Every good story has a hero and a villain, and the one that’s playing out in Toronto right now is no different.
Toronto was getting the fairy tale story every market dreams of. The Blue Jays went from a .500 club after 100 games to one of the top powers in the league heading into October. The script pretty much wrote itself. The Blue Jays were bringing joy back to a city that hadn’t experienced anything but heartbreak and extremely mediocre baseball since their back-to-back World Championships in 1992 and 1993.
Everything was going smoothly, the Jays pulled off blockbuster trades to acquire All-Stars Troy Tulowitzki and David Price. Everything that Alex Anthopolous did turned gold. Whether it was a move to add to the bullpen in Mark Lowe, or adding a corner outfielder in Ben Revere, the moves he made found a way to work themselves out. The Jays were going for it, and Alex Anthopolous was the man in charge. Anthopolous saw the opportunity to come in and play the role of a hero for a city that so desperately needed one, and he took the chance for greatness, to make his legacy one that Toronto sports fans soon wouldn’t forget.
The Jays were selling out games, and the buzz in the city wasn’t the Leafs or the Raptors anymore. It was the Toronto Blue Jays. Radio talk shows were getting constant calls about the Jays. Everything was Jays, Jays, Jays and this couldn’t come at a better time after a heartbreaking end to the Raptors season and the Leafs just beginning the long process of a rebuild. This city deserved a winner, and the Jays were finally providing one.
Let’s rewind to September 30, 2015, a date that a new generation Blue Jays fans won’t forget for a long time. If you don’t recall, this was the night the Toronto Blue Jays were crowned American League East division champions on a brisk night in Baltimore. The franchise had waited 22 years to celebrate again, and now was the time to pop bottles. Everything was great in Toronto, the perceptions were great and nothing was going wrong.
October 14, another night that Jays fans will never forget. The night of the bat flip. A flip of the bat that awoke an entire country. A flip that made Jays star Jose Bautista one of the most polarizing figures in Major League Baseball today. “He disrespected the code,” some might say, but would you have acted any differently after hitting the biggest home run of your career in front of 50,000-plus screaming fans in an elimination game? Probably not.
Things couldn’t be better for the Blue Jays, they were headed to the American League Championship Series and the city was buzzing. You couldn’t walk one block in Toronto without seeing Jays gear. Everyone was supporting the team and the entire city was buying in.
Enter the Kansas City Royals. For the months that the Jays could do no wrong, the Royals seemed to be in that exact situation of power when the two contenders ultimately collided in October. A few breaks here and there, and the Jays could have been the winner in this best-of-seven series, but they weren’t. The eventual World Series Champion Kansas City Royals knocked off the Blue Jays in six games. The entire city of Toronto felt like it had just been punched in the stomach and had the wind knocked out of them. Even though the city was in despair, they couldn’t have asked for a more exciting playoff run after experiencing 22 years of sadness.
Now in a good story, there is often a heel turn. Look no further than the company that owns the Toronto Blue Jays, Rogers Communications. Whether anyone is going to admit it or not, somewhere along the way they screwed up, and the hero that we all know and loved was dethroned. Anthopolous had the option to stay, but the man wanted autonomy, and who can blame him for that?
With the hero gone, and the fans upset after the surreal experience Anthopolous had helped give them, Mark Shapiro was hired as the President of Baseball Operations and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays.
After having such a likable figure in power with Anthopolous, it’s hard to not feel shocked and even cheated when a new figure comes on to take control after such a powerful movement was created.
We don’t know the budget of the Toronto Blue Jays, and we won’t see that until Opening Day when the Blue Jays take the field. A lot of people see David Price in a Boston Red Sox uniform right now, and they directly blame Rogers and Mark Shapiro. You hear a lot of “look at all the revenue the Jays made from the Playoffs!”, but the reality is that this is a business and this business operates under a strict budget whether you like it or not.
Would signing David Price have appeased some Jays fans and helped the Jays have success in the short term? Absolutely, but the return on the investment would likely not have been good in the long run, carrying over 31 million dollars a year on the books.
Has Mark Shapiro been given a fair shake? Probably not, but until Shapiro puts his stamp on this Jays team, he’s going to play the role of the villain whether some fans like it or not.