Anthopoulos too focused on next year

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:37 AM ET

If the business of sport was about nothing more than managing money, then general manager Alex Anthopoulos would be ready to fit his finger for a ring.

Truth is, I want him to be my accountant.

But right now, I'm not convinced about the short-term direction in which he is taking the Toronto Blue Jays.

The business of sport is forever about winning games, selling tickets -- and peddling hope.

Anthopoulos is big on hope and the future. The winning games, the selling tickets -- for that we'll have to reserve judgment.

The fact Anthopoulos found anyone willing to pay Vernon Wells' exhorbitant contract was pure genius.

Financially that works.

But in home games alone last year, Wells hit 20 home runs, knocked in 54 runs, was basically an all-star at the Rogers Centre.

You don't replace one bad contract with two bad contracts of middle-range overpaid players from the California Angels and assume that's anything but a financial windfall.

That may make your bottom line better on a balance sheet, not in a boxscore.

Eventually, and I don't know when, the Blue Jays have to be about this year.

You can't play the next-year game forever.

The Wells trade, like the Shaun Marcum trade, is only about next year and the year after that.

And for a team that hasn't played much meaningful baseball in say, 17 seasons, and hasn't drawn well in recent years, that's asking a lot from its fan base.

THIS AND THAT

It's too bad Wells couldn't live up to the size of his contract and all that went along with it because if anyone deserved to be a star, he did. He was humble, self-deprecating, charitable, honest, giving of his time and professional in his years in Toronto. You needed more from the player, never from the person. His presence will indeed be missed ... Never forget Paul Godfrey's reaction when Wells' agent presented him with an asking price of $126 million. "I need smelling salts," said the then Jays president ... Remember when the Jays were supposed to be built around the athletic outfield of Wells and Alex Rios? Both were given away for next to nothing ... The one thing Wells couldn't seem to do as a Blue Jay: Adjust. And baseball is a game of adjustments ... Wells won't play centre field for the California Angels. That's good for him. Torii Hunter is a far superior defensive outfielder but with Wells in left and Hunter in centre the Angels will have a very sound defensive outfield. What Wells has to do better in California: He can't possibly hit .195 against left-handed pitching again, can he? ... Here is the Blue Jays starting lineup, or so we think: Catcher: J.P. Arencibia -- A rookie just learning; First base: Adam Lind -- Terrible defensively coming off terrible offensive year; Second base: Aaron Hill -- Coming off an awful offensive and defensive season; Third Base: To be determined; Shortstop: Yunel Escobar -- a terrific player when interested; Left Field: Travis Snider -- Still don't know what he is; Centre Field: Rajai Davis -- A slap-hitter and below-average fielder; Right field: Jose Batista -- The one sure thing in the Jays lineup, although don't count on 50 homers again; Designated hitter: Mike Napoli -- Hits home runs or strike outs. Never at the same time.

HEAR AND THERE

Does new Jays manager John Farrell still have time to back out? His old team, the Red Sox, have added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. His new team has spent the off-season shopping at baseball garage sales ... And to think, the Blue Jays are the one Toronto team we can actually feel good about ... Tough times for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. The Raptors are 13-31. The Leafs have won 19 of 46 games. The good news is, their sports bar, Real Sports, is all sold out for Super Bowl Sunday and on most hockey nights it's a two-hour wait if you want to try for a table without a reservation. The best thing about MLSEL, aside from Richard Peddie leaving: The Sliders at Real Sports ... Headline from yesterday morning: Phaneuf Leading After Short Program At Nationals, and instantly I thought Dion, not Cynthia ... So a bad year got worse for Evgeni Nabakov, who figured he was returning to the NHL in Detroit and ended up getting claimed by the New York Islanders. He says he won't report. Playing for the Islanders isn't the end of the world but you can see it from there.

