Where Canada Fits in America’s Pastime

When the city of Toronto completed work on the Luminous Veil that hems the Bloor Viaduct and held the event’s official lighting, the 2015 PanAm Games were finally ready to begin. In fact, it worked as a sort of unofficial opening ceremonies. Toronto’s mayor, John Tory – the one that came after the crack-smoking one – was, of course, in attendance. He ended up giving a speech that took a backhanded yet relatively unnoteworthy jab at Torontonians’ propensity to complain. “Toronto, on a regular basis,” Tory said only days later “would be qualifying for a gold medal in (moaning and groaning).” Somewhat anecdotally – or perhaps more to the point – the Toronto Blue Jays were in fourth place at the time, and three games back of the first-place New York Yankees.

Whether or not you agree with Mr. Tory, this, above all else, is what sets us apart as a baseball city. As you know, the 29 other teams are located in a different country. Canadians – the collective ‘we’ – like to think of ourselves as different. We’ve only got one team, and the entire country rallied behind it for two fantastic months at the end of last summer. We like to think what makes us different is our apologetic behaviour, which has seemingly become reflexive, or that we put an extra ‘u’ in some words because we didn’t overthrow our ties to the commonwealth. Maybe it’s our spelling of ‘defence.’

But it isn’t. What makes Canadians different is our ability to look on the other side of the fence and see that the grass on our side has been turf all along. It’s the Canadian condition. What we self-identify as humility actually comes off as an aversion to nationalism. We’re proud of a nation that takes as little pride in itself as possible. Now, none of this is to paint all Canadians with the same pessimistic brush. In fact, I believe many of us to be very optimistic. But our ability to complain while still staying positive is what sets us apart.

It surfaces in the most sublime ways. Take, for instance, the fact that a fan called in to Blue Jays Talk hosted by Mike Wilner on the day the Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth – their first after a two decade drought– to express his displeasure that Melky Cabrera wasn’t on the team anymore. The caller wasn’t upset; they just expressed empathy that Cabrera wouldn’t get to enjoy this.

If you need further proof, consider the fact that we joke about how much we hate the turf here, but then also defend it when other teams threaten to protest. We dislike ourselves, our city, our team insofar as nobody else agrees. If anyone else dislikes us, then we unite in our disdain for them.

But nothing epitomizes this better than the fallout of this past offseason. For the uninitiated, the abridged version: Rogers, the corporation that owns the Blue Jays, had tried for a couple of seasons to replace team president, Paul Beeston. It’s worth noting that, when this process began nearly two years prior, Rogers contacted Kenny Williams about potentially taking over as Beeston’s replacement. That news went up to White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who just so happened to be Beeston’s best friend in all of baseball. As a result, Beeston – the Blue Jays’ first employee – found out for the first time that his bosses were trying to replace him from somebody outside the organization.

Last August 31, it was made official that Mark Shapiro would be taking over the role of team president. By this time, the Blue Jays had rocketed to first place. Somewhat hilariously, David Price was actually dinged with the ‘L’ that evening against Shapiro’s old team, the Cleveland Indians. After the move was announced, there was a lot of speculation about what may have happened behind closed doors after the move. There was one report that Shapiro scolded Alex Anthopoulos for trading so many top prospects. Regardless of the ‘how’ it happened, it all culminated in Anthopoulos deciding to turn down a contract extension to stay on as general manager. To be clear, that’s all we know. Shapiro got hired; Anthopoulos left. Maybe if Shapiro didn’t get hired, the Blue Jays would still have Anthopoulos. Maybe he would be in Los Angeles regardless. Whichever parts of the story seem to piece together for you are, predominantly, irrelevant.

All we have are optics. And we have a specifically strange lens through which to look. The day Anthopoulos announced he was stepping away from the Blue Jays, was the same day The Sporting News announced that he had been named MLB’s Executive of the Year. Obviously, that was less than desirable. ‘We’ had our ‘guy’ and he turned out to be the best in the league for one year and now he’s gone because some other guy may or may not have been able to work with him amicably.

Conversely however, our ‘guy’ did trade away a lot of top prospects. And while it brought the Blue Jays a division title – the goal of all executives – if Shapiro did in fact bring that up in a meeting, it wouldn’t have been fallacious. And don’t forget, Anthopoulos also traded away Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud – the New York Mets battery for game 3 of the World Series.

