PITTSBURGH -- The good folks of Toronto have to be waking up with this thought this morning: Why can't we have nice things?
The news that Alex Anthopoulos has rejected an extension to remain as general manager of the Blue Jays is a stunner that leaves the entire direction of the franchise hanging, less than a week after the team was in the midst of its battle to make its first World Series since 1993.
This isn't about money. Anthopoulos has said several times this year he's got plenty, going so far to joke that he doesn't drive a fancy car and his house is already paid for. This is all about structure.
It's clear that Rogers Media, which owns the Jays, was greasing the skids for Anthopoulos' departure months ago when it first started negotiating with Cleveland Indians president Mark Shapiro to take over the same slot with Toronto. The move was announced in August and Shapiro officially takes the reins on Monday.
11:30 a.m. update: The Blue Jays officially confirmed the development with a statement from outgoing team president Paul Beeston.
Statement from Paul Beeston regarding Alex Anthopoulos pic.twitter.com/MLT2Ggpc0w
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) October 29, 2015
Blue Jays chairman Edward Rogers revealed in a statement Anthopoulos said no to a five-year deal.
“Alex has done a terrific job as GM of the Blue Jays over the past six seasons, and we would have loved it if he stayed with the club.,” Rogers said. “Like the fans, we too are disappointed he has chosen not to accept our five-year contract offer, but we wish him the very best. Alex leaves behind an outstanding front office team and coaching staff that played a key role in shaping the team’s great run this season. They will continue to operate in leadership roles next year as we look to build upon the team’s success. We remain committed to putting a winning team on the field and look forward to many more exciting seasons for the Blue Jays.”
Ownership nearly fired president Beeston last year in a clumsy attempt to overthrow the 70-year-old who is one of the franchise's original employees. They agreed to one more year with Beeston but had to figure when the Blue Jays were going nowhere in June and July that they were cleaning house after Beeston's departure -- and probably dumping Anthopoulos, as well as manager John Gibbons.
Then came the last three months and the trade deadline that changed a franchise. Troy Tulowitzki. David Price. Ben Revere. Mark Lowe. LaTroy Hawkins. That 43-18 finish. A division title. Sellout crowds.
Whoops. That wasn't in the plan.
Anthopoulos and Gibbons are now the toast of an entire nation and the folks at Rogers were stuck, clearly unable to say "never mind" to the promises they likely gave Shapiro about control of the organization. As Sportsnet's Michael Grange wrote two days ago, which Blue Jays team was Shapiro brought in to fix? And the winds of trouble were blowing as Richard Griffin wrote in the Toronto Star on Monday as well.
There's already chatter floating that Shapiro was concerned with the number of prospects the Blue Jays gave up in all their dealing. And it's true that the farm system is now pretty barren in spots (which has to be concerning for the Bisons). I can tell you without a doubt, from knowing him for the last 20 years, that Shapiro's philosophy does not agree with the way Anthopoulos operated at the deadline.
You would assume Shapiro has a plan to bring in lots of his own people. There was talk in Cleveland that he missed being involved in baseball after turning over the GM reins to Chris Antonetti. It was Shapiro remember, who built the Bisons' juggernauts of the late 90s as Tribe farm director and the 2007 Indians division champions as GM.
With Anthopoulos gone, his lieutenants could go too. Assistant GMs Tony LaCava and Andrew Tinnish and farm director Charlie Wilson would all seem to be in jeopardy, and all have had a strong working relationship with the Bisons.
And, incredibly enough, Gibbons may get shown the door as well. He's a prime Anthopoulos guy.
There will be a trickle-down to the Bisons from all of this as well, in terms of leadership coming from the parent club with the farm system. But that's of no interest to anyone in Toronto. Nor should it be. The franchise is on the cusp of being a power but has decisions to make about Gibbons, about making a play at Price and about the contract option for R.A. Dickey -- and next year about big names like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacaion.
What in the world is Shapiro's first press conference with the Toronto media going to be like? Before he's ever said a word publicly in TO, Shapiro is a pariah. And that's really too bad. The former Princeton football player is one of the sharpest guys I've ever met in sports.
But Shapiro better have some big plans ahead because he's toast in TO after this. Fans were chanting "Al-ex, Al-ex" after the Blue Jays' AL East clincher in Baltimore. What fan base chants the GM's name?
Now that GM is apparently gone after the franchise's best three months of the last 22 years. And the Yankees and Red Sox, among others, have to be smirking at the way the Blue Jays appear to be imploding from within.