|Image courtesy of BlueJays.com|
Let me begin by saying a huge thank you to none other than Captain Latte for inviting me to the Blue Jays State of the Franchise meeting.
I myself am not fortunate to be a season ticket holder, but it was great to crash the party and pretend like I was one for one evening.
They called it the “State of the Franchise” but essentially it’s a shareholder meeting where the shareholders are season ticket holders. It’s purpose is to get everyone excited about the upcoming season and it did exactly that.
What was said by Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston was a lot of what we’ve heard in the past about building a winning franchise, but last evening those things were said with such strong conviction that I got goosebumps.
First it was Paul Beeston on putting together a winner:
“We’re not here to be a competitive baseball team. We’re here to win the World Series. And we’re here to win the World Series on a sustainable basis. How long that’s going to take, I’m not sure. But I do know one thing; we’re absolutely headed in the right direction.”
In his introduction, Alex Anthopoulos echoed the same sentiment as Paul Beeston when he spoke on getting the Blue Jays back to their winning ways:
“We want to get this there as fast as we can. What we won’t do is shortcut it, because when we do get there, it’s not going to stop, it’s going to be a freight train that’s going to keep going.”
In contrast to J.P. Ricciardi’s “5 year plan”, Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos didn’t fill us up with empty promises of making the playoffs. They did however convey the Blue Jays want to build a sustainable winner, something I would hearken back to the Blue Jays of the late eighties that were always in contention.
As a former pitching coach, John Farrell touched on the starting pitching staff and had nothing but good things to say. One notable thing he mentioned was Brandon Morrow would likely only be stretched out another 20-25 innings this year (which would put him somewhere around a 170 inning cap).
Farrell has already mentioned in previous interviews about how he wants to step up the running game for the Blue Jays, and he talked about what it was like to face the Blue Jays last season:
“In preparing against this team, it was one that seemed to be one dimensional and a little predictable. I’d like us to become a much more aggressive team on the basepaths. That doesn’t mean we’re going to try to make Jose Molina a base stealer.
But it does mean that there are opportunities where we can turn guys loose … to make us that much more unpredictable so as an opposition in preparing against us, there are multiple ways we can beat that team. We can’t sit back and wait on the home run only.”
Despite AA’s reputation as a calculated assassin, Anthopoulos reiterated that when doing trades with other General Managers, in the end he wants both teams to emerge as winners. He doesn’t want to “fleece” other teams because that could burn bridges in the future:
“From a trade standpoint, the win/win component is important because I only have 29 people to deal with. I know it’s a cliche to say, but if somebody wins a trade, somebody’s going to lose.
That’s ultimately going to cut off the hand that feeds both ways, so you do want both trades to work out and you want for both teams to get what they want out of the trade.
You’re going to need to continue to have that dialogue, and I’ve seen it as well, there’s not a good relationship and that’s another trade partner you’ve cut off and you never know when you might need that trade partner going forward.”
J.P. Arencibia’s name was brought up a few times, and I got the impression the Blue Jays are ready to roll with JPA behind the plate this year 100 percent. AA had some strong words for anyone suggesting the team isn’t committed to J.P. Arencibia moving forward:
“We really don’t want to get in the way of J.P. Arencibia because we do believe he’s an important component of this team. He’s been in Las Vegas two years in the row … he has nothing more to prove down there. He needs to get an opportunity to play up here.”
Regarding last year’s catching situation, somebody had the stones to ask why J.P. Arencibia didn’t receive more playing time in the latter part of the 2010 season. Alex Anthopoulos’ answer was that he simply gave his word to John Buck that the catching job was his:
“When John Buck was signed to a one year deal, the promise was made to him that he’d be an everyday player from start to finish.”
Following that, AA opened up about the way Blue Jays do business with players and how they are working to distinguish themselves as a respectable ball club with a great reputation around the league. It’s a distinction that Alex Anthopoulos is very adamant on building to not only maintain players, but attract new ones as well:
“From a negotiating standpoint, your word is paramount. It’s something that we won’t break … in the long run that’s what this organization is going to be about. When we give our word to someone assigning a player, that’s part of our brand.
I cannot tell you how many times we’ve been able to acquire players, get them to waive no-trades or things like that because of the way we handle ourselves. People in the game are starting to realize the way that the Toronto Blue Jays operate, they’re men of their word.”
I’m sure you heard by now that the special guest in attendance was none other than Roberto Alomar. It was great to have him there and the Blue Jays paid tribute by showing a very special video montage of his storied career. Robbie was also very gracious to sign baseballs for everyone.
By the time I left the Rogers Centre around 10:00pm, he was still signing baseballs which he started signing around 9:00pm. That was very generous of him and I think a little unexpected on the part of the PR staff there, who had to quickly scramble find hundreds of baseballs.
Of course no evening like this would be complete without a little bit of comic relief. After about a 3-4 preamble leading up to his question, somebody asked John Farrell if he though Manny Ramirez would be a good fit for the Blue Jays.
I guess this older gentleman doesn’t check MLB Trade Rumors as furiously as most of us do, as he was completely unaware that Manny had signed with the Tampa Bay Rays already.
And then there was a strange case of mistaken identity when one woman questioned the character of Juan Rivera since it was reported he stole Derek Jeter’s glove from back in his days with the Yankees. Sam Cosentino promptly corrected her saying it was Ruben Rivera she was referring to.
All in all, it was a very positive experience and it’s a damn shame that all fans couldn’t attend the State of the Franchise because I feel this is something that every Blue Jays fan should have access to.
Needless to say, when you hear the President, General Manager, and new Manager speak so highly about this team, it’s easy to get excited about where the Blue Jays are going in 2011 and beyond.