The fact is, some Canadians will choose not to like Shapiro. Even further, some may choose to actively dislike Shapiro – to request his dismissal. And they need to know how weird that is, and how distinctly Canadian it is; to dislike a man because he isn’t named ‘Anthopoulos.’ If you Google search ‘fire’ with any other MLB executive’s name – even the seemingly bad ones – you won’t find a petition for their dismissal.

Nobody outside of team ownership really knows what makes an above average MLB executive, just as they don’t know what truly happened that caused Anthopoulos’ to depart. Now that the dust has settled, I’d be willing to bet it has more to do with upward mobility than anything else. There is nothing that makes Shapiro measurably worse than Beeston. There is nothing any fan can point out that makes Ross Atkins more or less qualified than Anthopoulos.

Even when things are going well in Toronto, we will find ways to gripe. So don’t pretend that Anthopoulos should be sainted. And don’t pretend that Shapiro and Atkins are Satan and Mephistopheles. It defies logic to look at the Blue Jays roster – which is still excellent – and grumble about the team’s upper management.

My only solace is that, the next time anyone located beneath the 49th parallel takes issue with our infield – which is dirt now – or our MVP or our ability to catch foul balls, I know that we’ll unite in our ire against those foes. Similarly, if this team goes on to win for the next few years, Shapiro and Atkins will have helped that happen. There is, then, a conceivable way that both Shapiro and Atkins become very well-liked executives in this city; this country. So maybe we should appreciate what we have. Maybe we should embrace what makes us different; some of us just need better ways to express it.

Lead Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

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9 comments on “Where Canada Fits in America’s Pastime”


Shapiro is an utter bonehead in two respects, and he’s not going to be able to overcome either.

The first is marketing. He doesn’t get that if you sign a David Price, you get a huge marketing boost — you’ll sell more tickets, get better ratings, and so on. If you try to sign him and fail, people will be understanding and your public image is probably ok. If you don’t even try to sign him, you’re simply a pathetic loser who won’t try. AA was known for asking about the availability of pretty much every other player, available or not.

Shapiro isn’t able to understand that a player like Kawasaki is vital to a team not because of his playing ability (which actually wasn’t terrible) but because of his entertainment value. It was worth the price of a ticket to see his antics.

Shapiro’s second major failing is lack of imagination. He simply would never have made the Vernon Wells trade, the Josh Donaldson one, even the Tulo one because he’s not creative enough to pull deals like that off.

Sure, some of AA’s trades were complete busts. I’d love to be able to undo the Dickey one. But he was always entertaining. You never knew what he’d pull off next.

None of Shapiro’s deals have been surprising, imaginative, creative. He comes across as a boring bean-counter, and the Jays over the next few seasons will evolve into a dull bean-counter team like the Indians.

Michael Bradburn

He’s had the job for six months.

I think there are some legitimate criticisms that people can make of Shapiro, but that he ‘isn’t Anthopoulos’ (which is the crux of your argument) isn’t one of them.


We were spoiled. We had the most imaginative, hardest-working, SMARTEST, executive in the biz. Shapiro is apparently also hard working, but without the imagination and the intelligence, he’s going to be a train wreck. Or, more accurately, he already is.


I support AA just as much as the next guy, he ran a fabulous scouting department, and had a great drafting track record, got creative in trades, and overall was a very exciting manager to watch.
However ripping Shapiro for not signing Kawasaki and not being “imaginative” enough in trading is flat out ridiculous. He has repeatedly acquired high level talent in trades (see: Kluber, Carrassco, Bauer, Santana, Brantley) for expiring free agents. I imagine things will go even better with greater cash at hand. Improved scouting, ability to re-sign players. Sure he may be calculated, but it’s a strategy that has clearly paid off.

Sure it wasn’t a great publicity move to stay out of the running for Price, but would people be half as upset if he went to an NL team as opposed to the Red Sox? If we knew now that contract may hamper our ability to re-sign Donaldson, Stroman, or others in the future? These contracts have proven time and again to be very dangerous. With the offense Toronto has, you just need average starting pitching, and spreading the money around on some depth and short deals was a pretty smart move.

