TORONTO — The Anthony Bass imbroglio that engulfed the Toronto Blue Jays over the last week and a half ended Friday when the pitcher was designated for assignment hours before the start of Pride Weekend at Rogers Centre.
It was the latest development in a controversy that began last week when Bass shared a social media post that supported anti-LGBTQ boycotts. He made a brief public apology the day after the post.
General manager Ross Atkins, in a mid-afternoon availability, said the roster move was a “baseball decision to make our team better.”
“There’s a myriad of variables,” he said. “Performance is usually the driving one and performance was a large aspect of this decision. Distraction was a small part of it and something that we had to factor in.”
Bass did not record a decision in 22 appearances this season. He had a 4.95 earned-run average and was used in low-leverage situations.
Bass had shared a video post he later deleted that urged others to spurn Target and Bud Light over the support they showed for the LGBTQ community.
The right-hander was booed by home fans in his two appearances after the controversy first developed.
He did speak informally with some media members in recent days and outlined steps he had taken after making his apology. Bass said he felt he was “in a better place moving forward'” after meeting with Pride Toronto executive director Sherwin Modeste.
However, in a pre-game scrum with reporters on Thursday, Bass noted that he still stood by his personal beliefs, adding he initially did not think the video post — which described the selling of Pride-themed merchandise as “evil” and “demonic” — was hateful.
“That’s why I posted it originally,” he said. “When I look back at it, I can see how people can view it that way and that’s why I was apologetic.”
The team has seven days to trade Bass or put him on waivers. Atkins said he didn’t see the possibility of a minor-league assignment as a “realistic outcome.”
“We won’t stand in his way to be with another organization,” he said.
Messages left with Bass and his agent were not immediately returned.
Bass planned to catch the ceremonial first pitch by LGBTQ advocate leZlie Lee Kam on Friday to help kick off Pride Weekend at the ballpark. Right-hander Kevin Gausman filled in instead.
The festivities also include live performances, involvement from various LGBTQ organizations across the community and themed activities.
Bass has played for six other teams over his 12-year big-league career.
He spent the 2020 season in Toronto and was reacquired last season in a trade with the Miami Marlins. He’s in the final year of a contract that pays him US$3 million this season.
Earlier this year, Bass sparked criticism when he tweeted to complain that a flight attendant had asked his pregnant wife to clean up popcorn their toddler dropped on the floor during a flight.
He has since deleted his Twitter account, removed the Instagram app from his phone and said he was taking a break from social media.
Blue Jays manager John Schneider said Bass was given the news early Friday afternoon.
“All those conversations are tough,” Schneider said. “Baseball decisions, they happen all the time. It was tough but it was mutually understood from both ends that it was the best thing for him and for us right now.”