By: Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
Your Toronto Blue Jays are in the race sitting in first place in the American League East.
What will the talk be from now until Oct. 3?
David Price, Edwin Encarnaion or pitching match-ups for next week’s trip to the Bronx to see the New York Yankees?
Rogers Communications hired Mark Shapiro from the Cleveland Indians Monday morn to be the next president of the Blue Jays at the conclusion of this season.
Yet, a key talking point Monday night at the Rogers Centre was the future of general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
Will he be back for 2016?
No one knows.
The Rogers press release made zero mention of Anthopoulos’ future or his even his name. Outgoing president Paul Beeston was quoted as saying “Alex, the team, and I have a little more work to do ...” We’re guessing he meant Anthopoulos and not bullpen catcher Alex Andreopoulos.
The GM’s future will be a subject of discussion until his contract expires after Oct. 31.
Players often complain about media distractions and how “we really don’t need this, there are more important things going on right now.”
And as people under 30 enter their first baseball September to remember and prepare to learn about magic and tragic numbers (and how to figure it out on their own) we have another elephant entering the clubhouse.
So, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion ... who do you think the GM will be next year?
The answer in unison would be “we have a game to play, that will take care of itself.”
But those non-answers won’t stop people from asking.
It’s a lot like December/January pachyderm when the question was ... do you think the president will make opening day?
Jays players who were in Vancouver last January on the winter tour still marvel at the insults Canadians co-owners Jake Kerr and Jeff Mooney hurled at Edward Rogers at a packed luncheon, while showering Beeston with praise ... and dreading the questions they had to answer.
That was a one-day event.
Who turned this ball season into Animal Kingdom for the second time in 10 months?
Your friends at Rogers.
Why make the announcement at 9:13 Monday morn? To have Shapiro in place so he would be eligible for the post-season roster? No, that isn’t the case.
There is never a perfect time to make this kind of announcement: new boss comes in as president, what happens to GM?
Could Rogers have made one hire and one extension at the same time? Quite possible. We’ve heard a lot of talk how Anthopoulos and Shapiro have a “strong working relationship” which is odd because the GM careers of the two did not overlap.
The Jays are in the heat of a pennant race. The focus should be on the team on winning the division, not part of it diverted to who the GM next year?
There was a lot going on Monday on a day an MLB Network announcer said “Mark Shapiro’s Blue Jays host the Indians.”
_ Beeston addressed roughly 200 Jays full-time staff on the 200 Level at 10 AM and told them of the hiring. Beeston received a standing ovation from those in attendance.
_ Loretta Rogers, widow of the Rogers patriarch Ted Rogers, addressed the Jays in the clubhouse at 6:15 pm as she usually does once a year.
_ Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada stopped by for a visit to say hello to Canada’s Little League champs and meet the Jays. No doubt Justin Trudeau will be coming to a game before the homestand is over.
_ John McDonald former popular Jays infielder was in an Indians uniform during batting practice. And proving every bit as versatile as he was as a player as he was in the broadcast booth when the game began. He’s not related to Sir John A. Macdonald from Kingston, Canada’s first Prime Minister.
As for Shapiro. A good hire.
He has more business experience than either Kenny Williams of the Chicago White Sox and Dan Duquette of the Baltimore Orioles, who Edward Rogers, deputy chairman of Rogers Communications, and Roger Rai chased last off season.
Unlike Duquette, Rogers Communications did not cost a couple of first-round picks (Jeff Hoffman, Max Pentecost) and a highly regarded prospect (Mitch Nay). Zero compensation went from the Jays to the Indians. Rogers and Rai are shrewd negotiators.
Shapiro won’t be replaced. CEO Paul Dolan will take over some of his duties.
The Jays are winning (their best single-month win total in club history), starting with this weekend there will be sellouts for all remaining games, they are setting ratings records on TV, merchandising revenue marks, food and beverage sales have had a significant boost given the attendance.
Shapiro is a good hire, a good man to implement the five-year $250-$400 million business plan, submitted two months ago to upgrade the Rogers Centre.
But two decisions -- or rather one saying Shapiro was in and Anthopoulos was back -- would have been better.
This way, hiring the new president, and leaving the GM’s future uncertain was wrong. Dead wrong.
Blue Jays presidents
Peter Bavasi, 1978-1981
Peter Hardy, 1982-89
Paul Beeston 1989–1997
Sam Pollock 1997-99
Paul Godfrey 2000-07
Paul Beeston 2008–2015
Mark Shapiro 2015-