If you think people wont come to the ballpark because of Kawasaki, or heck, even David Price…give your head a shake. Entertainment value? I’d much rather watch Darwin Barney turn a fantastic double play late in a game than Kawasaki rambling on in a interview, if you want entertainment watch it later on YouTube.

I’m not a huge supporter of Shapiro, I’d love to have seen AA stick around, but his track record has been pretty good for a low budget team. He’s a smart mind, and who knows how creative he can get with a little extra cash and flexibility on his side.


Hard to lump the 2013 (Reyes, Dickey) and 2015 (Donaldson, Price) trades together. The former did not bring the Jays a division title; the latter can be said to have helped get them their 2015 division title.

As a die-hard Mets fan, I’m also rooting for Montreal to get another team. I think the fanbase and resources are there. The NL East is boring without a Montreal team.

I also think Vancouver could be an option for another expansion team, despite it never being mentioned. It’s a bigger metro area than Portland (which does get mention), as well as Cincinnati, Cleveland, Kansas City, and Milwaukee.

david cohen

As a someone who attended the opening game in 1977, I can say that I have little patience for what has happened recently. Last fall was the first bit of joy in 20 years. On the one hand, I like AA, on the other hand, he happened to have a good second half season where several years of success had been promised. To me, the mistake was many years ago, not getting rid of Beeston and keeping Gillick.
That led to a string of lousy general managers and owners who did not care.
I resent the negative attacks on Shapiro, but would like a bit of his time, to explain why Estrada could not be signed for more than two years, while Happ is even back, but signed to three years.
The Jays will win the World Series this year and we should forget AA. As to turf, who wants to see stars hurt? I am sure, the best decision based on technology will be made, but our government, John Tory etc, cannot afford a new stadium

The Moxball

Now since this is a BP site and I want to bring up the article that is in the BP annual, about Shapiro, written by Pete Beatty. Pete talks about how Shapiro’s Cleveland legacy is paved with trades that created stocking the Tribe’s prospect pool from trades such as CC Sabatha in 2008 the year after he won the Cy Young award and follow that up with Cliff Lee in 2009 also one year removed from winning his Cy Young award and come back player of the year. He did see returns such as Carlos Carrasco and Michael Brantley as part of the above mentioned trades, so there is upside in this but Cleveland is still also waiting.

I am skeptical of what his role in Toronto will be looking back at his history with the Indians taking over as GM of a team that had won their division 6 of 7 years prior to him taking over. After that he dealt veteran after veteran to stock the pool but only followed up with three division titles over the next 15 years and one in which he took over. Looking at this yeah this seems like an improvement here in Toronto considering it is the first time in 20 years we have seen a new winning flag fly.

I still believe that if this team does not get off to a good start you might as well look at all the veterans, players on expiring contracts or those high league value players that could be moved to refill the depleted farm system that is there. But who will it be Bautista, Edwin, Martin, Tulo even the reigning MVP Donaldson, or anyone else.

Also just to prove that Shapiro(in Cleveland) is a miser he took a over a payroll that was ranked 4th in MLB and over the next 14 years averaged the 23rd rank among the 30 teams for highest payroll.

So in conclusion this could be a very hated man if this team fails to produce and moves are made at the deadline.

@themoxball on twitter

Joshua Howsam

One thing that is important to mention, and is being continually glossed over whenever the Jays are talked about: Mark Shapiro is neither the GM or the bogus “President of Baseball Operations.” He is the President and CEO of the entire organization. He is not going to be the one negotiating trades the way he was in Cleveland. All of that will be Ross Atkins. Shapiro is merely the rubber stamp.

CLint LAjeunesse

Dude, Your Canadian? Wow…
What an insulting article. I have been a Proud Canadian for 46 years now and a Jays fan for 36 of those and have never felt the feelings towards my Country or city or team. You think writing “none of this is to paint all Canadians with the same pessimistic brush” Makes it better? You belittled us , You made fun of us, You stereotyped us. An American Reader will see the Brush you used to paint us with that’s for sure You are all the things you claim in this article accept you directed it at us, your people not some silly sports team. Ya were the worse. Shame on you. SORRY FOR COMPLAINING.

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