TORONTO (Nov. 2) — Given that he was a man considered villainous and diabolical before uttering his first word as president of the Toronto Blue Jays, Mark Shapiro did rather well this afternoon during his introductory media conference. You wouldn’t have known it in the hours after Alex Anthopoulos left the club last week, but Shapiro committed no crime in accepting his new position with Rogers Communications. He began honorably today by giving Tony LaCava a chance to work under him and by retaining John Gibbons. LaCava becomes interim general manager and every person doing Gibbons’ job is “interim.”
Those in the media who were solidly behind Anthopoulos will have you believe today’s announcements were born of convenience rather than long–term perspective. And, they’ll be proven correct — at some point. But, let’s give Shapiro credit. He wasn’t appointed to this role yesterday or the day before. It has been two months and two days since Rogers announced he’d be coming aboard from Cleveland to replace Paul Beeston — more than enough time for Shapiro to have done behind–the–scenes lobbying for his choice of underlings. Had he been so determined, neither LaCava nor Gibbons would be returning. Though LaCava will surely not graduate into Anthopoulos’s former role, and while Shapiro and his new GM will ultimately choose their field manager, the Blue Jays promise to begin 2016 with a semblance of continuity.
Moreover, Gibbons is now all–but assured of an additional year of contract “security.” Should John still be the club’s manager on Jan. 1, he’ll at least get paid for the next two seasons, regardless of who is calling the shots from the dugout (the annual “roll–over” provision a dignified gesture by Anthopoulos). And, there’s no reason — other than common business practice — for Shapiro and his future GM to look beyond Gibbons, who proved more–than capable of handling a playoff entity this season. If provided some pitching depth over the winter, and given a fair opportunity by the new regime, Gibbons could well eliminate a large box on Shapiro’s checklist. The new president would be wise to not act hastily in this regard.
As we’ve come to expect in these situations, Shapiro offered ample lip–service during his initial media gathering. The new president claimed it was his “sincere hope” that Anthopoulos would sign a contract extension as GM; that he neither scolded Anthopoulos (as reported) for depleting the Blue Jays’ farm system nor offered him diminished authority over personnel. In other words, Anthopoulos left the club for no particular reason. This didn’t reflect well on Shapiro but neither was such dialogue unanticipated.