Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/12/2015 (1975 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Toronto Blue Jays’ decades-long streak of winning the World Series in February appears to be finally coming to an end this winter, judging by all the sky-is-falling talk coming out of that city’s always hysterical sports media.
A notorious bunch of sycophants who have for years drank the Blue Jays Kool-Aid every spring training — This is the year! No really, we mean it this time! — the Toronto media seems to have collectively decided this winter the team’s new management has gotten it all wrong and only dark times loom ahead.
Typically — and hilariously — it’s they who have gotten it wrong. Again.
The hand-wringing started in October, with the departure of Alex Anthopoulos, who had ingratiated himself with the local intelligentsia by leaking like a sieve for much of his six-year reign as Blue Jays general manager.
The consternation picked up speed when it became clear the Jays wouldn’t be re-signing pitcher David Price, who ultimately signed with division rival Boston in a seven-year, US$217-million deal the Red Sox are going to regret for years to come.
It hit terminal velocity in the past month, when a dreaded "outsider" — former Cleveland Indians boss Mark Shapiro — was formally introduced as the club’s new president-chief executive officer, and he promptly named another outsider — former Indians executive Ross Atkins — as the team’s new GM.
And it just got silly this week, when Shapiro suggested during a luncheon with a cabal of Toronto reporters that, no, the Jays probably won’t be replacing the expensive artificial turf installed at Rogers Centre last spring with grass — as Anthopoulos and former club president Paul Beeston wanted to do.
Shapiro’s disclosure was greeted by the local media as yet further evidence that: a) he’s a tightwad, doing the bidding of the club’s hated corporate owners, Rogers Communications Inc.; and b) he just "doesn’t get us," like Anthopoulos did.
Leaving aside the craziness that is attempting to grow grass in a winter city in a domed stadium — even one with a retractable roof — the hysteria over all things Blue Jays the past couple of months has missed the point entirely.
This remains a really, really good team that is going to do all kinds of damage all over the American League next summer.
They let Price walk. But Shapiro replaced him with the much more economically priced J.A. Happ, who went 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA in the second half of the 2015 season.
Aside from that one significant personnel change, the Blue Jays will field the same team that went to the AL Championship Series in October, and came within a couple of key plays — and some shaky umpiring — of playing for its first World Series title since 1993.
American League MVP Josh Donaldson? Still on the team. Sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista? Still on the team. Five-time all-star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki? Yes, still on the team.
And Price? The Blue Jays have a brighter future — not darker — after parting with a guy they essentially rented for a playoff push at last year’s trading deadline.
For starters, Price has a terrible record in the playoffs (2-7 with a 5.12 ERA).
More to the point, re-signing Price for the stratospheric price he was demanding would have meant the Jays would be hard-pressed to re-sign Bautista and Encarnacion, who are both in the final year of their contracts in 2016.
The Blue Jays play in a big city, but in terms of Major League Baseball, they would more accurately be described as a middle-market team.
And as much as fans don’t want to hear it, there are budget realities which have come into even sharper focus with the plummeting Canadian dollar and the realization the $5.2 billion Rogers is paying for NHL broadcasting rights is looking like a money-loser. (A column for another day.)
But playing within a budget doesn’t have to mean playing losing baseball, as evidenced yet again last fall as the Kansas City Royals won the World Series and the Los Angeles Dodgers couldn’t get out of their National League Division Series.
The real test for Shapiro — and for what Rogers’ intentions are with the Jays — will come in 2016 in the negotiations with Bautista and Encarnacion. If Shapiro can lock down that pair for years to come, Jays Nation — and everyone else — will quickly forget about Anthopoulos.
I’ve got no dog in this fight. I inherited an allegiance to the New York Yankees as a child and I’d love nothing better than if all this talk about the Blue Jays sucking forever now that Anthopoulos is gone were true.
But it’s not, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if this club finally gets back to the World Series next fall, now that the Toronto media have turned on them.
They’ve been wrong about this team forever. And now that they’ve finally switched sides, I’m betting they’re wrong again.
Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.