Alex Anthopoulos has single-handedly restored my faith in the Toronto Blue Jays
I’ll admit it: I haven’t been the most positive fan of the Toronto Blue Jays over the past few years. In fact, I’ve been downright nasty and outlandishly pessimistic at times.
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It was only earlier this year that I (once again) called for the Jays to trade Jose Bautista and the rest of the team’s aging core. What I didn’t expect was Alex Anthopoulos to listen and swap Jose Reyes for Troy Tulowitzki.
I can recall watching Jays games way back when Carlos Delgado was the big bat in town. I sat through all the false starts and unfulfilled promises of the J.P. Ricciardi era. Vernon Wells, Aaron Hill, Lyle Overbay, Troy Glaus, Alex Rios: those guys were supposed to win it all for us. Instead, we got the New York Yankees stealing A.J. Burnett from us at the first opportunity.
(Remember the time Hill stole home plate against Andy Pettitte and the Yankees? That was quite the baseball high, but it was quickly followed by the low of another season that ultimately went nowhere.)
Aug 5, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Aaron Hill (2) throws to first base for the force out of Washington Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth (28) (not pictured) during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Ricciardi, like Brian Burke when he was the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, always spoke a big game so I held all this disappointment against him (and Mike Wilner, too). It was his fault; he built up expectations but failed to deliver on them.
My view of Anthopoulos is slightly different. In terms of managing the team, I’ve always appreciated his ability to find hidden gems and maximize the return on trades. If anything, I always thought ownership held him back. We bet big on the likes of Josh Johnson, Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, etc., in 2013, but the organization wasn’t willing to add anyone else when it became clear that this lineup just wasn’t good enough to win on its own.
The same thing happened last season at the trade deadline. We needed someone to play third base in the absence of Brett Lawrie. The Yankees pursued and got Chase Headley; we settled for Danny Valencia. (In retrospect, this was the right move, but you get my point.)
Jul 11, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Toronto Blue Jays third basemen Danny Valencia (23) reacts after hitting a three-run home run against the Kansas City Royals during the ninth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
I was mildly excited about the team heading into this season. Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson were solid pick ups by Anthopoulos; he used a flexible contract to snag Martin and somehow managed to pry Donaldson away from the Oakland Athletics for very little in return. However, none of this addressed the two biggest problems on the team – an ineffective starting rotation and an unreliable bullpen – so I kept my hopes for the season in check.
Everything changed for me when the Jays acquired Tulowitzki. This was another smart move by Anthopoulos – the price was reasonable and he isn’t a rental player – and it made me feel more confident about the present and the future of the team. We once again have a solid infield defence between Donaldson, Tulowitzki, Devon Travis and Justin Smoak. (It reminds me of the Glaus-Hill-Overbay days.)
“To hell with the starting rotation and bullpen! We’ll just hit our way to the World Series!” I thought.
Aug 8, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher David Price (14) pitches in the second inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
When the Jays added David Price, I was ecstatic. Although I welcomed the addition of an all-star “Ace” to the team, I was more impressed by the statement this sent to the fans and the rest of the league: the Jays are serious about winning this year. The other pitchers on the team – Dickey, Buehrle, Marco Estrada – were already doing their part. Price was really just the icing on the cake – the final major touch to something truly special.
The Jays have lost one game since Tulowitzki joined the club, and the addition of Price solidifies a pitching staff that has been among the best in the league since the all-star break. After chasing down the Yankees, we now have sole possession of first place in the American League East. Think about that – when was the last time the Jays led the division this late in the season? I think you know the answer.
As an oftentimes bitter Jays fan, all of this is unbelievable to me. I still can’t believe the Jays committed big time to Tulowitzki and Price – it feels like someone else should have landed these guys – but there was Anthopoulos quietly plugging away on the phone and leading the charge in the dark. Looking back, 2013 and 2014 weren’t the right years for the Jays. There were simply too many holes on the team. Anthopoulos took care of two of the major holes this past off-season – third base and home plate – and this allowed him to focus on a substantial infield upgrade, the starting rotation and the bullpen during the season.
In one season, Anthopoulos has completely restored my faith in the Jays and has laid the groundwork for a bright future. The majority of the current roster will be back next season, allowing Anthopoulos to work his magic again. That all of this change has come at the primary expense of the Yankees is another bonus. They’ve bullied their way to the top of the American League East for too long; we’re taking our lunch money back.
If I actually knew Anthopoulos, I’d buy him a beer. I owe him one – we all owe him one. I’ll have to settle for drinking one on his behalf.
Cheers to Anthopoulos and the Jays! It’s been a long and cruel wait, but we’re finally here and it couldn’t feel any better!
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