The news conference held to announce the signing of Jose Bautista was something I wasn’t going to miss, because I wanted to know the thought process that went through the signing, and how Alex Anthopoulos would respond to the most obvious questions. I do want to point out some things about the news conference itself first, however, because some parts of it were notable.
- Alex Anthopoulos mentioned that his wife had never met Jose Bautista, but was already sick of hearing his name over, and over, and over again.
- Respect and the great lines of communication was once again mentioned in terms of the relationship between the Jays, Jose Bautista, and his agent. This is a notable trend that has become more evident as part of the Jays organizational makeup. A very positive trend.
- John Farrell seemed slightly out of the picture in this news conference, but Alex Anthopoulos did his best to make him feel included. Alex passed John a water bottle half-way through the conference, even though John hadn’t said a word to that point. When he did speak, John didn’t have much to add aside from how happy he and the players would be to have Bautista in the lineup once again.
- I was watching the news conference on Sportsnet East. Once the coverage ended, the show that precluded the conference had an interview with Jose, and the show that had been scheduled to air during the conference had an interview with him after that conducted by Bob McCown who asked some pretty elementary questions……I guess that so long as it’s all Rogers related, anyone and everyone at the station could get access to Jose that day.
The biggest question aimed at Alex Anthopoulos was in reference to explaining why they felt this investment in Jose Bautista was worthwhile, and he responded with the following, quoted from a Ken Fidlin article from the Toronto Sun:
“The easy thing for me to do is not do anything. The conservative approach is to let (Bautista) play it out. If he has a great season, maybe he prices himself out of what we thought made sense. If he doesn’t have a good season, well it would have been a good move not to sign him. But that’s not what we believe. We wholeheartedly believe in Jose Bautista as a person more than anything else. The ability speaks for itself. We’ve analyzed it up and down and the longer I’m in the game — and it hasn’t been that long — but over time and the more I’m around players, you’re betting on people more than anything. If we can’t bet on him, we can’t bet on anybody. That’s what it came down to.”
I’d like to add that it’s interesting to hear the “and it hasn’t been that long” part, because it fits with the people Alex has surrounded himself with, who do have a lot of experience and did help him and the Jays come to this conclusion for the Jays. It’s a testament to Alex understanding where he stands as a person, as a professional, and as a baseball person. One would imagine that someone attaining his level of management at such a young age would build up an ego and act more in a “know it all” manner. Nothing could be further from that when listening to Alex speak and watching him operate. He knows who to lean on, what he knows and doesn’t know, and he trusts those who he seeks advice from. What a guy.
The other interesting aspect of the quote above is the emphasis on the fact that the Jays need to “believe in Jose Bautista as a person” in order to make this kind of deal happen. He also mentioned Aaron Hill and Ricky Romero as individuals who fit the personal mould that the Jays are looking to keep or bring on board. In Hill’s case, does this indicate that his options will be exercised? Perhaps, and we should know that very soon. But, it’s an interesting message being sent out to other players in MLB, in that the Jays will not only pay those who perform well for them, but that they will only do so if you add some value to the team as a person. As many teams have found out over the years, talent isn’t everything. Having a cohesive clubhouse has its value and it’s the first time I’ve heard so much emphasis being placed on that in Toronto.
While JP Ricciardi went out and brought in some high quality free agents, some of the best from some off seasons, it seemed like the talent was all that the Jays were chasing at the time. And, they had to pay the price as a result. None of the guys they got had the Jays listed as their first options until they saw how much money was being offered. In Jose’s case, he wants to be a Blue Jay and loves the city of Toronto and its fans. The Jays recognize this and know what it can mean to a club to have such individuals in it. If everyone playing in Toronto is looking over the fence all of the time wondering whether or not they made the right choice in coming to Toronto, they may cause some club house anguish and have some players decide that Toronto’s not really a top destination for players to go to. But, if a player like Jose Bautista is continuously vocal in the club house about how great it is to be there and about how happy he is in Toronto, it can become infectious and really enhances the positive energy for the entire team.
It’s a great change for the Jays organization as a whole. Sure, they could have kept Shaun Marcum and Vernon Wells, two players who also fit the mould of great individuals who also loved Toronto as a city and its team. But, certain circumstances prevailed and the Jays were forced to deal with some realism in each case. At the very least, they realized the value they had in Jose Bautista and decided to make the significant investment required to retain him.
That’s my take on the news conference and its meaning for those who missed it!