Alex Anthopoulos met with Jeff Blair on his Fan 590 radio show this morning in an uncomfortable, fascinating interview that curiously didn’t begin when it was originally scheduled, and featured the GM, at one point, holding himself back from speaking, because he didn’t want to “spark something.”
The subject matter was, of course, the freshly-announced signing of Ervin Santana by the Atlanta Braves, and while Anthopoulos danced around saying anything terribly concrete how his team factored into the deal, he did all he could to make clear that the Jays thought the had a deal with the pitcher, presumably on Saturday when it was being reported a deal was imminent.
Of course, if Alex’s aim was to say that but not say it, he could have briefed ol’ Gibbers on it first:
— Mike Wilner (@Wilnerness590) March 12, 2014
I guess Gibbons was just hinting it, too, but clearly that’s what happened. Or… at least… that’s the story.
Or, actually it’s the unofficial, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, story.
The official story is that the money was there — because, of course, it always is when the Jays miss out on a player (which, of course, is always) — bu Santana was bound and determined to pitch in the National League. Never mind that Colorado was involved, according to many reports, and his overwhelming desire never materialized at that point. Never mind that the option wasn’t even on the table until Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy got hurt and the Braves suddenly became an interested party.
Never mind that Ken Rosenthal, in his piece on the deal at Fox Sports, explains it thusly:
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos looked like he was on the verge of a coup when the Jays were the apparent front-runner for Santana. Anthopoulos had waited all offseason for a bargain on a starting pitcher, and his strategy seemed likely to pay off.
The Braves’ sudden urgency, however, demonstrated the risk of a GM waiting out the market and effectively getting too cute.
That’s sure what it sounds like. And given that, this is an impressive attempt at messaging from the Jays, who provide us with enough of a kernel of truth at each turn to maintain at least some plausibility. By the look of it Santana did ultimately decide he was better off pitching in an NL park. And it’s certainly possible, given the way that the rumour broke on Saturday, coupled with the verbal posture taken by Anthopoulos and Gibbons during their interviews today, that the Jays genuinely felt they had something done.
Aaaaaaand… let’s just ignore the bit where we cocked the whole thing up.
If that’s really the story, it’s a tough pill to swallow — and while he didn’t confirm it, that’s exactly what Anthopoulos sounded like he was trying to do during this radio hit. He even added what sounded like a passive-aggressive dig at Santana, responding to a question from Blair about his standing with the players on his club by insisting that everything is positive, and with a tone that again suggested he felt he’d been wronged, he added, ”The players were well aware of how everything transpired.”
Then again, during a scrum with the media following the interview, which has outstandlingly been transcribed by Gregor Chisholm at North of the Border, the GM dealt with a few pressing questions about whether the club was used during the process, and wasn’t quite as emphatic or clear about it, if you read between the lines.
“No. No. That’s probably the only thing I’m going to say. No,” he replied to that line of questioning.
And when he was asked if they were used by Santana’s side to gain leverage? “Normally I would say that. In this case I don’t think I would.”
Hmmm. And when the media returned to the subject of an agreement-in-principle that may not have been honoured, he continued to be evasive — perhaps tellingly so.
Did you have the impression that Santana was going to sign last weekend? There were obviously reports about a deadline being set…
“Um, yeah, you know what, I’d rather not say. I’d probably rather not say.”
You’re obviously being careful with what you say, but on a personal level are you surprised he didn’t end up signing with the Jays?
“That’s another good one. I’d probably rather not say on that one as well.”
Why don’t you want to say…
“You know what, I want to be respectful of everybody. Like I said, I wish him the best, I would have loved to have had him, I know a lot of our players would have loved to have him. I think it’s pretty obvious we were involved, it didn’t work out, I’m trying to take the high road here.”
But you thought it was done on Saturday?
“I don’t think I’ve ever come out and said that. In fairness, I don’t know that I want to characterize the discussions or the negotiations.
Obviously it’s done, he made his decision, he’s in Atlanta. Great signing for them, I wish him the best and sorry it didn’t work out with us.”
There’s obviously a lot you’re not telling us, do the players know the whole story?
“Obviously some guys have relationships with the player. I think the players that are close to him, the players that have relationships, know more than the players don’t have a relationship with him. They were obviously talking to him and trying to recruit him.”
And then this:
You said the reason you were given was that Santana had a desire to pitch in the National League…
“Strong, very strong.”
But the Braves weren’t even in the mix on the weekend when a deal was supposedly done or at least close. It was only after the injuries….
“That’s a good point. That’s a very good point. I think that’s a very good point.”
So it’s certainly the victim pose the Jays are striking, at least in their messaging to those willing to read the subtext, but will it fly? Fairly or unfairly, even if all of the most sinister wrongs they’re hinting at are entirely true, it’s hard to see them as the victim here, except victim of their own cuteness — a culprit they simply cannot afford to succumb to. And yet here we are. The Braves — the ability to pitch in a much more favourable league and park, with a view to his next contract — weren’t an option on Saturday and the decision to try to squeeze just a little bit more blood from the stone seems to have proven extremely costly for the Jays, no matter how they try to spin it.
Image via Dave O’Brien.