by Garnet Nagato
We were privileged to witness over the past few months a dominance rarely seen in Toronto sports. We have seen a Toronto GM willing to throw in all the chips and witness his team steamroll its way from sub .500 ball to a 93-69 record.
On the way were the Yankees being caught by the Toronto beatdown machine, at the end of which Yankees GM Joe Girardi could only sheepishly offer this gem: “If you get swept, I think that it becomes harder to win your division.”
It likely climaxed in the Bautista home run with a strangely smug dreamy expression on his face, and arguably the best bat flip in history - if you argue with a Torontonian about it.
But we could sense that they were overpowered against Kansas City and their collective aggression at the plate. There is no maniacal celebration. No overcrowded hotels being hastily booked to sell Blue Jays World Series memorabilia (does anyone else remember this??)
Now that the dénouement of the Blue Jays season is past us, we, the fan base , have received another kick in the crotch in the form of Alex Anthopolous departing from the team.
With a contract expiring on October 31, it seemed a foregone conclusion that given everything, the frenzy, the collective anxiety/excitement of an end to Toronto sports futility, surely AA would be back. But no, it was ostensibly ‘not a good fit’, which is of equal ambiguity as sportscasters saying a player brings ‘intangibles’ or has a ‘killer instinct’.
AA follows the departure of Paul Beeston, who is part of the shrinking clad of stogie sporting sports executives. It is the replacement, Mark Shapiro however, that is largely believed to have spurred AA’s decision, though AA has been ambiguous and coy throughout in talking about his departure. This will mar the tenure of Shapiro, even before he really begins his job. There is rumour of AA being chastised by Shapiro for mortgaging the future for short term gain. It is felt that there would be reduced autonomy for AA and suddenly there are too many cooks in the kitchen.
Rogers does not escape unscathed, with them portrayed as running the Blue Jays like a Dilbert boss; upper management coming in to bungle everything at the operational level. The failure to keep AA has allowed us to vent our national latent distaste for Rogers. While we grudgingly gave kudos when they opened up the purse for spending on players, their cache of goodwill was always on shaky foundations, as we are seeing now. In short, I have never met a fan of Rogers, though AA has been effusive, even toady, in his praise of Rogers and Edward Rogers in particular.
At age 32, AA succeeded J.P. Ricciardi, a disciple of the Billy Beane school of thought, who like Brian Colangelo was a highly touted visionary, maybe iconoclastic even.
These were men of excellent pedigree, but sports are fickle, subject to error and variability and things never panned out. You never know how your career will turn; ask Steve Delabar.
The quantifications are even bizarre: Shapiro’s two executive awards to AA’s one, whatever that means. It was with Anthopolous though that the fanbase was revived, helped somewhat by the Maple Leafs rebuild, and we witnessed a man willing to throw in the chips for the ultimate (sports) ante. He is lionized, celebrated as a young hot shot GM. The Jays finally made it to the post season.
Though maybe. Just maybe, the reviews should be more mixed.
True, it was AA who was brought in to deal with the Roy Halliday trade, an artisanal pitcher, for highly touted Travis D’Arnaud and Kyle Drabek and maybe less regarded Michael Taylor (eventually manifesting as Anthony Gose, then Devon Travis). It was AA who gambled on an unhappy Colby Rasmus, who we hope is happier now in Houston (probably is).
These are not moves that have always borne fruition, they were difficult choices and made by someone unafraid to make them.
It was what allowed for the fleecing of Beane as Brett Lawrie was unloaded for Josh Donaldson (and other components) after some assiduous negotiations from AA.
It showed in the eyebrow raising moves of that period with the acquisition of R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes et al., something that Dickey would jokingly later refer to as the three year plan, culminating in the lunacy of the spring time acquisitions (which require no explanation).
Throughout there has been the emptying of the prospect pool, and Noah Syndergaard in particular looks to be someone we will miss.
It is here that sports management is not quite like the actual sport. We always remember the home runs, not the strikeouts, but with sports management we have strange acumen to look at the strikeouts. While the news of AA’s departure is staggering, maybe we should really keep this in perspective and even give Shapiro a fair shake.