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.