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Photo Credit: YouTube.com

Alex Anthopoulos Said Some Cool Blue Jays Things

So, Cam texted me and told me about this interview that I needed to listen to on ‘Executive Access’ with the great Alex Anthopoulos – which you may have already checked out – and asked me to type something up about it.

And the truth is I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to dive into it because I have a couple other projects on the go, and I just recently did an Anthopoulos piece on my site, Jays Droppings, but in it I said this:

When Alex Anthopoulos took over as GM in 2009, the young Canadian kid brought with him a new hope. He was blue-collar, he was like one of us, he understood us, and, more importantly, he wanted to win (and he got rid of Vernon Wells’ contract.)

However, today, some fans are highly critical of how he ‘emptied out the cupboards’ to construct the 25-man roster that led to that playoff run. These complaints are given new life with every Syndergaard win and Tulowitzki trip to the DL. Personally, I wouldn’t trade the bat-flip that had our entire nation screaming for a thing.

Now, after listening to this recent interview, I feel even more strongly about everything awesome that Anthopoulos did to light the baseball-wick in Canada. And I knew that I had to share some of the interesting things that Alex said, as he looked back on his time in Toronto and revealed many cool truths.

And if you are hoping for some kind of teenage-drama-comments about the way things ended and how he didn’t see eye-to-eye with Mark Shapiro, you’re going to be disappointed. He stated in the interview that he was offered a great deal by Shapiro and that he has nothing but respect for him and that it was his decision to leave, despite being given every opportunity to stay.

I’m pretty sure that the media did what the media does and tried to turn the story into something much bigger than it actually was. And the timing of everything certainly made for some great Canadian drama, that’s for sure.

The Blue Jays finally made the playoffs in the greatest bat-flipping season in decades, the country caught baseball fever again, Alex won the hearts of every fan, and then the big bad American, corporate-looking Shapiro came in from Cleveland and ruined everything… ugh.

They’re both great executives and the Toronto organization is moving in a winning direction, as far as I’m concerned. And Atlanta just added a passionate Canadian GM, who will do everything he can to bring back playoff baseball to his new fan base. I don’t think any of us could dream up a better World Series rematch than our good Birds of Summer playing Alex’s Braves.

Let’s take a look at all the cool things that Alex said…

***

About how he didn’t want Edwin Encarnacion in the beginning…

Heck, no. Um, I remember when we traded for Jose Bautista – ya know, they are all linked. So, we traded Scott Rolen – he wanted out… turf, so on. And J.P. Ricciardi was the GM, and we traded Scott Rolen; we did not want Edwin Encarnacion back in the deal. It was part of a way to offset some salary. I think he was on a 2-year deal with the Reds at that time – 5 million dollars was a lot. And, um, we didn’t want him as part of the deal. The real haul in the deal was Zach Stewart – was the main guy in the deal. That’s the guy that we really went back-and-forth over for a month, so we had to take Edwin Encarnacion as part of the deal.

About how the Bautista acquisition went down…

And when Scott Rolen got hurt, we had seen Jose Bautista a ton in spring training – utility guy, he played all over, played the outfield, played the infield, could play third base. And Rolen’s shoulder was starting to bark and we just needed somebody that could fill that utility role; that could fill that spot. So, Rolen gets hurt and we need to go get a guy, and Jose Bautista is on trade waivers at the time. I remember going to J.P. Ricciardi and telling him, ‘Look, Bautista is on trade waivers.’ He loved him – he had seen him in spring training. I loved him – we’d seen him in spring training. We claimed him, and we got him. We made a small trade for him, and no chance we thought for a second both guys were going to be what they were. So, right place, right time.

Not even AA knew what Edwin and Bautista were going to become…

I’d love to say that we were really ahead of the curve. We saw this coming. We had all this great analysis done. I think one thing as an organization that we did a good job of was that when we bought into their ability, we signed them. But, ah, the actual acquisitions – the thought was not that they were going to become stars.

About trading Roy Halladay…

It’s crazy to say, but I wasn’t rattled about it. There had been so much talk about it. He had demanded a trade, and he had a year left on his deal. So, we were staring down the barrel of two draft picks. He wasn’t coming back. We were going to enter into a rebuild, we were accumulating draft picks, trading – we were going to lose some free agents… And the farm at that time – we didn’t have much – Zach Stewart was the top guy. So, we knew we had to move him. We knew he wanted to go. We knew he wasn’t going to sign back. We had a full no-trade, which certainly didn’t help things. But, you just feel like you didn’t have an option. Any offer, you just compared it to getting that draft pick at the end, which was a type-A, so you’d get two draft picks for him. The Phillies were really the only place that he wanted to go. And, um, we did the best deal that we could to get the best players that we could in that deal. Him having a no-trade clause though, the experience was brutal. And I had already decided it before, but we didn’t give out any no-trade clauses when I was there for the 6-years. Um, I just didn’t want to go down that path again; it was a tough way to operate.

