In the wake of Ubaldo Jimenez becoming a member of the Baltimore Orioles (don’t worry, I’m not getting into that), I started thinking. All in all, it’s been a winter of writing, reading and subsequent hand wringing among those interested in the Toronto Blue Jays. This obsession attention among fans has, in some cases, turned ugly. Some are calling for Alex Anthopoulos to be on the chopping block. Some fans are vowing to take out their frustration at the box office and not go to games, etc. I guess time will tell if that ire continues. If they Jays play well, look for the bandwagon to become more crowded.
Regardless, it got me thinking about how such a mess had been created in the first place. On the surface, it would appear that Anthopoulos is at fault. But, can we really blame Alex Anthopoulos for the frustration and anger over a mess of an offseason? At the risk of sounding old, perhaps we should blame social media.
The problems that existed for the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays have been hashed and rehashed many, many times. Injuries and lack of depth were probably the biggest problem that inflicted last year’s version of the Jays. Defense also was a glaring area of concern. So, the priorities for the offseason were very clear. Anthopoulos went to baseball’s winter grocery store with a specific list of items:
- Starting Pitcher (2)
- Second Base
Because the area of need was so obvious AND because baseball “news” is more like an act of inferring, the Blue Jays were “linked” to many different free agents and some other teams for trades. As always, there is a race to be the one to “leak” a story. So, if there is even a hint that a team may be leaning toward a player in any way, you want to jump on it. Enter baseball’s new art of speculation. The Blue Jays have been “linked” in one way or another to most of the bigger name free agents this offseason. There were rumours of Jose Bautista being a potential trade chip (Yeah, right. He’s the Face of the Franchise), Adam Lind on the move, Jays wanting to trade for Jeff Samardzija, Jays possibly trading for Brett Anderson, etc. That is not to mention the ad nausium speculation over free agent starting pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo and the bigger nail biter: Masahiro Tanaka. Depending on the “linking” and who wrote it, Blue Jays fans became more and more engrossed with the idea that the Jays MUST land one (or more) of the free agents. Every tweet about the Blue Jays having “interest” is another missed opportunity in the eye of fans. It seems like every year Toronto is mentioned in some fashion to a free agent, but this year it seemed like more of an ultimate necessity. It was as though the universe would implode worse than the 2013 season if AA did not reel in one of the free agents.
But, can we actually blame Alex Anthopoulos for our frustration? Not that he would, but he never said something like, “Yes, Team X has asked us about Jose Bautista and they’re offering Player Z”. He never gave us an account of conversations he had with any player agent. He never admitted any more than superficial interest in any player. Any comments he did make were meant to let fans know that he was working to address areas of need without breaking the bank and/ or making a silly deal.
More so this year than in the past, Anthopoulos has been more…cognizant… of fans being on the edge of their seats. He admits that he has been in contact with agents and other clubs. But, why would he give us more than that? Given that anything he says will be over scrutinized and maybe even bent and twisted to match headline selling speculations, why would he say more than what we already know? We know he’s been working. The details usually come out later as is the case with Ian Kinsler. We found out that Alex Anthopoulos seems a little miffed that he didn’t get a chance to enter the conversation about Doug Fister. But, until we hear these things, fans assume nothing is happening because nothing has happened.
Now, this is not to let Anthopoulos off the hook completely. The whole back and forth about the club’s policy of limiting free agent contracts to 5 years (now a guideline) was head scratching to say the least. He has made comments about the Jays being active if the right value presents itself. And, while it is not clear on what exactly that value has to be for him to jump, we have no choice but to accept that he has a plan. Perhaps that is what is so frustrating. Fans just do not see a plan. I’m not sure what fans really want. If the Blue Jays had signed Ervin Santana back in November for his asking price of $100 million, fans would have been screaming about overpaying and whether Santana is worth that.
Perhaps Alex Anthopoulos has nerves of steel and will prove us all wrong. Maybe standing pat is the right way to go. Afterall, can we really say that a year of a healthy Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ, Drew Hucthison, Kyle Drabek, Esmil Rogers, and maybe even Marcus Stroman will not be better than a year that saw only two members of the starting pitching staff (R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle) win more than 10 games?! I’d take the prospects of this year’s staff over last year’s debacle any day.
Remember, the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays are pretty much the same team that was picked to win the World Series last year. They are healthy. They improved at catcher. They have a more consistent solution at second. And, they have a deeper well of pitching (No more Chien-Ming Wang et al). Considering that, there is plenty of reason for fans to be excited this year.
If you’re not excited, it is understandable. If you are upset with the apparent lack of “doing” by the club, it is understandable. Just don’t blame the Ninja GM. If anyone is to blame for your disappointment in the Toronto Blue Jays, maybe it is the people who write about them.