With every passing day, and particularly with each critical loss, the clock is ticking more loudly on the tenure of Alex Anthopoulos. And while the season is by no means lost for the Toronto Blue Jays, their general manager is surely aware of his possible fate at the season’s end.
September 18, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos speaks during a press conference addressing offensive comments written on the eye black of infielder Yunel Escobar (not pictured) before a game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
I need to start by saying I’m an AA fan. His rise to the top was the stuff of fairy tales. Born in Montreal in 1977, the same year as the Blue Jays took flight in Major League Baseball, Anthopoulos started his baseball career with the Expos by volunteering to sort player fan mail. Eventually, he landed a media relations job and then became a scout for the Expos.
In 2003, he arrived in Toronto, working under then general manager J.P. Ricciardi as a scout coordinator. Ricciardi quickly promoted Anthopoulos to assistant general manager in 2005. In this role, Anthopoulos was able to prepare for his current role as general manager, a position he inherited from Ricciardi in October 2009.
He has established himself as a very thorough and astute man during his time at the helm of the Blue Jays. There have been many trades, and signings, during his time in Toronto. Perhaps the biggest was his first – sending pitching ace Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies for Kyle Drabek, Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Taylor. It seems that Anthopoulos makes calls on just about every player in baseball, taking pride in knowing the prices of everyone on, and off, the market.
However, after making a big splash in late 2012 with the acquisitions of Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and John Buck from the Miami Marlins, and R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets, expectations for success were raised to levels not seen in Toronto since the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Aug 2, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (43) comes off the field during the game against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Unfortunately, the Blue Jays failed miserably last season, despite the high hopes of players and fans. The team was decimated by injuries to key players, and those who stayed healthy underperformed badly – remember J.P. Arencibia?
The Blue Jays entered this past off-season boasting plans to bolster their pitching staff, improve at second base and at catcher. Well, not much happened, with the exception of the signing of free agent catcher Dioner Navarro. And while that signing has turned out to be a very good one, the team still finds itself in need of pitching (though the bullpen may be more a need right now) and the second base situation has still not been resolved, either.
Anthopoulos had a first place team at the beginning of June. That was when the wheels started to come off. Injuries. Slumps. Losing streaks. Yet, no moves were made. At the all-star break, some players spoke about the hope of trades. After the break, the team began to play better, leading to speculation of moves to help put them over the top. But at the trade deadline, fans were told that costs were high, and that when the (still) injured players returned, they would bring more to the team than any trade could.
Today, the Blue Jays are still without those players. Brett Lawrie returned for all of three innings on Tuesday, before heading back to the disabled list with a strained oblique. He is likely out until at least mid-September. Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind are apparently close to returning, though Lind is now dealing with some back tightness after a rehab start in Dunedin.
Aug 5, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie (13) fields a ball during batting practice before a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
The Blue Jays are currently six games out of first in the American League East, and are no longer in a playoff position. They are struggling offensively and desperately need help in the middle of the batting order. The first place Baltimore Orioles are for real, and do not appear to be stumbling. But they aren’t running away with anything yet, either. They can be caught. The division can still be won. Playoff baseball can still be brought to Toronto this fall.
It is not time to panic, and the season is not lost yet. Something needs to be done to improve this team. Anthopoulos can hear the clock ticking on the season, and possibly his tenure as general manager. His decisions in the coming days may ultimately determine the fate of his team and himself.