Ahhhh, to think back on more quaint, innocent times here in Jaysland… like last Thursday! That was the day, long before any of this week’s unfortunateness, when the Jays were kind enough to let our very own Drew Fairservice sit down with Alex Anthopoulos for a wide-ranging interview that you can see in full over at Getting Blanked.
Obviously it would serve no purpose for me to reprint here what you can simply click the link above to see (seriously, do it), but what I can do is pick out the most interesting, eyebrow-raising segments and explode them all like so many small homophobic-slur-written-on-eye-black-in-a-different-language controversies… er… or something. And naturally, the main topic in an Anthopoulos interview that any fan is going to skip to regards payroll, and what we can expect to see there going forward. So let’s focus on that.
When we do so, we see that, unfortunately, at times, somewhat like his predecessor, I’m starting to get the sense that Alex actively wants to distance himself from the question. Granted, any of what appears to be a newfound appreciation for opening up on the subject may be due to the fact that, as he explains near the end of the conversation, “with more time spent in the job, it is natural that you get more comfortable in your own skin. At the same time, you get to know your own media so well and build relationships. You can let your guard down at times.”
With the conversation coming on the heels of last week’s minuscule-by-comparison flap surrounding Carlos Villanueva, perhaps that’s what Anthopoulos was addressing here, though he certainly didn’t do so directly.
“To be honest with you,” he says, “I get sick of having to be so guarded. It is exhausting. I know it is important to stay consistent but it is exhausting. Sometimes you want to feel like you’re just talking to your buddy over a beer and just have a conversation but the unfortunate part is you just can’t be like that in this job.”
At the same time– and presumably as part of feeling more comfortable in his own skin, and with the media in the city– he understands how completely pointless some of the guardedness can be.
“If someone is hitting .180 with 5 home runs and he’s playing every day — we don’t have this right now — but I say this person’s not guaranteed a job, I’m stating the obvious,” he explains.
It’s at least somewhat through this prism, I think, that his deliberate clarity about payroll needs to be viewed. All that understood, it’s not like he’s said anything terribly new here, rather, he continued to reiterate the not-too-outlandish idea that fans simply need to be “realistic” about their expectations when it comes to payroll– because, y’know, I totally seem to recall that it damn near bankrupted Rogers when the Jays ran a $75-million USD payroll a decade ago, worth $100-million now adjusted for inflation, while the Canadian dollar was worth about 63 cents, right?
Asked about last month’s deal between the Red Sox and Dodgers potentially being a model for future deals, he explained that “it is not so much a willingness to make a deal like that– everyone wants to make the club better. It is more about what’s realistic, what do you have to work with? Sometimes you just have to accept it.
“What the Dodgers and Yankees can do is different than what other teams can do. Rather than cry about it and stick your head in the sand, you don’t worry about it and you deal with what you have and you work with it. Our payroll is not top 5 but I think it is a solid payroll to have. There is room to go up but it isn’t going to go up for the sake of going up.”
Clarifying further– by which I mean making clear that he isn’t the one personally setting payroll, and therefore perhaps further implying that he’s not satisfied with where it’s at either– he explained that “sometimes it is viewed that the GM doesn’t want to do this or ownership doesn’t want to do this, it is not that black and white.”
“It is a balancing act,” he explains. “I told the media the other day: I have an area that I’m asked to stay around. In the right circumstances, that is where my conversation with Paul comes in. I’ll sit in his office and I’ll say ‘there’s a chance to get so-and-so and this is how it will impact payroll’ so there is dialogue about it.”
That said, this is a GM who doesn’t fear that money will not be there when he needs it, particularly for homegrown players. Edwin Encarnacion’s deal this season is a prime example, he explains, suggesting that last winter the club decided to wait on exploring an extension for Edwin, despite considering the possibility, due to Encarnacion’s strong second half of 2011, the spike in his walk rate, and– presumably, though unstated– the low cost.
However, ”sometimes it can be more damaging to do it too early and tie up your payroll versatility,” he says, not referencing anyone in particular *COUGH* Adam Lind *COUGH*. “We could have done this earlier but if we were wrong it is not only the money, you almost lock in the position on the field. If you start making too many of these mistakes you can’t hide everyone on the bench.”
And then the old refrain: “Paul always says he doesn’t mind waiting. He says ‘we will back up the truck’ when it is time.”
And how much could potentially be in that truck? Well… it’s not Alex’s job to know.
“I know what you’re saying, all our games are on Sportsnet/Rogers owns Sportsnet – it’s like the YES thing for the Yankees,” he says when asked about the shiny new cable deals that are powering spending around the league. “I’m never involved in those discussions and those meetings, it’s all way above me.”
“I know it is not what everybody wants to hear, but it is the truth,” Anthopoulos says at one point, summing up the entire conversation quite well. “It is a combination of things. Our payroll has gone up and everyone expects it to be significantly greater than it is, but it isn’t in a bad area.”
I mean… it’s not bad news by any stretch, it’s just… sigh.