Skip to main content

Kevin Pillar circles the bases after hitting a three-run home run in the eighth inning.Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

As Alex Anthopoulos settled himself in the room that had been the site of so many jaw-dropping trade confirmations, free-agent introductions and managerial moves, he could not help but try to inject a bit of levity to the proceeding.

"I'd like to announce … " Anthopoulos said after taking his seat in Rogers Centre interview room Friday night, before anybody had a chance to say a word.

He stopped mid-sentence, which is not easy for this chatterbox, to indicate he was just joking.

Anthopoulos was back in Toronto and speaking with the media for the first time since he beat a hasty path from the Blue Jays executive suite in late October. Only this time it was in his new capacity as the vice-president of baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were in town to begin a three-game interleague series against the Blue Jays.

Anthopoulos said he is enjoying almost everything about his new, warm environment and working for Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi, a Canadian who was born in Sudbury, Ont.

The game, won 5-2 by Toronto in front of a crowd of 42,000, featured great starting pitching from the Jays' Marcus Stroman and the Dodgers' Japanese rookie sensation Kenta Maeda. Kevin Pillar smoked the winning hit, drilling a pitch from reliever Joe Blanton over the wall in left field, a three-run blast in the eighth inning that snapped a 2-2 tie and helped Toronto win its season-high fourth in a row.

The one drawback?

"I'm learning about L.A. traffic," he said. "I thought Toronto was bad but L.A. definitely takes the cake."

Anthopoulos was the GM for six years in Toronto, where a generally underperforming outfit finally morphed into American League East champions in 2015, the first time the Blue Jays had made the postseason in 22 years.

A series of bold trade-deadline deals by Anthopoulos, including the acquisitions of pitching ace David Price and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, helped push Toronto over the top. And Anthopoulos enjoyed the status of a matinee idol as a result, which made his sudden decision to leave Toronto so shocking. He decided to quit after Mark Shapiro was hired as the club's new president and chief executive officer in place of Paul Beeston, who was retiring.

Anthopoulos has steadfastly refused to elaborate on his reasons for leaving except to say he felt his presence with the Blue Jays was no longer "a good fit."

The widespread speculation is that Anthopoulos wanted out after realizing he would no longer enjoy the same kind of autonomy running the baseball team with Shapiro at the top of the food chain.

"I know a lot was made that maybe I wasn't as forthcoming or maybe should have been a little more specific," Anthopoulos said, when asked on Friday if he still felt he made the right call. "But I wanted to keep that more private over all."

He said he was wrestling with his decision throughout Toronto's spirited playoff run. "I did my best to try to enjoy the playoffs," he said. "I really made a conscious effort to try to enjoy it."

And after Toronto was eliminated by the Kansas City Royals in the A.L. Championship Series, Anthopoulos made up his mind to quit.

Not every Anthopoulos move played out as well as last season's trade-deadline wheeling and dealing.

These days many are lamenting the deal of December, 2012, in which Anthopoulos sent top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard to the New York Mets as part of the multiplayer trade for R.A. Dickey. While Dickey has pitched 200 innings every season since he has arrived, Syndergaard has developed into one of the game's top throwers with the Mets and helped lead them into the World Series last year.

Anthopoulos was asked about that deal and if he still felt it was the right decision. Back then, he said, heading into the 2013 season, the Blue Jays were at a "crossroads" as to the team's direction with the likes of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion at the full height of their offensive powers.

"Do we scale it back and strip down and maybe those guys get moved?" Anthopoulos said. "We're talking, do you trade Edwin, do you trade Jose? It's hard to be in the middle. I don't think with any sports team it's probably not the appropriate place to be. So you have to make a decision of where you want to be."

The decision was go all in and part of that plan was to acquire Dickey, who the year before has been the NL Cy Young Award winner with the Mets. And no, Anthopoulos does not have any regrets, saying that the Blue Jays enjoyed tremendous growth over the next three seasons, especially off the field.

"The thought was always that it could be what it is today in terms of attendance, TV ratings, fan interest," he said. "The belief was there and it was almost like a wick and you needed to light it. And if you could it would open up all kinds of things.

"And that's what I think I'm most proud of … seeing where the sport is in Canada right now."

Interact with The Globe