By Bob Elliott
NEW YORK _ Welcome to Toronto, Mark Shapirio.
You’ll excuse the fact that the citizens of southern Ontario don’t meet you at the airport for a parade to 1 Blue Jays Way, if you were flying in, with “Welcome Mark” banners strung at Terminal 2 at Pearson.
There were others across the entrance to the Hazel McCallion Causeway HOV lanes linking Mississauga and the Rogers Centre (think Simpson’s think Stonecutters).
It’s a grr-eat start.
Either you or Rogers Communications ran off the general manager who gave Jays fans their most memorable season in 22 years by changing his job description, his power or not liking the fact he traded a double-A prospect, a future Cy Young award winner no doubt.
Maybe he dealt away the next Matt LaPorta, Alex White, Levon Washington and Drew Pomeranz, Indians prospects one and all at one time.
I know it is hard keeping your finger on the pulse of Blue Jays fandom from atop either the ivory tower atop the campus on Bloor or in faraway Cleveland, the city of champions.
Yet, the kid who left, turning down your five-year offer and new responsibilities which maybe included supervising next year’s style of schedule fridge magnets was a bit of a big deal in these parts.
When the Jays were putting the finishing touches on a win at Camden Yards in Baltimore to clinch the American League East in September Jays fans -- true fans not the corporate suite holders, people who had saved their hard-earned money for the trip to Maryland broke into a chant.
“Thank You Alex!”
It wasn’t Thank You Alex ... as in Alex Gonzalez the sure handed shortstop who struck out too often and left in 2001.
It wasn’t Thank You Alex ... as in Alex Andreopoulos, the sure-handed bullpen catcher.
It was as in Thank You Alex ... as in Alex Anthopoulos, who remade the Jays in July bringing in six players before the deadline.
And now like that ... poof! Gone as we wrote earlier this week ... he pulled a Ben Cherington, who bolted the Boston Red Sox after Dave Dombrowksi arrived.
The Canadian kid who ran Canada’s team: gone.
Il est parti!
The same Montreal kid who turned down the chance for work for a Toronto Fidelity Investments to work for his hometown Expos for free and nine years later became GM.
Fans were upset.
Jays scouts hanging in the wind have no idea what happens after their 2016 contracts expire.
“Alex was emotional on our 10 am conference call,” said one. “He wanted to tell us before we heard any where else, but the news came out first. He sounded like it was something he had to do, but didn’t want to do,”
The Jays have more scouts than the Indians. Will the next year resemble the blood letting of J.P. Ricciardi and Rogers when they fired scouts and minor league coaches in August of 2002?
Here is the line on our day which began in Kansas City, included a flight to La Guardia and ended in New York (so some messages may have been missed):
_ Six calls and texts from scouts asking “what in the world is going on up there, who is next?” and “weren’t the Jays in the playoffs a week ago?”
_ Three “are you kidding me?” and from managers and one asking “does he want to work here?”
_ Three “wtf” messages from general managers. I had to ask some of the cool kids what “wtf” meant.
“What have they won in Cleveland? Have they won a World Series since 1948?” asked one puzzled GM on Thursday. “Have they won anything since Shapiro and Chris Antonetti took over? No, they have never won anything in Cleveland and they will never win anything in Cleveland because they over value prospects in a very dramatic way.
“They are worse to deal with than the Los Angeles Dodgers when every minor leaguer was going to be the NL rookie of the year. Shapiro probably doesn’t like the fact that the Blue Jays went for it because they never go for it.”
Shapiro’s Indians reached the 2007 ALCS losing to the Red Sox in seven games.
From 2002 Shapiro’s Indians won 74, 68, 80, 93, 78, 96, 81, 65 and 69 wins until he was promoted upstairs.
Anthopulos’s Jays won 85, 81, 73, 74, 83 and 93 games in six years. He was so pleased with the new responsibilities under Shapirio he left the building.
Why was George Steinbrenner loved by players? Why did everyone want to play for the Yankees someday whether it be Veron Wells or Darren Fletcher or a free agent on the market?
Because he went for it every year. He expected to win every year.
So, the Jays made a run at it, make the post-season and now we read someone not on the premises is saying “you gave away too much.”
Rogers Communications was willing to give former No. 1s Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost and prospect Mitch Nay for Dan Duquette according to Baltimore reports in January. So, did the Indians get hosed? Zero compensation went to the Indians.
Now, Eddie Rogers -- has done something we did not think was possible -- topping the bungled December-January search for a new president while president Paul Beeston was in office.
The Rogers spin doctors will try to sell this that the Jays were a .500 team when they began talking to Shapiro in June or July and the GM deserved to be fired.
Maybe so, but the AL East changed at the July 31 deadline. And Fast Eddie and his crew interviewed Dave Dombrowski 10 days into August after he was let go by the Detroit Tigers and before he was hired by the Red Sox.
By then when Jays were in first and it was apparent that the trade deadline moves had worked.
“You’ve got to go for when you have a nucleus,” said a scout for a World Series team. “Alex made some great moves. He brought in some of the best we have in our game today: Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, David Price and Troy Tulowitzki.
“He traded for Adam Lind for Marco Estrada, I didn’t see that coming.”
Anthopoulos told the Jays on Monday he was not returning and for two days the two sides talked.
Bring in Eric Wedge to manage?
Re-name the team after an offensive name like the Washington Nationals or the Cleveland Indians?
These are not your father’s Blue Jays.