TORONTO - Jumping back on the Blue Jays bandwagon? Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos says knock yourself out.
But for his part, Anthopoulos is taking the ‘disassociated teenager’ approach to the 2013 season.
That is, he’s determined to feel neither highs nor lows.
And it seems to be working. A couple of weeks ago, when the Jays were still losing on a regular basis, Anthopoulos vowed that he wouldn’t make any rash decisions, like considering the possibility of firing manager John Gibbons. And now that his team is on a hot streak (seven straight wins, and 11 of their past 14 games), he isn’t going to set up a flower stand on Blue Jays Way and blow kisses at tourists either. It’s all about keeping his sanity in what he knew was going to be an emotional season.
“In years past, I was a lot more aware of what was being said and what was being written about the team,” said Anthopoulos.
“This year because there was so much media coverage, one of the things I told myself was, ‘I’m not going to get caught up in any of it.’ So I’m not going to listen to the radio, and I’m not going to read the clips, because I don’t want to be influenced one way or the other, good or bad.
“I’m trying to stay as even-keeled as I can. In the car I’ve got XM Satellite radio, I’ve got the E Street Band Channel on and I’ve got the Pearl Jam Channel on, and those are the two things I listen to,” he added. “No Jays Talk.”
Mike Wilner won’t be pleased to hear that. Then again, when the Jays are losing an hour of Jays Talk is enough to drive even the most indifferent listener to start searching for a rope.
Anthopoulos vows to remain a beacon of calmness no matter what happens over the next three months, but he has no problem with Jays fans — now that the team is starting to win — jumping back on the bandwagon. Some Jays insiders seem to take offence to bandwagon jumping, but Anthopoulos, and ace starter R.A. Dickey, don’t have a problem with it.
“Is that not what being a fan is?” said Anthopoulos. “A fan is being emotional. I used to like going to Raptors games. I didn’t know about the players or about the back stories, but I could just go and cheer and yell. It’s an outlet. I understand it.
“So look, bandwagons or whatever, whatever makes fans happy and gives them their entertainment and their joy, go ahead, jump on, jump off. Jump up and down, I don’t care,” he said.
It’s certainly been a Jekyll and Hyde season for the Jays and their fans, but more Hyde than Jekyll. After weeks of misery and disappointment, the Jays are inching there way back into the wild card race and for the fans, anger is slowly being replaced by hope. Dickey said the players have noticed the mood changes outside of the clubhouse over the season.
“But it doesn’t bother us,” he said. “I think it’s just human nature, because we, in our own right, are all fans of something. So we understand when you’re not playing well, people don’t want to watch it. We get it.
“I’ll say this,” Dickey added, “early on in the year (the emotion) was palpable, because of all the excitement that had been generated in the off-season with the moves, and also the marketing that had been done around the team. And when we got here, it was just really, really fantastic. And since then, since we’ve performed very mediocre at best, you sense that you’re going to have to earn that back. And rightfully so.
“But from a personal stand point, one way or the other, it doesn’t change my motivation to perform well,” the knuckleballer said. “I’ve been given a standing ovation walking off the field and I’ve been booed off the field — and I’m 15 starts into a three-year contract. So, for me, it’s okay, because I’ve been around a while and I get it. If that’s how a fan would like to voice their discontent, then I understand.”
Dickey said the mood swings expressed by parts of Jays Nation shows, at least, that the city cares about the team.
“And that passion sometimes manifests into jubilation, in the form of a standing ovation, or they’re making sure you know that they’re not happy, getting booed,” he said.
At the end of the day, Dickey said, he appreciates the passion, whether the fans are on or off the bandwagon.
“As players, we can’t afford to panic,” Dickey said. “There’s plenty of moments when we felt like we could have played a lot better. Recently, you walk out and you feel like there’s nothing that’s going to stop you from winning the game. That part ebbs and flows for sure. But as far as panicking or getting too high or too low, we can’t be prone to that.”
But the fans can. And right now, they’re on the wagon. So to speak.