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What Alex Anthopoulos Left Behind

February 1, 2018

 

In 2014, many Blue Jays fans were tired of Alex Anthopoulos as GM and were calling into Mike Wilner’s Jays Talk, clearly upset with what he had failed to do, which was put together a ball club that could, at the very least, make September baseball exciting.

 

I’m not sure about you – but as a long time Blue Jays fan, I was so used to mediocrity that at the beginning of every season, all I wished for was to be able to watch games that actually mattered near the end of August while the stupid back to school commercials were airing for Wal-Mart.

 

And at that point in time, as I was - and we all were - just so used to dog-shit season after dog-shit season, the hope for playoff baseball was good enough for me. All I wanted was just some hope, but year-after-year September would come, the summer weather would change, and the Blue Jays would once again be playing trivial baseball. It became the thing to expect, kind of like being in a shitty relationship with someone who you should break up with, but don’t.

 

Now, in real life if you’re in a shitty relationship, it’s easy to just slip out the back, Jack, and get yourself free. But it’s not that easy when it comes to the team you love. It’s a goddamn marriage that you have to ride out through all the ups and downs and twists and Lord-have-mercy turns. It’s an arduous, lifelong commitment.

 

GMs, executives, players; they all come and go, but as fans, we’re around to see every new face and say good-bye to every proper legend. And we do this until it’s our turn to join the dirt, of course.

 

When Alex Anthopoulos took over as GM in 2009, the young Canadian kid brought with him a new hope. He was blue-collar, he was like one of us, he understood us, and, more importantly, he wanted to win (and he got rid of Vernon Wells’ contract.)

 

Alex Anthopoulos is lionized by many Blue Jays fans for the roster he boldly put together by the trade deadline in 2015, when he expedited the process, won the AL East, and brought back raucous life to the Dome, making the angry Wilner calls of 2014 a distant, hazy memory.

 

However, today, some fans are highly critical of how he ‘emptied out the cupboards’ to construct the 25-man roster that led to that playoff run. These complaints are given new life with every Syndergaard win and Tulowitzki trip to the DL. Personally, I wouldn’t trade the bat-flip that had our entire nation screaming for a thing.

  

And the truth is that the 2015 team definitely had the talent to win the World Series, but playoff baseball is so unpredictable - that and the rain delay in Kansas City. Yeah, that bullshit rain delay … that heartbreaking ending. I was so drunk and depressed. Anyway, moving on …

 

There isn’t a Blue Jays fan out there who didn’t love every pitch hurled during that 2015 playoff run. It was something that many of us long-time fans couldn’t actually believe was happening, even while it was happening.

 

And when David Price donned a Blue Jays cap and pitched his first game to a sold-out crowd at the place we all call Dome, it was the first time in far too many years that there seemed to be a reason to be excited about the Toronto Blue Jays.

 

And as much as it is easy to criticize the man for some of the trades that he made, it’s just as easy to praise him as well. Sure, it would be nice to have Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and Aaron Sanchez as the AL East legion of goddamn doom, but you can’t win them all.

 

And, shit, at the end of the day, who didn't love watching RA Jedi Dickey knuckle up and kick some ass? The man punched his RA time card, came to work, and pitched just over 822 innings in 4-years. Not bad at all. But, yeah, ya know, Noah goddamn Syndergaard though.

 

It’s no secret that Mark Shapiro and Alex Anthopoulos may have not looked at the baseball picture in the same way, which ultimately led to Alex’s departure from the Toronto franchise, and that’s fine. But Shapiro and Anthopoulos do have one thing in common: they both inherited weak farm systems and some fickle fans.

 

Anthopoulos did an excellent job drafting and turning one of the worst minor league systems into one of the best, as I’m sure Shapiro and Atkins are on the verge of doing as well.

 

Here’s the thing: I’m going to reach real hard for the low hanging fruit here and say that I’m pretty damn sure that the same people who wailed for Anthopoulos to be fired, probably now place him on some sort of Alex-the-Great throne, and, now, of course, piss all over the new front-office.