SCENE AND HEARD

Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi should be thankful he doesn't work in a league run by NBA commissioner David Stern. Otherwise, he'd be paying a whole lot more than 50 grand in fines for his mindless comments about NHL vice-president, Mike Murphy. Lombardi, the most conservative of hockey executives, is feeling the heat these days with his Kings in rough shape in the Western Conference ... When I heard there was a Team Staal in the NHL all-star game, I instantly thought neutral-zone trap ... Lookalikes: Leafs farmhand James Reimer and the Sherminator from the movie, American Pie ... The Leafs should be embarrassed to be behind the Florida Panthers in the standings, who have the 23rd highest payroll and Bryan McCabe their highest-paid player ... The contract Johnny Damon signed with the Tampa Bay Rays has a home attendance clause to it. Which is weird because the Rays have been bottom five in attendance in each of the past three seasons ... How much has HBO done for Washington Capitals' games on television? Well put it this way. Since the 24/7 series ran, Caps ratings on local television are up 68% ... I worry about Bryan Colangelo. He keeps making trades that are a) outside the rules; b) held up by the NBA c) renegged upon.

AND ANOTHER THING

The best possible Super Bowl matchup: Aaron Rodgers vs. Rex Ryan. If the Jets are there, it will mean they will have beaten Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger on consecutive weeks -- combined total, six Super Bowl rings -- just to get there ... This is a paid political announcement by me: The Clippers are in Toronto on February 13. Take your kids and go see Blake Griffin. He's worth the price of admission, no matter what the price ... Sometimes it's true the best trades are those you never make: The Leafs would have given Mikhail Grabovski away in the summer to anyone who would eat his contract .... Andy Fantuz is sure to follow fellow CFL receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux with an NFL contract offer. Arceneaux announced his signing with the Minnesota Vikings on Twitter Saturday afternooon ... In the end, the great Peja Stojakovic dressed for two Raptors games, scored 20 points, then basically disappeared ... J-S Giguere's last game as a Leaf should come just before next month's trade deadline. After the deadline, if the Leafs don't move him, there's really no point in playing him ... Happy birthday to Brendan Shanahan (42), Hakeem Olajuwon (48), Tomas Holmstrom (38), Jerry Kramer (75), Domenic Denucci (age unavailable) and Mariska Hargitay (47) ... And hey, whatever became of Randy Holt?

BARGNANI JUST LIKE THE RAPTORS

Andrea Bargnani has grown into his role, perfectly suited to be the best player on a very bad NBA team.

He scores but doesn't rebound. He shoots but doesn't play much defence.

Whatever strides he has made with his offence, in this, his fifth season, has not been matched by the development of the rest of his game.

So the scoring numbers look reasonably good on paper, but he takes little ownership of wins and losses and is nowhere close to the kind of player you can build a contender around.

He has enough talent to provide just a little hope and enough ambivalence to make certain that the Raptors remain an irrelevant NBA franchise.

He is not unlike his team, or its fan base.

Expectations are low -- and he meets them.

CFL LOVERS' TIRED MESSAGE

Two things inevitably happen when Toronto interests claim they are pursuing an NFL franchise.

1) The CFL lovers overreact; 2) The NFL continues to ignore Toronto.

The second reaction has been long-term and apparent.

The first one is getting very old.

You don't hear the small theatres screaming about big productions coming to Toronto. The two find their own audiences.

And what I'll never understand about the CFL loyalists is why they can't love football for football.

I like the CFL but prefer the NFL. But I love football.

I'll go to high school games, summer games, college games.

I want the NFL in Toronto, with the CFL and more.

Why does it always have to be one or the other?

The Argonauts have become niche sport in Toronto. That's fine. That's what they are.

But wouldn't the market be enhanced with an NFL team?

Wouldn't it?

CROSBY AND THE NHL'S HEAD GAMES

The irony of the ongoing Sidney Crosby conversation about head hits in the NHL is that the hit that caused his own concussion was pure accident.

It wasn't the kind of hit the league is looking to outlaw.

It was both accidental and incidental contact. In fact, the Washington Capitals have been trying to get the very large David Steckel to hit people for years and he just won't do it.

Or as Bruce Boudreau said on a conference call Friday: "If it was reversed and Sidney happened to hit David Steckel and he didn't see him, nobody would be saying a word."

Since the hit in the Winter Classic, Steckel has been apologizing up and down about his collision with Crosby.

Meanwhile, the type of hit the NHL wants to get rid of is seen almost every night in almost every arena.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/simmonssteve


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