Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos took to the airwaves last week, heading straight into the firing line in what was yet another eventful few days for a club that one suspects would rather just slink off into the ether until it’s about time for the Winter Meetings– or, hmmm… perhaps I’m merely projecting my own fantasies onto the organization as a whole at this point.
Speaking on TSN Radio with James Cybulski and/or Company (audio here), and on the Fan 590 with Bob McCown and– ugh– Damien Cox (audio here), Anthopoulos touched on a wide range of topics… but since the Fan hosts were mostly preoccupied with PED bullshit, we’ll mostly take a look at what he said to TSN.
We’ll start, however, with the Fan, as that’s where he said perhaps the most interesting thing of the mini radio junket, regarding their handling of Marcus Stroman’s suspension.
“If Stroman had been on the 40-man roster, whether he was at the big league level or had been optioned down to the minor leagues, all he would have gotten was a warning,” Anthopoulos said, striking directly at the key reason this whole damn thing is a non-issue not worth of discussion for half a bloody radio hit.
What might have been worth further exploration, however, was when he next said.
“We could have easily just said, ‘he’s getting a call-up in September,’ and this wouldn’t have been announced, he would have got a warning like I’m sure a lot of other players around the league have gotten– something like this. We didn’t feel it was the right thing to do. He’s in the minor leagues, and whether it was ignorance, negligence, that’s not an excuse, and unfortunately he has to pay the price for it. Though it wasn’t his intent, we weren’t going to certainly try to circumvent those things, and we’re going to stand by the program.”
So… hang on. This guy who most people thought was due a call-up in September anyway could have been called up, given a warning, not suspended, and nobody would have ever heard a thing about the positive test? But the Jays decided to make him sit fifty games anyway, the bulk of them at the start of next year? Am I hearing this right?
I mean, I guess I maybe understand the poor precedent-setting aspects of it, or the fact that the Jays don’t want to run further afoul of whatever fucker is reportedly forcing Jose Bautista to piss in a cup far more often than the average player has to, but the fact that the substance Stroman took would have only resulted in a warning if he had been on the 40-man roster removes a lot of the bullshit moral high ground surrounding “circumvention” doesn’t it?
I don’t know. But rather than follow up on this angle, the talk moved eventually to hypothetical questions designed to bait Anthopoulos into taking a hard stand on the filthy druggies in the game, as Cox wondered if the club would ever be interested in a player with a PED history. Hard hitting stuff! You get ‘em, morally upstanding reporters!
Fortunately, Anthopoulos was ready, saying that they’re “willing to give anybody a second chance, I’m not sure we’re willing to give a third chance or fourth chance.” (Are you listening, David Oritz?)
Turning to the TSN interview, in much the way he did on the Fan– but with far less of the unnerving possibility of hearing Cox make a bunch of goddamn hockey references– Anthopoulos addressed the John Farrell rumours, which were especially swirly as the club headed into Boston’s for the weekend’s series.
“I could have a ten year contract and everyone seems to assume that, when it comes to employees, staffing and so on, in any sport, the length of your contract indicates how secure you are in your job. That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Anthopoulos keenly explained. “All contracts do is guarantee an employee from a financial standpoint– they don’t guarantee his employment.”
“If people want to make links, start rumours and speculation like that, it happens with players, it happens with trades, and it’s the same thing I’ve always maintained: if I start to address every single rumour that comes out there, it’s exhausting, it’s time consuming,” he added.
“I think everybody knows where we stand when it comes to employees, when it comes to moves. Everyone knows what our policy is,” he continued, reminding us of the change in club policy that forbids employees to jump to another organization if only making a lateral move, not a promotion, which was necessitated by this same fucking circus a year ago. “I would hope that everyone would look at the facts, and maybe make an evaluation from that standpoint, but if people want to run with rumours that are not generated from our club, or even from our media, it’s not our responsibility to get dragged into it or to follow through with it.”
Speaking of which, much more so than in the past, it seems, there are some rumours that the GM seems willing to start– at least in the vaguest of terms– when it comes to his plans for the off-season. Reiterating a common– and obvious– refrain, he says that he thinks the main areas of concern continue to be in the rotation, and that’s definitely going to be the focus going into the offseason. That doesn’t mean that we won’t continue to look to try to improve the bullpen or the offense, but the rotation, without a question is clearly the priority.”
