The Blue Jays Go All In
To put it bluntly, the past month and a half has been nothing short of glorious for your once moribund Toronto Blue Jays. The public has responded by coming out to the park in droves. You bet your bottom dollar it's a bandwagon. But Blue Jays fans have longed for 22 years to even say that much.
As of this writing, their team sits 3.5 games ahead of the Yankees for 1st in the AL East- spurred on by an unbelievable 32-11 run. It's been a welcome change from years of mediocrity on the field that took their toll on the psyche of most fans.
Since his hiring in 2009, GM Alex Anthopoulos (still just 38 years old) has been presented by the media scribes and the hardcore fanbase as a boy wonder with innate knowledge of the scouting world which he uses to stockpile picks and prospects. The hope was that those prospects would ideally reinvigorate the franchise. But we know how nothing works 100 per cent ideally.
To understand the scenario, one must go back to 2013 for the start of this push to contend. That year, Anthopoulos finally received a green light to "go for it" from ownership. Subsequent trading and signing of star power only resulted in 74-88 and 83-79 seasons.
Despite the overt attempts to kick start the Jays rebuild, patience began to wear thin — as it often does in Toronto — for Anthopoulos’s course of action. Around late July this season, it all looked like a horrible replay unfolding. Sitting 50-51 on July 29th (despite a June 11 game win streak), challenging for the division appeared a mere pipe dream for these Jays. A Wild Card spot was going to be tricky enough.
So... What changed? After watching his 2015 troops stumble past the All-Star break, Anthopoulos seemed to come to a realization. In the face of the same old tropes about "stay the course" and "trust in the future”, Anthopoulos had to part with some of his farm assets or risk watching another season go down the tubes; allow demoralization to set in just like in 2014 when he took no action at the trade deadline.
Unlike his 2013 wheeling n’ dealing, 2015 deadline was different. Anthopoulos was trying to add to a core moreso than manufacture one. Clearly, "Double A" prioritized Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman and Roberto Osuna as youth keepsakes while offering up Jeff Hoffman, Daniel Norris, Miguel Castro and Matt Boyd.
First off, he pulled a stunner by not only wriggling out of Reyes's albatross of a contract but also getting an elite shortstop back from the Rockies in Troy Tulowitzki (though he's struggled to play like one). Then most importantly, he acquired former Cy Young winner and legit ace David Price from Detroit a couple days later.
A slew of minor but still integral moves followed to bolster team depth and all of a sudden, the word “championship” has begun to seem not so ludicrous anymore. So finally, Toronto’s baseball fans finally have a taste of what was experienced many moons ago. To many, it feels quite reminiscent of 1985's triumphant, defining breakthrough. For certain, a deep run in October promises to knock everything else off the front pages in Canada. Yes, even the federal election.
As the architect, Anthopoulos could practically anoint a statue of himself if these moves all pay off in a World Series title. He also quite possibly saved his own hide. Incoming president Mark Shapiro, set to take over from Paul Beeston, would have a tougher dilemma on his hands about whether or not to keep his inherited GM if this team was still floundering.
But with AA being the talk of the baseball executive world, it seems an easy decision for Shapiro, one would imagine. To this author, Anthopoulos did what he had to do not only for the Jays well-being, but for his own job security. Another season of a talented squad flopping and/or Anthopolous failing to address the Jays needs could have resulted in the usual mediocre finish and perhaps his dismissal. His contract is set to expire so it wouldn’t have cost Rogers anything to part ways.
Who knows if this was all part of a plan going into 2015 for Anthopolous? Did he intend to go for it like this or did the progression of the season force his hand? Either way, rather than fold his deck hand he displayed it for all to see.
What a welcome change it's been for a franchise that’s been all too used to seeing the Red Sox or Yankees swoop in to nab the hot commodities. And now here we are: The Jays’ 2015 season becoming the country's most intriguing sports story- knocking on the door of a playoffs that could be as hotly anticipated as any in the history of the franchise. Yes, even 1992.
Evan Dowbiggin @EDowrimple #notthepublicbroadcaster