TORONTO - You can tell Alex Anthopoulos is horrified at Paul Beeston’s suggestion that the 33-year-old Blue Jays GM is a lot like the 73-year-old three-time World Series winner, Pat Gillick.
“I think it’s nuts,” Anthopoulos said. “I’ve been a GM for one year. This guy’s a hall of famer. You can’t even compare. Paul says nice things about me. He’s my boss, he hired me, so I guess he has got to say nice things about me.
“(Gillick) is the best GM of all time. Being a GM and getting into the Hall of Fame, I didn’t even think that could happen, but if anyone deserves it, it’s him. I admire him so much for what he has done but this is a guy who still takes time for Canadian baseball. He’s not a Canadian but he is Canadian in a lot of ways.”
“I wish I had a chance to work with him. That’s the biggest thing. Earlier in the spring I went to see a kid pitch a high school game and (Pat) was out there. I got to talk to him for maybe 45 minutes. I told Perry Minasian, who was with me, that I didn’t care whether I saw the kid pitch or not, getting 45 minutes with Pat Gillick was worth way more than getting to see a kid for the draft.”
For his part, Gillick is impressed with the Anthopoulos plan, a plan not unlike the one he and his staff used in the 1970s and 1980s to build the Jays into a contender.
“It takes time to put something together,” Gillick said. “I told (Alex): ‘Don’t lose your nerve. If you feel like you’re headed in the right direction and somewhere down the road you think you have to tweak your program, then tweak it, but don’t lose your nerve because of the fans, because of the media, and even because of ownership because when you change gameplans all the time, that’s where a lot of things are lost.”
“It’s going to take awhile, but be patient. They’re headed the right way.”
That plan has its early financial benefits but, Gillick warns, ownership needs to be ready to ante up to put it over the top.
“If you grow your players and you want to keep them, you’ve got to pay them or somebody else is going to pay them. You know your players, you know what kind of people they are. You know they perform for you.
“So why not reward them rather than going out and getting a free agent? That’s what we tried to do in 1992 and 1993 and probably that’s what the present management will do when they have the players. They stepped up this year and after Bautista hit the 50-plus home runs, they paid him. They want to show they mean business and they’re in it for the long run.
“You can’t fool the fans. They’re pretty smart. You don’t have to necessarily win right now but if they see light at the end of the tunnel, if they see you’re being consistent in what you’re doing, they’re going to back you up unless you betray them.”
A first impression
If John Farrell and his staff were trying to make a point right out of the gate Friday, it’s tough to beat a first impression like this.
After a spring full of promises that these Blue Jays would be more than a one-trick pony, using what speed they have to put pressure on their opponents, they came out of the gate and, well ... just did it.
In their first inning of a new year, the 2010 Sultans of Swat turned two groundball singles, a double steal, a walk, a hit batsman, two sacrifice flies and a fielding error into four runs.
Fresh from the emotional opening ceremony, celebrating Toronto’s two Hall of Fame inductees, Gillick and Roberto Alomar, the 50,000 on hand responded by rocking the Rogers Centre in a way seldom seen or heard since Alomar was making plays at second base. We’re thinking they might grow to like this small-ball.
Then again, later they showed they still are partial to the big-boy stuff when J.P. Arencibia, Jose Bautista and Adam Lind all went deep in impressive fashion.
Gillick recalled the Blue Jays’ first home opener in 1977, played in a snow storm.
“(Before the game) Labatts was having a big function,” said Gillick, “and I turned to (GM) Peter Bavasi and said: ‘I’m glad we’re going to get this reception out of the way and then we’ll be able to play the game tomorrow.’
“Peter said: ‘We’ve got 45,000 people in here and they’re not getting out.’
“Right then, I knew we were going to play.”