IS THIS DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN?

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The expression on Josh Donaldson’s face said it all after making contact with the pitch and I knew instantly the Jays season was a routine toss to first from ending. Timing it so my thumb pressed any button on the converter the second the ball snapped into the glove of the Royals first baseman Hosmer, it was over just like that.

What seemed like an eternity, the heartbreaking silence was finally broken when Deb turned to me and casually said, “Mike, I’m proud of our guys, they played hard and gave us a season full of excitement and entertainment, which made it enjoyable to go to the park.”
“Runners at second and third, none out, we eat teams for lunch under those circumstances, I can’t believe what I just saw,” I said in a voice cracking with disappointment.

When the pain of the loss subsided (it’ll never completely go away) I knew Deb was right. A swing of the bat here or there and who knows. We’ve been season’s ticket holders for six years and get to around fifty games a year. Nothing beats a warm evening with the roof open watching the Jays and the bonus is living close enough to walk to games on the weekends. The growth of the team over the last number of years has been extremely exciting to watch. This year was a breakout year for a number of players. Josh Donaldson brought a winning attitude both on the field and in the locker room in what should be an American League MVP award for him. Ryan Goins emerged as the second coming of Robbie Alomar with spectacular play, Kevin Pillar the human highlight reel (with a hockey player mentality) matured into a star in centerfield and what about the coming of age of Roberto Osuna, Aaron Sanchez or the miraculous recovery of Marcus Stroman.

These are just a few of the examples we as fans have experienced over the last season that lead to the bold changes at the trade deadline, taking the team to another level. The architect responsible for the moves Alex Anthopoulos, also matured into the position over the last six years running the ball club. Is it a coincidence that his term is the length of time we’ve been season’s ticket holders? No its not.

Early in his tenure, the “Globe and Mail” did an in depth story of Alex’s plan to move the Jays forward. His first step was to revamp the Jays scouting system that at the time consisted of three pro scouts. In some detail it was explained how the draft was critical to building a winning team (where have we heard that one before fellow Leaf fans) and they were putting into place, a complex scouting operation. I was so impressed with the vision and approach; we decided to buy-in with season’s tickets.

The events of the last few weeks leading to the departure of Alex has not only left me a very bitter fan but also concerned about the direction of our Toronto teams, particularly the Leafs.

My baseball friends tell me that Ed Rogers wanted to fire Alex a year ago but Paul Beeston bought him time. They rewarded Paul by looking for a replacement behind his back. Now Mark Shaprio maybe a very capable guy and certainly not his fault he negotiated a contract giving him total autonomy over the ball club. That seems to be the new role for most Presidents of baseball organizations today. But why the rush to sign him?

He was running an underachieving, barely 500 ball-club with one of the worst attendance records in the game. The word on the Jays was Alex was a star in the making but management was a concern because the head role changed so frequently; go in with your eyes wide-open and demand full control over baseball operations.

That’s exactly what Shapiro did. Alex was doomed the minute that deal was inked because any role moving forward would not include final say on baseball trades thus at best a sideways offer.

The talks between Alex and Shapiro didn’t go very well and apparently the moves made at the deadline came into question because the Jays gave up to many prospects. Alex put the Jays in the position through strategic drafting and scouting to make those moves at the deadline. Word is Anthopoulos turned the Price trade down originally, but because Rogers was delaying extending him, he was left with no choice but to go for it and that’s exactly what he did. And guess what folks? It worked. The team soared, ad revenue increased, viewership set record levels and the Jays brand-awareness exploded across North America.

Ed Rogers painted himself into a corner because of the continuous bumbling and incompetent ways he’s tried to mange the family asset (the only reason he has a job). So was he really cheering for the team at the end knowing if they won, he’d have quite a problem on his hands but if they lost an easier way around the mess he created?

My problem with the whole situation is Alex has built a strong supporting cast with the major league team and is two-deep at every position. Why do you invest all this time in a young GM who was making headway, built a core of strong assets in the minors, more confident making a change when needed, established a standard to become a Blue Jay and now management wants to disrupt it?

Players, coaches, draft picks and pending free agents will question the thinking about casting aside MLB’s Executive of the Year. Make no mistake; the offer the Jays made was one they knew Alex would turn down. They had no intention of renewing his contract, once Shapiro was on board. They will try and make amends with the fans by pulling a bold move like signing Price to a long-term contract, which is a mistake but it’s their money.
The issue becomes, with the Leafs on the same path as the Jays six-years ago, will Rogers butt in at the wrong time again? Besides the fact their partner isn’t exactly a bosom buddy (BCE), what happens if Rogers gets control one day?

Yes I know numbers don’t lie and the Jays have hovered around 500 the last number of years but sometimes the numbers can be misleading. If I as a fan can attend and watch the number of games I do and see the progression over the years, why cant the guys paid to do it? Or are they really watching and paying attention?

Last heard, almost every team in the Majors has contacted Anthopoulos and he will write his own ticket. He has earned it and the rest of MLB recognizes it but what’s disturbing is our management doesn’t see it the same way, thus the change. The small win for us as supporters is the Jays are deep enough to contend in the East and I think even without Price win the division again. However, the fear is what happens after that?

Fast-forward a few years if the Leafs are in a similar position and management interferes, will all the hard work and pain the organization has felt be thrown in the trashcan? Does management revert back to its old ways and make a desperate lunge into free agency to buy time with the fans? It will be of great interest to the sporting community, this latest move by Rogers concerning the Jays, because every aspect of MLSE will or could be affected, everything from draft picks, free agents, coaches and most important, the fans.

So lets all take a deep breath, relax, step back and hope the Jays management sees the err of their ways and keeps the ship on the right track that Alex has so skillfully set sail. After all, nothing like winning cures what ails you and failing that; well there’s always next year.