Alex Anthopoulos came to the Toronto Blue Jays just around the time my baseball obsession was really starting to take hold. As a high schooler who liked numbers and sports, it was fitting to see a general manager hired who also happened to like numbers and sports. Maybe anyone who was hired prior to the 2010 season would have been the 'guy' who I associate with helping to get me hooked on baseball for life. But it was Alex Anthopoulos. When I began to accept that I was not good enough to be Vernon Wells or Carlos Delgado, I decided I wanted to be Alex Anthopoulos. Which makes today's events even more disappointing.
Throughout the years I, along with every other fan, have fallen in love with certain players and eventually seen them move along. As painful process as there is for sports fans. After losing favourites such as Aaron Hill and Brandon Morrow, I began to slowly stop liking specific players who were here today and gone tomorrow but also found myself struggling to simply "root for laundry" like many fans are able to do. Instead I began to just support the brain trust of the team, after all they are the ones who put the players on the field in the first place. They also happen to be the sole consistent part of an organization from year to year barring disaster. Or so I thought.
Ironically, I woke up today in my humorous Alex Anthopoulos shirt which is rarely worn, to the notification that he would not be returning to the team. I know of the jersey curse, where a player whose jersey you purchase is sent packing shortly after, but I had no idea it also was effective with general manager bedtime shirts. At first I felt betrayed by Anthopoulos, for leaving a team at such a high point in search of greener pastures. Then I, along with almost everyone else, felt betrayed by the powers that be who reportedly forced the 38-year-old out of the Rogers Centre and into unemployment. Whatever happened behind closed doors is always going to be murky—you don't take AA as the tell-all memoir-writing type of guy—but from the outside it looks pretty bad.
When every casual sports fan in the city began to love the Blue Jays this year, they associated the success with what Alex Anthopoulos had done to assemble this squad. He was even serenaded in Baltimore during the division-clinching game in Baltimore and cheered by fans everywhere he went. How often can you think of a situation where a front office executive is that celebrated by a fanbase? He had almost taken on the role of some baseball mastermind, which is probably more praise than any general manager deserves. Now he's been cast away from a team that contains more of his finger prints than a crime scene done by a bad criminal.
What would have happened if the Blue Jays were able to manage those extra 90 feet in Game 6 of the ALCS and won Game 7 as well? Would the team be bold enough to let their head honcho who got them to the World Series just walk away over a reported disagreement in role specifics? Keith Law recently chimed in saying he thinks John Gibbons will be right out of the door after Anthopoulos as part of the organizational shuffle. How often does a World Series contender clean house to this much of an extreme? There's guaranteed to be an adjustment window with all the new faces coming in, which could end up being a pretty similar size to the Jays window to compete. With so many new fans now onboard with the franchise, it would be a shame if all the positive momentum was lost.
All that being said, Mark Shapiro is a smart guy by all accounts and a good baseball mind, which makes the loss of Anthopoulos slightly easier to swallow. If anyone was able to step into the void and keep the ship going it should be him. But even former front office types are noting that it takes time to adjust to a new team and learn the people and the culture (not to mention the country). Anthopoulos has stated often this year that it took a while before he realized that character has to play a role in player acquisition. But coming into a new franchise, it's hard to tell the character of R.A. Dickey from Alex Rodriguez (okay maybe not that extreme).
All eyes are now on the man given the task of stepping into the big shoes and getting the job done. There's going to be more than a few people ready to blame him for any failures the team comes across next year, with very few giving him any credit for the success. An unfair position to be in surely. I'd reckon that if Toronto wins another banner next season, chants of "Thank you Mark" will not echo around the stadium. But that's what happens when you jump on a rollercoaster near the top.
So goodbye Alex Anthopoulos. You weren't a perfect general manager, but you did some darn good work in Toronto. Back in August I stated that he made all of the huge moves at the deadline to try and save his own job. They ended up working out as well as you could have hoped, making me eat my words, and yet he still finds himself out of a job. The only consolation is that the 2015 AL East champions banner that hangs high in the Rogers Centre has his legacy all over it. At least that won't be going anywhere soon.