BY CLAYTON RICHER – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
The Toronto Blue Jays capped off their annual State of the Franchise address for season ticket holders Tuesday night in style. The event attendance more than doubled to 1,600 fans due to the buzz Alex Anthopoulos and company created this past off-season.
As a first time attendee I was instantly impressed as parking was free directly across the street from the Rogers Centre for the event.
The night kicked off at 5:30pm with a social hour where ticket holders could enjoy a complimentary bite to eat and adult refreshments. I must admit it was rather nice enjoying a beer without having to mortgage the house to pay for it.
Servers were walking around with complimentary trays of beer and wine and food stations were set up where you could enjoy slider sandwiches, nachos, sausage on a bun, and oriental side dishes.
Before the address started I had the pleasure of meeting future Hall of Famer and former Blue Jays pitcher Jack Morris. Morris is the Blue Jays newest member of the Sportsnet broadcast team taking over from the newly departed Alan Ashby on the radio. Morris was very approachable and after a quick photo and a handshake he was on his way.
The State of the Franchise officially began just after 6:30 pm where fans could sit in the stands while Paul Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos, John Gibbons and the MC for the event Buck Martinez were perched on chairs on the Blue Jays dugout.
Martinez does the formal introductions to the crowd and introduces AA by saying he is single handily responsible for the turnout tonight. Buck jokes that Mr. Beeston will be up in the concourse afterwards to answer everyone’s questions.
Martinez turns the microphone over to the President to address the ticket holders. Beeston states Alex is relentless.
“I remember when AA phoned me from Phoenix saying he could make a trade with Florida and could bring in Johnson, Buehrle and Reyes, I said you’re kidding me, I figured just one of them. Then he brought in Bonifacio. I call him Boni because I can’t get his name right. Then he said he was going to bring back John Gibbons and I said you’re kidding me, I’m not making this stuff up folks. Then he came and said we could get R.A. Dickey and I said you’re kidding me, and he actually delivered”, said Beeston.
Beeston went on to say that he would be remise if he didn’t mention we had a great offseason but also a great offseason in Cooperstown with Tom Cheek going in and he knows that Tom is looking down showing his approval.
Buck introduces Jack Morris as the newest member of the Sportsnet broadcast team. Jack admits that he joined the Blue Jays in 1992 because he was having a tougher and tougher time getting them out so he decided to jump ship and get on their bandwagon. Morris then jokes that he is anticipating the timing is right again for Jack to return to Toronto.
The Blue Jays Winter Tour video was played on the jumbotron and fans break into laughter anytime Colby Rasmus has a cameo where he speaks.
Gibbons joked afterwards that after watching that video Colby Rasmus could do recruitment for the Canadian military and that recruitment numbers would go through the roof.
The question and answer period then began, however this year the questions were emailed before the event and Martinez read the questions for the appropriate member to answer.
Gibbons was asked who is opening day starter is and if Casey Janssen is the closer. Without hesitation, Gibbons names his opening day starter as R.A Dickey followed by Morrow, Buehrle, Johnson and Ricky Romero.
“Split up our left handers a little bit but you could throw them out there in any order. As of tonight Janssen will be closer but were keeping an eye on Santos, and he will be eased in,” said the manager.
Gibbons guaranteed that he will put a team on the field you will be proud of, excited to watch and with some electricity and some really good things are going to happen. Gibby states he left with some unfinished business the last time but he expects to finish it this go around.
Beeston addressed a question about the grass issue: “It’s been talked about and speculated and there is no question our goal is to put grass in here. We have to consider the Argos but we are working with them and our goal is to get grass, it can be done. We are one of two teams left, and we want to get to grass sooner than later while still accommodating the Argos.”
Gibbons also answered who the opening day second baseman will be: “Going in will be a little competition, but I think Izturis probably has the advantage, natural position for him. We’ll let them battle it out they both bring a lot to the games and is going to look at ways to get Bonifacio on the field with his speed. Will let it play out and see where it takes us. Want to be strong up the middle as we can and Izturis gets the edge defensively.”
Gibbons addressed a question about the inconsistencies of Colby Rasmus: “Colby had a strong first half then ran out of gas, he is one of those rare players with a ton of talent but everyone keeps expecting more and more. I think he will do big things this season. Needs to be more consistent and cut down on strikeouts but he is on the verge of coming into his own. Look forward to working with him because we talk a lot alike.”
Anthopoulos was asked if there are any positional battles going into Spring Training: “Bullpen there are certain players on roster who are out of options still battling for last couple spots, back-up catcher position still undecided between Blanco and Thole as well as second base with Izturis and Bonifacio.”
Anthopoulos also addressed a concern about adding Melky Cabrera: “Paul and I had talked about it before, no one condones it but we think he can help us win games. He did something terrible, paid the price and he is not the first one, whether it is Andy Pettitte or Jason Giambi. We have said we will give a player a second chance maybe not a third or fourth but a second chance. Great reviews from former teammates, great things to say always smile on his face.”
After the State of the Franchise fans were permitted to remain for a drink and brief conversations with the Jays staff. Beeston, Anthopoulos, Gibbons, Morris and Buck Martinez were all available afterwards and could be found milling around joking with fans, signing autographs and posing for photographs. All of them were very personable and went far and above the call of duty.
In closing the “State of the Franchise” was top notch and a great event put on by a first class organization. Well done Blue Jays!
Clayton Richer is a baseball writer for Baseball Hot Corner, his interviews and blogs can be found daily at www.baseballhotcorner.com as well you can also follow him on twitter MLBHotCorner
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