As always, the opinions and facts in this article are mine which makes them 100% correct and accurate.
First of all, the Toronto Blue Jays, Rogers Communications and especially Alex Anthopoulos owe an apology to Toronto FC. After a nine year debauchery, Toronto FC finally clinched their first ever playoff berth on October 14, the same time as the infamous “Bat Flip” in game 5 of the ALDS that advanced the Jays to the ALCS for the first time since 1993. Other than the 20,000 fans at the TFC game that night, no one even knew they had made the playoffs. Then yesterday, the same day that MLSE hired Michael Friisdahl to replace outgoing CEO Tim Leiweke as well as Toronto FC playing their first ever playoff game, Alex Anthopoulos announces he is leaving town. So, not only does no one in the city know or care about the Friisdahl hiring but they also most likely didn’t notice that Toronto FC whimpered out of the playoffs after a 3-0 loss in Montreal. Maybe that’s a good thing on both counts.
Now, on to the meat of this article.
It is getting very annoying seeing headlines and listening to the media talk about what a mess the Anthopoulos situation is for the Blue Jays and incoming president Mark Shapiro. This mess was created and executed by one person and one person only: Alex Anthopoulos.
The now former General Manager of the team refused to let his ego accept a five year contract worth around $10-million because he would no longer be able to spend hundreds of millions of dollars or trade top prospects and players without making a quick phone call to new boss Shapiro. Paul Beeston had given AA full autonomy over baseball operations so he never had to run anything by him. Well guess what? The other 29 teams in MLB don’t run like that. This was the only franchise where the GM did not have to ask permission to pull the trigger on a deal. It just doesn’t work like that and last time I checked, the other 29 teams had ALL made the playoffs prior to the Blue Jays this year. Coming into this season the Jays had the longest playoff drought in ALL PROFESSIONAL SPORTS. Not just baseball. All sports. That would be proof-point number one that maybe having autonomy was not a good thing. That along with the fact that at the trade deadline, the Jays were 50-51 making Anthopoulos’ overall record as GM an unimpressive 446-483. Yes, they went 43-18 after that with Tulo, Price, Revere and Mark Lowe on the roster and yes it was magical and exciting and incredible to watch but it only proved what baseball fans have known for a long time: if a GM is allowed to spend money and trade prospects, he will win.
The Yankees won four World Series in five years in the 90s using that same theory. If you buy them, they will come. Obviously Bautista and Encarnacion feel more like homegrown talent because they have been here so long but the fact is that they were acquired in trades and Cito Gaston and his gang turned both of them into the sluggers they have become. JP Ricciardi acquired Bautista in 2008 and Encarnacion in 2009 while Cito was managing the team. The combination of Cito, Gene Tennace and Dwayne Murphy worked with both of them and 2010 was the breakout year for Jose and 2012 for Edwin. Those were the types of players the Jays were looking for: Reclamation projects. They were never supposed to spend $200-million on a team payroll but build a team with prospects and castaways. Ricciardi failed miserably at that and when Anthopoulos took over he attempted to draft prospects that would play big roles in the Jays winning many playoff games. He soon realized it wasn’t working. He attempted to use those prospects for big things in 2012 when he made the big trade with the Marlins. Didn’t work. Josh Donaldson was a great pick-up but it also cost them Brett Lawrie and 3 top prospects. Remember the R.A. Dickey trade? Well, Noah Syndergaard and Travis D’Arnaud are now playing major roles in the World Series with the Mets. Yes, this year’s team had Hutchinson, Goins, Stroman, Sanchez and Osuna, all of which were Anthopoulos draft picks but the success the team had down the stretch had a lot to do with Tulo, Price, Revere and Donaldson, players he acquired for a large amount of top prospects because he didn’t have to clear it with anyone. It worked to a point but victories are measured by World Series rings and Anthopoulos has none.
Everyone in the city needs to realize is that GMs and Managers have very little to do with winning games. They assemble the best line-up they can with their available resources and hope the players live up to expectations and find chemistry on and off the field. There is no magic recipe. As a lifelong fan, it was a hell of ride this season but with the pending free agency of David Price, Marco Estrada and Mark Buehrle this off-season and Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion’s after next season the window to win is tiny. The farm system has been stripped of prospects and by going all-in and then walking away Anthopoulos has left Shapiro in a very tough situation in which he will have to take the blame if unsuccessful even though AA created the problem. I like Anthopoulos and I think he is a good, honest guy and a hard worker but a little naive. He was offered a long term deal and a lot of money to stay but he decided he could not work in an actual baseball environment where discussions are needed. He wanted the pipe dream that he had lived with the Jays for six years and I give him all the credit for making it clear that it was his decision and his alone to leave but he is going to find out how things really work in a hurry.
Fans need to remember that AA really only gave the team a great two months out of six years. The Jays were never in the playoff hunt in the other five and a half seasons with him as GM. Every starting position player is under contract for next season along with Devon Travis, Michael Saunders, Dalton Pompey, Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchinson, Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna and it looks as if the option on RA Dickey will be picked up. That means the team is starting with the same offensive lineup that it ended the season with so there should be no complaints on that end. There is some work to do on the starting rotation as well as restocking the farm system so Shapiro has his work cut out for him. He is an intelligent baseball man with a long history as a GM and there is no doubt that the team has an even better shot at sustaining success during his reign. This is not his mess to clean up but he will do it nonetheless because he is a pro. That is how a real baseball front office works.
To Anthopoulos I say thank you for this season and good luck in the future but you will never hear me refer to you as the one who got away.