And why not? After a disastrous 2013 that exposed serious holes on the roster and numerous vague pseudo-affirmations to plug them this offseason, GM Alex Anthopoulos and co. have essentially come one Tomo Ohka signing away from doing essentially nothing to alleviate the issues — which is to say that yes, essentially nothing has been done (sorry, Brent Morel and Dioner Navarro).
Even now, as rumors continue to swirl around remaining notable free agent starters Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, the Blue Jays front office is still giving fans ideas that the hurlers are being pursued — ideas that are seemingly more unlikely to be validated by action by the day.
In a “what have you done for me lately?” industry, that can be a one-way ticket to the point of no return as far as the relationship between the fans and the team.
That might seem a little strange to say because in some ways, the Blue Jays are more popular than they’ve been in quite some time. In part buoyed by the hopes that the Miami Marlins mega-trade brought going into last season, the team’s 31,316 per game attendance is the highest since 1997, and there’s no question that the influx of notable players like R.A. Dickey and Jose Reyes have raised the profile of the team.
This, however, is a double-edged sword with the other side being lined with high expectations — championship expectations.
This is a good thing as it gives buzz to the product, but given how this team imploded last season, those expectations are perilously close to falling faster than the team did in the AL standings in 2013 — and with it, the team’s status in the eyes of the Toronto fan base.
Did Anthopoulos have to go all-in and sign Masahiro Tanaka or Robinson Cano? No, but that the New York Yankees did the Yankees thing and made a number of on-paper improvements doesn’t help. In fact, you know, being arguably the most inactive team in the AL East didn’t help either. It seems that the more fans glamored for one notable move — any notable move — the less the Blue Jays did.
Now, much of that has to do with fan perception as only Anthopoulos knows why moves haven’t been made, but it does bring up one question even if you forget the fans for a moment: does he have the trust of the Blue Jays’ ownership?
It was only a year ago that he got the go-ahead to boost the team’s payroll past $124 million and go all-in to compete, and it’s clear that among the many things that have gone awry (some beyond anyone’s control), one of them is the GM and his team’s ability to evaluate talent. If Rogers has hamstrung the GM this offseason as far as payroll is concerned, it’s not too difficult to understand why; as far as ownership is concerned, AA had his shot.
But assuming that he’s now backed up against the wall, will he get another one? As available FA pitchers come off the board one by one, so too does the trust that the fans once wholehearted placed in Anthopoulos’ hands diminish. Yet, the fact is that despite saying all the right things and playing things out as though he’s just waiting for the right deal, it looks as though those pesky “payroll parameters” and other vagueries have come back in full force in the rhetoric around the Blue Jays.
It comes down to trust, and therein lies the conundrum: if Anthopoulos doesn’t have the trust of ownership to make the right moves, how is he going to regain the trust of the fans in a critical fifth year of his tenure?