Anthopoulos joins Blue Jays in Tampa with words of optimism: Griffin
Blue Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos is consistent in one thing. Whenever there is trouble in the organization, whether it is in the clubhouse or on the field, the young GM joins his team, wherever it may be just so no one can say that he's hiding. Such was the case on Saturday afternoon as he emerged into the visitors dugout late afternoon after meeting briefly with embattled shortstop Yunel Escobar in the clubhouse minutes earlier.
Nothing had changed on that front. Yes, Akex confirmed Escobar will meet with Patrick Burke, son of the Leafs' GM, Brian Burke next week when the Jays return home, as reported by The Star's Rosie DiManno. The younger Burke is the founder of "You Can Play" an organization promoting inclusion for gay, lesbian and transgendered athletes.
Anthopoulos wants to be visible to his players and will fly with the Jays to Baltimore following Sunday's game. He spoke to reporters in the dugout on a variety of topics including how to make Blue Jays fans believe in this team again as quickly as possible.
“I know this is a year that we've had more (injuries) than we've ever had in this organization," Anthopoulos began. "It reinforces the notion of continuing that depth, moreso than ever, even when we have young players and young prospects, if we can, even if we think they can come up here and do a good job and be solid, if they have options left we can stockpile that depth and make them all just wait."
This suggests a far different strategy than what the Jays have had under Anthopoulos, to this point, finishing up his third season as GM. He is suggesting that minor league options attached to contracts for young Jays' players will mean more to roster moves next year.
Here's an easy guideline. Instead of stockpiling veteran arms to pitch at Triple-A in case of injury to the youngsters, as he did unsuccessfully this season, he will stockpile young arms at the Triple-A level (now Buffalo)in case of injuries to the veteran talent he plans to reach out for as free agents and in trade this coming off-season. It's a huge difference.
“I remember years ago when J.P. (Ricciardi) was here," Anthopoulos began. "I think it was the year (Shaun) Marcum and (Dustin) McGowan came up, maybe (Jesse) Litsch came up the same year. But we had guys like (Victor) Zambrano and (Tomo) Ohka and obviously those guys didn't work out, not that they were the right signings because obviously they didn't perform well enough, but knowing you had those (young) guys waiting in the wings as your insurance as your backups, that's something you can look back on.
“Sometimes you want to give kids the innings, you want to give kids the opportunity, but it's not the worst thing in the world if they're sitting down there and they're ready to go because guys are going to get hurt. Guys aren't going to perform and you're going to need to make a change."
Anthopoulos denied that he needs to begin re-shaping a winning roster as soon as the World Series is over in order to re-capture fan interest that has been shaken not stirred.
“I don't look at the timing of it," Anthopoulos said. "We need to get better. For the fanbase they just want to see a better team, a better product, a team in contention. If you told the fans we'll provide that for you on Jan. 1, rather than November 1, I don't think they'd really care. I think it goes without saying, like with a lot of teams we'll try to be aggressive and get things done. There's no question the focus is going to be on getting better. It's impossible for me to try to operate that way, but if we're looking at big league players and getting better, it can only help things."
Last winter, the Jays' aggressive GM may have overstimated the depth of the coming and almost ready major-league talent that he had behind his 25-man roster at Triple and Double-A. Guys like Chad Jenkins and Deck McGuire regressed and others like Jesse Chavez, Joel Carreno and Robert Coello were never ready.
“I think we felt we had bodies. Looking back, what you learn from it is just the reliance on young guys. Then again, you can look at Oakland and they have all these young guys in their rotation. We've had it. You look at 2010, I think we had Morrow, Romero, (Brett) Cecil, Marcum and the fifth starter was a combination of guys, (Brian) Tallet and so on. And they pretty much made all their starts.
“The first two months of the year, pretty much – Drew (Hutchison) was up after two or three weeks -- Drew, Kyle (Drabek), Brandon (Morrow), Henderson (Alvarez) and (Ricky Romero), those five guys we were leading in starters ERA," he suggested. "And then again, that's not to say that would have gone on for six months, but relying on health is probably the biggest thing. Relying on health with young guys is the biggest thing."
Earlier in the summer, Anthopoulos said that only Morrow and Romero were assured of jobs in the rotation. That was before Ricky went completely in the tank. Has that changed?
“The only guys we've promised, and it's just because of I don't know how the off-season will go," Anthopoulos said. "But I definitely want to add as much depth as we can in the rotation. So, we only locked in to Brandon and Romero, they both have guaranteed contracts. That's not to say we don't have guys that are frontrunners. Obviously Alvarez, if he continues to perform well, but he has options left.
"I just don't want people coming into spring training assuming they have a job lined up, or we make a trade in the off-season or we sign someone and then I have to make a phone call and go, 'Ah, you know what, I changed my mind.' The only two guys with guaranteed conracts are them and everybody else, there's guys that will put themselves in a good position, that will comepete, but you know what, depending on what we do they may get jobs by default, but the goal's going to be to add as much depth as we can."
Baseball is a copycat industry and the O's are a good role model for Anthopoulos, plus the A's, White Sox, Nationals and Reds who all finished below .500 last year and who are all locked in post-season battles a year later. Just do it.