TORONTO – Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos was in the hotseat at the team’s annual State of the Franchise on Monday night.
And it was team president Paul Beeston who really applied the pressure.
Beeston told a group of about 1,000 season ticketholders during a question-and-answer session at Rogers Centre that he expects the Jays to soon make regular appearances in the post-season.
“In the next five years, I would expect that we would be in it two to three times,” Beeston said.
Anthopoulos, seated between Beeston and manager John Farrell on large leather chairs on the team’s dugout, raised his eyebrows slightly and smiled after the remark. He then looked over at Beeston and raised two, then three fingers in the air before nodding his head.
Beeston wouldn’t say when he expects the playoff breakthrough to occur, but he thinks the foundation is in place for the team to take the next step.
The Jays haven’t been to the post-season since their last World Series win in 1993.
“I think that’s what you’ve got to be looking at,” Beeston said. “I think we’ve made the investment. I think (team owner) Rogers (Communications) has made the investment. I think that the farm system is coming the way that we want it to come.
“I think Alex is smart and he can make the decisions that have to be made to put the team and the pieces together. I don’t think that we can have it both ways. We’ve built this team so that we can actually be a contending team for a sustainable period of time.”
Anthopoulos said he wasn’t surprised by Beeston’s playoff expectations.
“He didn’t throw me for a loop at all,” Anthopoulos said. “That’s why we’re here — to talk about winning. Obviously to do it as fast as we can but to do it the right way and that isn’t going to change.”
Toronto finished fourth in the American League East last season with an 81-81 record. Anthopoulos has addressed a few key areas in the off-season but was unable to land a big-name star.
Most questions were of the softball variety but a few fans took him to task during the 75-minute session, wondering why big names like Japanese pitching star Yu Darvish and slugger Prince Fielder landed elsewhere.
The Jays’ GM stuck to his guns, saying he wants to improve the team now and in the future, but not by overpaying free agents or by dealing players and prospects just for the sake of making a deal.
It has been a busy off-season for Anthopoulos. He has shored up the bullpen and filled some other holes but could still use a big bat to protect slugger Jose Bautista and the starting rotation remains thin.
The Blue Jays have been an average team for years but they do have several exciting young players who picked up some much-needed mileage under their belts last season.
Whether they can end the franchise’s long run of mediocrity remains to be seen.
“The month of September better start meaning something to us,” Beeston told the fans. “Because that’s what you want, that’s what we want.”
Notes: The turf versus natural grass debate was raised during the session. Beeston said the issue has been examined over the years but is a “little bit more serious right now.” He added that some free agents rule out playing for Toronto simply because they don’t want to play on turf. One of the biggest hurdles is that Rogers Centre is not a baseball-exclusive facility. … Toronto begins pre-season play March 3 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.