Three weeks ago, it all seemed so impossible. Jose Bautista flipped his bat, jogged around the bases and helped seal the ALDS for the Blue Jays and General Manager, Alex Anthopoulos. The Rogers Centre erupted in joy, the streets were filled with revelers and Anthopoulos, the architect of it all, enjoyed it thoroughly while insisting the spotlight shine on Bautista and the rest of the Blue Jays squad.
Following a heartbreaking game six ALCS loss, Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons released an article stating that Anthopoulos’ contract was all but done and he was expected to return as General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. While the sting of the ALCS loss was still fresh, Blue Jays fans took solace in the fact that the big hitters in the lineup were all under contract for 2016 and the bold Anthopoulos would be at the helm to lead the Jays forward and find that elusive third World Series title.
Fast forward to less than a week later and Toronto fans woke up to the news that their beloved Canadian General Manager, the architect that brought along Troy Tulowtizki, Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin and David Price, would be stepping down as GM, unable to work with incoming President Mark Shapiro.
Anthopoulos said all the right things, praising Rogers and Shapiro for their overtures in attempting to bring him back. However, reading between the lines it was clear, Anthopoulos wasn’t coming back because Shapiro wanted to run things after being jettisoned to the President role in Cleveland following a less than ideal stint as GM.
During his six years as GM in Toronto, Anthopoulos grew as a person and a General Manager, while always having the intestinal fortitude to make the next bold move. Remember this, in 2008 when the Blue Jays acquired Jose Bautista for a Player to be Named Later from the Pittsburgh Pirates, then General Manager JP Ricciardi was the man in charge.
However, after Bautista exploded onto the scene with a monster 2010 season in which he hit 54 Home Runs, Ricciardi was quick to point to Anthopoulos as the man who identified Bautista and pushed Ricciardi to acquire the talented, but flawed outfielder. Bautista has been the face of the Franchise ever since.
Along the way, Anthopoulos was never shy about making the bold move as evidenced by his 2012 off-season in which he made blockbuster trades with the Marlins and Mets. While most of the young GM’s moves were met with high praise from around baseball, the Jays floundered for two seasons with the super roster. Josh Johnson, the centerpiece of the Marlins deal bolted to San Diego, Jose Reyes excited crowds with his speed and infectious attitude but drew groans with his defense at short stop and his payroll hampering contract. Emilio Bonifacio was cut quickly and John Buck was sent to New York.
Of all the pieces from Miami, it was reliable Mark Buehrle who until this season had thrown 14 straight 200 innings who provided the Jays with most value after he was thought to just be a throw in, in the deal.
Anthopoulos’ deal with the Mets however was met with much trepidation from fans after giving up two of the Jays top prospects for a 38 year old trick pitcher with one great Cy Young season in RA Dickey. The prospects, Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud will be the battery for the New York Mets tomorrow night in Game Three of the World Series. A move that Anthopoulos regrets, but at least Dickey gives you 200 innings every season, if there was a silver lining to be had.
For any GM who has been in power as long as Anthopoulos was, there will be missteps, however the young Montreal natives were few and far between. All of this leads back to Shapiro, who inadvertently thanks to the big wigs at Rogers Inc, namely Edward Rogers, is public enemy in Toronto without actually having the job.
The optics of this look terrible on all the parties involved, except Anthopoulos, who’s exit was as graceful as possible considering the circumstances. Alex said all the right things, and made Shapiro and Rogers look awful. The only way out of this for Rogers and Shapiro is to build on the success of Anthopoulos to make the fans forget. If the Jays slip even a little, there will be trouble brewing and sparse crowds will return to the Rogers Centre.
If I could offer any advice to Shapiro and Rogers Inc, it’s that they need to get David Price back in Toronto by any means necessary. Payroll parameters have to be tossed out of the window, the moves have to continue to be bold. If they fail to do this and Shapiro decides to tear it down, deal Bautista and Encarnacion to restock the cupboard, then you can imagine there will be hell to pay for the suits in charge.
Here’s hoping it works out for the sanity of Toronto fans who have been slapped in the face repeatedly.