The Vernon Wells contract…

He had a full no-trade clause, so that was a difficult thing. I think at the time, he was only wanting to go to three places. I think it was the Rangers, the Padres, and obviously, the Angels, so it’s a needle in a haystack. Now, he came off a great year. He was an all-star – had a great year. Some big deals were signed; I think a few years earlier, Alfonso Soriano had signed that big deal. Carlos Lee had signed a big deal. I think Jayson Werth had just signed that deal with the Nats… So, his (Vernon Wells’) contract for that number of years – I know a lot was made of it – but it was a shorter term than a lot of those deals and he was coming off a great year. I’m not trying to defend anything, but that was the reality. I think a lot was made of us being able to move the contract, but I think that there was a lot of good things about the year he had and the terms of the deal. If we didn’t move him, we had Jose Bautista basically going into the last year of his deal with us. And where our payroll was financially, we couldn’t have $20 million dollars of Vernon Wells and $14 – 16 million dollars of Jose Bautista both on the payroll. So, if we don’t move Vernon Wells, I can’t tell you that Jose Bautista stays in Toronto – or that we’re able to afford signing him to that deal.

The Miami And RA trades…

There was a lot that went on, um, 2012 – just where the organization was, um, where everything was going. In hindsight, we moved too fast. I think from a brand standpoint, what it did for the city, the country, attendance – all those things moved the needle tremendously. From a baseball standpoint, in hindsight, we weren’t ready to take that jump. And, um, ya know, really in doing those things, we kind of stayed stagnant there for that period 2013 and 2014. And I remember at the end of 2014, we finally had some contracts coming off the books. And I think that I even said at the end of my press conference at the end of ‘14 that I felt I’m more excited for the offseason in ’14 than I have been in any of the other ones because we had money coming off, financial flexibility, and I felt I had evolved as a GM and I learnt from a lot of mistakes. And I finally started, in my mind, to put together what type of players we wanted to have in the clubhouse.

***

Honestly, if you haven’t listened to this interview, you definitely should. He touches on JD, how he told Martin that he would sign with the Jays and other cool things as well.

Now, it’s easy to criticize any GM in the league because there isn’t one that doesn’t make a bad signing – or a questionable trade. But, Alex brought baseball life back into a country that so desperately wanted it and for that, ‘Thank you, Alex.’

The team is now heading in a different direction and not enough time has passed to be able to fairly assess the new front-office. But they are interested in creating a winning culture that extends from Vancouver all the way to the Dome. I hope to hell that it happens and I can’t wait for this season and the future seasons to come.

At the very least, Alex left the organization with the greatest parting gift ever in big bad Vlad and hopefully in the future it’s Vald’s bat that helps Toronto beat his Braves in the World Series. That there, would be cool as fuck.

  • Regulator Johnson

    All the talk about how empty the farm system was when AA left I’d forgotten how miserable it was at the end of the JP era. Wow, Zach freaking Stewart (who we didn’t even draft). The way AA played with the draft comp system really was a work of art, whatever you think of the rest of his decisions.

  • Steve-O

    “However, today, some fans are highly critical of how he ‘emptied out the cupboards’ to construct the 25-man roster that led to that playoff run. These complaints are given new life with every Syndergaard win and Tulowitzki trip to the DL. Personally, I wouldn’t trade the bat-flip that had our entire nation screaming for a thing.”

    This. A million times this.

    • Nice Guy Eddie

      Except that neither trade had anything to do with the ‘bat flip’. Tulowitzki played a paltry 24 games, with a 89 OPS+ before going on the DL and being replaced by Goins who was an upgrade. Dickey was a league average pitcher at best, who didn’t even make the 2016 playoff roster

      • The Humungus

        Considering that the guy he replaced had an OPS+ of 92, using that as the metric for definition of whether or not Tulo had anything to do with the bat flip is absurd.

        Troy Tulowitzki played in 41 games, not 24. And in those games he produced a defensive WAR of 0.9, replacing Jose Reyes, who’s dWAR was -0.6 in 69 (nice) games.

        Ryan Goins produced an 83 OPS+ in 128 games that year, playing 58 at Shortstop. Tulo’s advanced metrics had him as a better shortstop than Goins in 2015.

        So, in short, Tulo was better than both Goins and Reyes at run prevention, which was the biggest reason for the trade (both at the time, and still asserted now).

        So, yes, that trade had something to do with the ‘bat flip’, because the marked improvement in infield defense, even for those 41 games (which is a quarter of a season), was one of the reasons why a 50-51 team with the best offense in baseball went on a tear that won them the division and had them within 2 games of a World Series appearance.

        As far as the Dickey trade goes, that trade was made with 2013 in mind, not 2015, so making any assessments other than Dickey was the best 4th starter in the AL that year is moot. And having a reliable starter in the number 4 spot was one of the reasons they were able to trade a guy like Dan Norris (and the previous offseason trading Kendall Graveman to get JOSH FUCKING DONALDSON) became tenable.

        Stop looking at the deals in a vacuum. Your arguments are never anything more than weak reactionary bullshit.

