. The Rangers apparently had shot Henke's confidence—"depreciated the value of this asset they had," in Gillick's words. In two months with the Jays, Canada's Goose has 13 saves and a 1.45 ERA.
LESSON 8: Be Careful Out There
For the stretch drive Gillick picked up a pair of experienced DHs with Disturbing Histories, Johnson and Al Oliver. He consulted three Jays vets before reacquiring Johnson, who nearly provoked two fights in his previous Toronto stint. He dug deeper on Oliver. "The guy always showed up to play, was never late," Gillick says. "He talked a lot, but never did he say anything malicious."
"This is the same type of team we had in Pittsburgh in '71," Oliver says. "Guys in their second, third, fourth years, very talented and very confident." After a win in Texas in August, Oliver chartered two buses to bring 50 players, coaches, wives and children to his house in Arlington for a party. On the cake was inscribed LET'S GO TO THE WORLD SERIES.
That would be the icing on the cake for the Blue Jay Way.