 

It’s time for the fans who shit on Shapiro and Atkins to give it a rest because it’s a stale, tiring tune that sounds worse than Boston Red Sox fans singing Sweet Caroline, but that’s just the nature of some of those Steve Simmons-types of fans out there in Blue Jays land and those people are never going to go away.

 

I digress. I’m not sure about any of you, but I think we’ve suffered long enough after the 1994 baseball strike and those dire desolate years that followed, and I’m cool with watching the Blue Jays be more than just some lame ass Michael Bay film. I don’t think those bleak years are going to return any time soon, and I don’t believe that the Blue Jays are going to lose the new fan base that Alex Anthopoulos helped build.

 

And sure, he may have made some questionable moves, but he made one damn are-you-kidding-me Billy Beane fleece for Josh Donaldson, which must be one of the better trades in franchise history – just sayin’. And he signed José Bautista to a 5-year, $65 million contract extension, which is arguable the best ‘team Pizza Pizza friendly’ contract in the organization’s Booster Juice history – again just sayin’.

 

So under his tenure, it’s no secret that he traded more than a baker’s dozen sighs worth of prospects, but he did leave the organization with some talent in the farm – a depleted farm, sure, but some talent that is near MLB-ready today and making some damn noise too.

 

The greatest gift left behind by AA is, of course, Vladdy Jr., who has been the most talked about Blue Jays prospect in years. It’s literally been Vladdy … Vladdy … Vladdy … all winter long and it’s pretty damn rock-the-casbah cool. I certainly can’t get enough of it.

 

And I can’t wait to marvel at what he does this season, as he hopefully continues to bang the baseball drum loudly just like his ol’ man, who recently marched his way through the doors on 25 Main St. in Cooperstown. Everything about Vladdy is something to be excited about, as he represents the new wave of blue that will be bringing us all to our feet.

 

In addition to Vladdy are-you-kidding-me Jr., AA has also left the organization with Anthony Alford, who he gambled on by paying him close to a seven-figure signing bonus knowing that he’d play college football and possibly abandon baseball for his pigskin dream – or get injured doing it. It was a big risk, and it paid off.

 

Another top Blue Jays prospect that Alex drafted is Ryan Borucki. And depending on what Toronto’s next move is this offseason and how they plan on adding depth to the pitching rotation, there is a good chance that Borucki will make his major league debut this season. This young man has moved through the system at an accelerated pace, as he went from starting the 2017 season in Dunedin, moved up to New Hampshire, and then to Buffalo. And how can I mention Ryan Borucki and then not Danny Jansen, amirite?

 

Anthopoulos drafted Jansen in the 16th round of the 2013 June Amateur Draft and he has now become the organization’s top catching prospect and, like Borucki, will probably play his first MLB game, at some point, this season.

 

Borucki and Jansen cruised through the system last year and they have been making some serious noise. Both of these prodigious stars will probably play major roles in the future years to come.

 

It’s also worth noting that the AA regime also drafted Danny Barnes, Tim Mayza, and Matt Dermody, who all pitched in Toronto last season. And these three young arms should play a significant role in the bullpen this year.

 

I know that it would be nice to have Noah Syndergaard, or Jeff Hoffman, and other prospects that were traded during Alex’s tenure, but he did leave the organization with some talent in the system. Maybe not a whole lot of it, but some, and it’s definitely enough for Ross Atkins to work with, as the new front-office continues to draft players like Bo Bichette, Nate Pearson, Logan Warmoth, and T.J. Zeuch.

 

I will never forget when the good Birds of Summer won the AL East in Baltimore against the shitty Trash Birds and Blue Jays fans in Camden Yards were chanting, ‘Thank you, Alex’, as the GM sat behind the Blue Jays dugout.

 

And, yes, thank you for sure. He may have left behind an aging roster for the current front-office to work with, but he did help create a team that will live in our hearts forever.

 

I don’t want to say this might happen, but I’m going to say that it would be cool if it did happen: imagine if the Toronto Blue Jays, led by Vladdy Jr. faced Alex Anthopoulos’ Atlanta Braves in the World Series, bringing it all back around to1992, eh!

 

Sure there won’t be a cool band like the Beastie Boys releasing an album like Check Your Head, but if this happens, I might just have to check mine.

 

 

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