Late Monday afternoon at the Rogers Centre the Jays will stage their annual, invitation-only season-ticket holders State of the Franchise event, hosted by team president Paul Beeston, GM Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Farrell. There will be some explaining to do.
For the first two winters of the Anthopoulos regime, this annual event was a virtual love-fest, with fans lobbing softball questons and handing out rambling compliments to a self-satisfied baseball panel. The only injuries may have been pulled muscles from Beeston patting himself on the back for hiring the sincere young Canadian GM that fans believed in.
In 2010, the first January of the current regime, high-fives were exuberantly exchanged in celebration of the nice haul pulled in for Roy Halladay, who had demanded out, but had painted the Jays into a corner of limited options from which they cleverly escaped, prying prime prospects from the Phillies like righthander Kyle Drabek and catcher Travis D'Arnaud. Plus, the 2010 management was being lauded by old-school Jays' fans for the return of their charismatic Glory Days manager Cito Gaston, who was rewarded with a victory lap in a season of low expectations on the field. A perfect storm for management.
By January 2011, the Jays were moving forward under a rookie manager, John Farrell, who had been coveted by others and was still valued as a pitching coach by the Red Sox and a possible replacement down the road for Terry Francona. If Boston wanted him, we loved him. Plus, it was the winter of Robbie Alomar, who returned the sincere love of the organization and its fans, using Toronto as his home-base for Cooperstown. The future hope was there with a loaded farm system and a serious AL East contender on the way. Beeston last year sat with his front office team and boasted about his relationship with the GM and Rogers ownership in which a payroll of $120 million was there for the asking if they could simply convince the powers-that-be that it would make the team significantly better. You could have cut the euphoria hanging thick in the air with a knife.
Now comes this pep rally, following a winter of the fans' discontent. It's season No. 3 of the AA Era and the best baseball is still being played in places like Las Vegas and Manchester, New Hampshire. Management will be asked to explain the club's failure to obtain a No. 2 starter and another strong bat for the lineup. We know there is no I in Team and no Yu in Jays. We know that kissing a frog doesn't always produce a Prince. We know that even with a second wild-card available, the Jays have been passed as contenders by others and rank behind the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Tigers, Rangers and Angels.
It will be an interesting fan session, with a harder, more realistic edge to the questions. With this event being for paid-up ticket holders, it's basically like preaching to the choir, but on this occasion, it's more likely than ever that this choir will be singing the Blues.