BOSTON — Dropping David Purcey wasn’t the hardest decision general manager Alex Anthopoulos has had to make in his young career.
It may have been painful for the young GM to give up on a decent and likeable individual such as Purcey but there comes a time when first-round pick or not, you have to bite the bullet and move forward.
The most significant statement Anthopoulos made when explaining the decision on Tuesday ended with him saying: “We had to do what was best for the team.”
No doubt, Anthopoulos will have to make decisions based on similar logic in the not too distant future.
D-Day will be coming for a few pitchers as soon as Brandon Morrow and Frank Francisco wean themselves off the disabled list.
D-Day may be coming down the pike for veteran OF/DH Juan Rivera, who is too slow to play in the outfield and has given them nothing to date at the plate.
And in the more distant future, who knows how long they can stick with young left fielder Travis Snider, who continues to struggle to find his footing, with prospects knocking on the door — say next season — such as Eric Thames.
Just when do you know when to call it quits, turn the page on a player to move the team forward? Just how much rope do you give young players that are struggling in the name of development?
“Short-term versus long-term, I don’t think there’s a manual, it’s not always black and white,” Anthopoulos said the other day when the question was posed. “You do your best to balance it and I don’t think you ever really know if you’re making the right choice.
“At some point we have a responsibility to win games (at the big-league level) as well. You do your best to manage it and handle it and you also have a responsibility to the 25 guys on the team and to the fans and the organization. That being said you have to rate the risks and the rewards.”
How many chances do certain players deserve?
“That’s a good question,” Anthopoulos replied. “It varies for each individual and where the team is at and how you are performing overall. Can you afford it if someone is scuffling? But if the rest of the lineup is doing well, can you afford to carry him? That’s part of it.
“But the big thing for me is the mental side, the way they are going about their work and whether they have lost their confidence. To me that’s the No. 1 thing. As an example, everybody was talking about (J.P.) Arencibia having a slow spring in terms of the batting average. But in the clubhouse he did not lose one ounce of confidence. He believed in himself and was willing to do the things the organization wanted him to — to work on his defence and make that his priority.
“In Travis’ case (and he’ll be dragging a .154 batting average into Friday’s opening game in the four-game series against Boston) he’s very confident again. Travis hasn’t established himself, no question, but last year too the first month he scuffled and just before he got hurt he seemed to turn it on with the bat. And last year after he returned from his injury he started to find himself a little bit. Travis has been on the cusp of finally putting it all together.”
On the cusp? What does he base that on?
“Just those little spurts when he gets hot and shows you what he is capable of doing,” Anthopoulos said. “Then he’ll go back into bad habits or whatever. That’s the evolution of a young player. We saw that with Adam Lind for a few years and Aaron Hill was the same way.
“I think we all forget that Travis is just 23 years old. We know he’s got the tools, we know he’s got the ability. It will come at some point. I just don’t know when.”
This season is a year when nobody expects the Jays to be a contender.
It is a season about growth with certain players and establishing credentials with others.
It is also important for the Jays to be cold hearted, hard hearted at times regarding their players and their contributions.
Falling in love with your team and its players is about the worst mistake a general manager can make.
This week Anthopoulos showed with Purcey that he can say: “Enough. That’s it.”
As the season wears on, he may have to get tougher.