Maaaaaybe don’t go getting your authentic home white Zack Greinke Jays jersey printed up just yet, though.
“I don’t know that I look at it as one top-of-the-rotation starter or one fourth starter,” he says of the team’s specific needs. “I mean, you’re really looking at all five guys, for the most part, are going to end up with thirty starts or more. I think where the top of the rotation becomes that much more important is come the playoffs. Don’t get me wrong, I think any teams will continue to add top of the rotation starters– if you look at all those teams with the Braves, they had a bunch of frontline starters. You can never have too many, and you always make room for those type of guys. I don’t think it changes our mindset if we had a number one starter– if we had a Verlander on this team– it wouldn’t mean that if you can get a Sabathia type that you would turn away and say that ‘we’re all set, we have Verlander, we don’t need a one anymore.’ So you always look to upgrade. But I think it’s going to be more looking at it as a unit, and there’s a lot of ways to go about it. You want to get the best quality that you can, but even if you look at the 1993 World Series team in Toronto, I don’t know that they necessarily had guys that performed like a number one starter, but they did have a deep rotation, in terms of going deep into the game, throwing a lot of innings, giving you quality starts– the offence was outstanding, the bullpen was outstanding, and they won games that way. We’ll always look to get quality, but again, I think innings, quality starts, it starts there, and then you continue to try to do better.”
And what about the disasterfucking Ricky Romero and whatever else is already here?
“I think Brandon Morrow last year was a great example,” he says after suggesting Romero still has a chance to right the ship this month. “I think he had an ERA around five for pretty much the entire year, but we all knew that the upside and the ability and the stuff was certainly significantly greater than that, and the last three outings he finally showed up like the guy we all thought he was. And although it was three outings, we knew it was in there and it finally came back. With Romero, prior to his last outing, I thought his outing in New York, he looked outstanding. It was the same guy we’d seen the last two years before– the ace of the staff, the innings eater, the All-Star– he was back. Then obviously the next start he only went an inning– he didn’t throw well, the defence didn’t help either. But again, he didn’t throw well. I think we really need to continue to play out the season. But irrespective of how these guys end up, they’re only two of five. We’re going to need to try and be as deep as we can, and we definitely need to make upgrades.”
“It’s hard to evaluate staff, it’s hard to evaluate players. It’s really– you just don’t have much to work from,” he also says, speaking of trying to get a sense of what else they need to do going into next year, having been so decimated by injuries in this one. “You don’t want to work in small sample sizes– I mean, anybody can be hot or cold as a player for a month or two– and you try to piece it together. I look at it from an offensive standpoint, for pretty much four months of the year– I think to twelve days after Bautista was hurt– we led all of Major League baseball in runs scored. And I think going in, we expected to be a very good offensive team. So, from that standpoint, I think when everybody is on the field and healthy, I expect the offense to continue to be a strength of this team. Even if it does regress some, I don’t think it will be a weakness.”
Fair enough, I guess. I mean, he seems to have got the right ideas about where the club needs to improve, but that doesn’t mean it’s still not going to be difficult making it actually happen.
“It doesn’t prevent you from signing players,” he says of the foreign country issues, such as long lineups at customs that might be discouraging for wives who do a lot of border crossing with young kids. “It might be a little more challenging, and by more challenging it means you might have to pay a little bit more in terms of dollars to be competitive to the other teams, and the ultimate way to really solve all this is to win. And you can’t look any further than the World Series years, when you had some of the top free agents in the game who wanted to come to Toronto and wanted to sign here. If it’s not a winning team or a contending team, then clearly the dollars are going to have to carry the day, but if you can combine it with a contending team and a chance to get to the playoffs or the World Series, you’re not going to have a problem at all.”
Yep. Still the same stuff we’ve heard all along, with perhaps– perhaps– a touch more willingness to spend, couched in there somewhere among the ready-made excuses. And I don’t think there’s much hope of him saying anything less conservative about his plans anyway, so we’re still just going to have to wait and see what happens, fingers still firmly crossed that Rogers ponies up some damn money, and gives the GM enough flexibility to make some mistakes. It can’t be repeated enough: Anthpoulos has shown that he’s capable of succeeding, in relative terms, with a limited budget. Now is the time to take the reins off and see what he can do with more– and by “now,” I guess I mean in a couple of months, since it’s still only mid-September, i.e. the same time we start longing for the Winter Meetings every damn year. Ugh.
Image via Daylife.