March 4, 2011
Trying To Awaken A Sleeping Giant
DUNEDIN—The Blue Jays were one of baseball's biggest surprises last season, going 85-77 and winning 10 more games than in 2009. So how do the Blue Jays build on that success?
"That's a great question," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said after a recent Grapefruit League game. "We had so many things go right last year. We had a lot of guys, who if you look at their projection lines going into the season, exceeded our expectations. A lot of our key players stayed healthy, too. It was really a year where a lot of things fell into place."
Though Anthopoulos is only entering his second year on the job, he knows the game well and understands that the tide could turn against the Blue Jays this season. Furthermore, his team is playing in the American League East where the Rays, Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles should all be more than formidable competition. A potentially very good team could finish last in the division this year.
"We're just not able to go out and sign someone like A-Rod to a huge contract like the Yankees, so we have to go about things a different way," Anthopoulos said. "For us to truly be successful, we need to build our base around scouting and player development. We took a good first step last season but we need to continue to take steps forward before we get where we want to be."
Ideally, the Blue Jays would love to get back to a spot where they were in the early 1990s when they won back-to-back World Series in 1992-93 and twice drew four million fans to SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) in a season. Despite their surprising success last season, the Blue Jays were just 12thin the 14-team American League in attendance, drawing just under 1.5 million.
Anthopoulos, a Canadian, understands that winning the fans back is a difficult task. The Blue Jays haven't been to the postseason since that second World Series in '93 and only the Royals and Pirates have had longer playoff droughts.
However, he also knows that the Blue Jays are the proverbial sleeping giant. Toronto is the seventh-largest market in North America and Rogers Communications, which owns the team, is one of the largest corporations in Canada.
"Toronto is a great baseball team but we need to give the fans a reason to come to the game and the biggest reason is winning," Anthopoulos said.