          • The Humungus

            It’s ridiculous.

            Sure, Noah Syndergaard would look great in a Jays uniform right now. And a rotation that starts with Syndergaard, Sanchez and Stroman would be awesome.

            But it was 5+ goddamned years ago. This wasn’t Michael Young for Esteban Loaiza. This was a guy who contributed to a winning team for a prospect who’s potential for success was based on him developing a breaking pitch (and was, at the time, regarded as an inferior prospect to both Sanchez and Osuna).

            There are numerous shitty deals this franchise has made. Or deals that looked good at the time (the Halladay trade was far worse than the Dickey trade). Harping on this one is just clown shit.

        • Nice Guy Eddie

          I wasn’t the one who put the Syndergaard fleecing and the Tulowitzki debacle in the same sentence as the bat flip. l pointed out, correctly, that neither of the former had much to do with the latter. Your drivel misses the point, because it’s not clear you understood the points being made. Keep on being an ‘Alex’s Lil’ Ninja’ though. It’s cute.

          • The Humungus

            I understand that the moves can not be looked at in the insipid vacuum from which you see them. Tulo improved the team in 2015, and Dickey was trading your third best pitching prospect and a catching prospect when you had a 25 year old guy who you thought was the guy behind the plate for a guy who was to be, even then, your number 2-3 starter, and by 2015, was your number 4/5 guy (and the best 4/5 starter in the AL). For the record, RA Dickey was worth 2.7 WAR in 2015, Syndergaard was worth 2.4, so Dickey provided more value to the 2015 Jays than Syndergaard would have, and since that’s the season we’re talking about, your argument is, again, laughable.

            And I’m clearly not “pro Alex”, as I did mention how shitty the Halladay trade was. To get zero major league regulars for that guy is criminal, regardless of the situation.

        • Nice Guy Eddie

          Sorry ‘Humungus’. I won’t dare criticize anything that ‘Ninja Alex’ did, ever. If you are so desperate, as you clearly are, to defend every move, good or bad, that Anthopoulos made, and justify it no matter how bad it was, then there really is little point in discussion. If you can’t see taking $100 million of salary obligation for the useless corpse of Troy Tulowitzki as a bad move, frankly a pathetic move given the poor positional player drafting that Anthopoulos was responsible for, and the fleecing by the Mets for a generational ace for a 38 year old trick pitch guy, as terrible moves, then you are truly not able to think intelligently.

          • The Humungus

            Are you stupid? Can you not read?

            AA did not trade a “generational ace” for a “38 year old trick pitch guy”. He traded his third best pitching prospect for a guy who was going to make an immediate impact on a team he thought could make the playoffs in 2013.

            You don’t win championships hugging prospects. Sometimes you have to trade them to improve. Even if it didn’t work out the way it was envisioned, looking at the deal in a vacuum and only in hindsight is pretty much the dumbest form of analysis.

          • OakvilleJays

            AA was smart to get rid of Jose Reyes. He ended up being charged with domestic violence & would have had to be DFA’d by the Jays at a huge financial cost. Tulo was an upgrade over Reyes.

        • OakvilleJays

          Excellent recap. I listened yo the interview & was happy that AA realized that he wanted to get baseball fans excited again about having a playoff team. He created tens of millions of franchise value for Rogers.

      • Steve-O

        lol …yoooo just keep going back to that well, Eddie – in a weird way I *almost* admire your willingness to be consistently, laughably wrong about easily verifiable facts

  • Hentgen

    One thing forget about Alex’s play at the deadline was how freaking reasonable it was to make a push for the playoffs. The Yankees were six or seven games ahead, but the wild card was completely open. The Jays were just a game out against some clubs clearly overachieving their level of talent.

    It was a gamble, but not nearly as crazy of one as you’d might think when you look at the Jays’ record at the time.

    That’s what I liked about Alex, he wasn’t afraid to go for it.

    • Tomcat34

      Alex has huge balls and isn’t afraid to wave them in opposing GM’s faces. It was documented that Shapiro chastised Alex in his first meeting for trading away too many prospects. It was not the media creating something. Alex was faced with being put on a short leash by Shapiro and after everything he had accomplished that previous year , the right thing to do was to throw up the middle digit at the one year (good bye contract) and then the five year (chained up in a gimp room) contracts offered by Marky Mark and the Rogers Bunch. Alex should not be remembered ever as someone who abandoned the team but rather someone who was forced to change his beliefs right away or walk the plank. He is being politely dignified (Canadian) in his response with what transpired with Shapiro but fans should not forget what has happened to him.

      • OakvilleJays

        Shapiro was furious with AA because AA created a very high bar of expectations for Jays fans. Shapiro said he would have started the rebuild ASAP but was forced to stay competitive because of the high TV ratings & full stadium.

  • OakvilleJays

    Excellent recap. I listened yo the interview & was happy that AA realized that he wanted to get baseball fans excited again about having a playoff team. He created tens of millions of franchise value for Rogers.