While the rest of us have been running around telling Alex Anthopoulos how he has only one more chance to get it right and that he ought to have sensed the perfidy of John Farrell a year ago, the Toronto Blue Jays’ general manager has been reviewing his own track record.
And Anthopoulos has noticed something about those decisions. Some work, some don’t, but the ones that keep him awake at night are the ones that didn’t work out after he listened a little too much to his democratic angels, where he analyzed and absorbed opinions and information trying to be, in his words, “a good leader,” instead of following his instincts.
Nobody knows, yet, whether Anthopoulos will get the choice of a new manager right, but one thing is apparent from a conversation with him on Thursday: The final decision will be his, and he won’t overanalyze it the way he seems to think he did in hiring Farrell.
Anthopoulos is clear: Even today, he does not think there is anything that suggests Farrell won’t be a good manager. But he also admitted that in hiring Farrell two years ago, he was more concerned with “checking all the boxes.”
Good face? Yep, Farrell had that. Former major-leaguer? Done. Player development? Check. Knows pitching? Triple-check. Check, check, check.
“What I didn’t do,” Anthopoulos said, “was go with my gut. I didn’t give myself enough credit.”
Anthopoulos would not say where his gut would have taken him during the process. That’s no surprise. There is candour enough in his statement. Truth is, Anthopoulos didn’t have as much “gut” to go on back then. But after the past two seasons – this one in particular – he’s made enough mistakes that he now knows the signs. This is a different GM doing the hiring this time around.
It is easy to tell Anthopoulos how to make the Blue Jays better. Get a free agent who can give you 200 innings – forget the ace, he isn’t out there on the free-agent market – then build a package around one of your top pitching prospects for a front-of-the-rotation guy. Then you add another impact bat (knowing you have freedom of movement in left field), some on-base percentage and you’re good to go.
Don’t mention it.
The bigger challenge is dispensing bar-stool wisdom about a manager, because we only know what we know about the candidates.
One look at Farrell’s résumé, for example, and you’d think he could handle young arms and a bullpen. One look at Sandy Alomar Jr. and – c’mon! – he has to be the guy.
But here’s the thing: Only Anthopoulos knows the depth of the rot left behind, and only he knows the back-story.
Are there things that need to be undone after a year under a manager who would be guilty only of human nature if he weren’t at least slightly distracted by the pretty young thing across The Fens? If so, who could do it? Another bright young thing who would be on the same page as Anthopoulos? A wiser, old hand? How much managerial experience does he need? Is winter ball and minor-league experience enough? How about major-league playing time – and how recent does it have to be?
Let’s assume for argument’s sake that Tony La Russa and Mike Redmond, who was chosen manager of the Florida Marlins on Thursday after one (1) year as a minor-league bench boss with the Blue Jays’ Single-A Dunedin affiliate, are at two extremes. One is unreachable, one undesirable because he’s much too callow. So the new manager of the Blue Jays will be somebody in between those extremes, viewed this time through a much different prism and, ultimately, by one person and one person only.
“There’s a reason I’m in this chair,” Anthopoulos said. Meet the new boss.