The fans of the Toronto Blue Jays had better ready themselves for a culture change and the shock that comes with it.
For many, Mark Shapiro is already public baseball enemy number one on his new job. Gone are the apparent “drunken sailor” ways of former GM Alex Anthopoulos, who had no problem throwing gobs of Rogers Cable money into his lineup. Gone, too, are the farm depleting trades that amount for big gains in the short-term. It worked this year, obviously but we Tribe fans know that success is often a fleeting comet.
Both the Indians and Jays were deafeningly quiet at the recent Winter Meetings. For us Indians fans, it felt like business as usual: A simmering Hot Stove that typically turns out to be just talk. For Jays fans, it’s a period of head-scratching and distrusting sideways glances; a cosmopolitan city who is used to spending big is being told not to expect anything major for once and maybe for a long while.
If there was ever a sign that things will be different under the watch of Shapiro, it started early. There was the alleged “scolding” by Shapiro to Anthopoulos about the former GM’s trading history that had essentially stripped bare the farm system. The standoff was so significant that Anthopoulos resigned immediately (and on the day he won the Executive of the Year) and was eventually replaced by former Tribe scout and director of player development, Ross Atkins.
Shapiro’s reputation took another big body blow when someone let slip that Anthopoulos was willing to spend really, really big in order to keep David Price, who apparently wanted to stay in Toronto. Price, of course, left for Boston. And there’s another alarm set to be sounded as Edwin Encarnacion has imposed an extension deadline. The Indians under Shapiro have shown in the past that they are unafraid to cut cords before the price tags get too exorbitant.
Again, for us Tribe fans? Business as usual. For Jays fans? It’s a whole new ballgame.
Granted, the Blue Jays are coming off of their first postseason appearance in 22 years, and they have the reigning AL MVP in Josh Donaldson anchoring one of the most exciting and electrifying lineups in all of baseball. Shapiro’s influence may not be truly felt for a while yet. And there could be some true economics bigger than baseball at work here, with the Canadian dollar being depressed against the American dollar. It could be that the Blue Jays simply cannot continue to conduct business the way they have for a while.
Oh, and the Rogers family is worth in excess of $7 billion. You be the judge.
Regardless, the Blue Jays are going to be looking quite different at some point. And Mark Shapiro will look to reclaim the stature that has faded in his career in recent years. But now a whole country is watching. The microscope has never been brighter or larger.