As his team was on the verge of qualifying for the World Series the other night, Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos went into hiding in team principal Brian Snitker’s office.
The TV was on, but Anthopoulos couldn’t bring himself to watch it. He started to cast his eyes around the room.
âI’ve been there I don’t know how many times in four years. But he has this library and I had never looked at it, like in fact look at to that.
âI realized that it contained a lot of old media guides. Why does he have these media guides? Some of them are from 2014, 2015. He didn’t even have the job at the time. What does it talk about?
âI kind of just sat there staring at them. Should I get rid of it? Should I rearrange them? Do I have to go through them? So I found one from Atlanta and flipped through it for a while. It was cool.
“And then we did the World Series.”
Anthopoulos delivers this monologue from Atlanta on Monday, about an hour before flying to Houston. The World Series begins in Texas on Tuesday.
This is Anthopoulos’ chance to overtake the brilliant youngster and become a mainstay of the game. Still only 44 years old, he is about to cross Pat Gillick’s country to become the great Canadian in baseball.
You haven’t spoken to him in a while, and you fondly remember Anthopoulos’ interview style – you ask just one question and he talks so fast for ten minutes you’d think he got paid per word.
In this job, falling in love with the people you cover is frowned upon, but you know how it goes with matters of the heart. Sometimes you just can’t help yourself.
Anthopoulos was one of those guys. Not a straight shooter, exactly. He would gladly send you down the garden path if the mission required misinformation.
But he’s someone who loves people, loves talking to them and doesn’t have a big bone in his body. In a world full of guys bursting into rooms like they’re expecting applause, Anthopoulos was wonderfully normal.
Humility disarms. Balzac said that, but Anthopoulos liked to repeat it. He has a weakness for quotes from great minds. If you say one he likes in his presence, he will stop the conversation so he can write it down. How not to love a guy like that?
I called him to ask him about baseball, but I led with his former bosses in the Rogers family and their growing feud.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,” said Anthopoulos, loudly and firmly, and for the first time in his life, did not continue to speak. So we go back to baseball.
But let’s say this about it.
There is something delightful about the fact that Anthopoulos’ greatest professional triumph comes just as the Blue Jays owning family begins to blow rivets.
He wasn’t exactly wrapped up in their warm billionaire chests after making the club relevant.
Things probably weren’t helped by the property’s attempt, and ridiculous failure, to fire Anthopoulos’ rabbi in the business, Paul Beeston. You remember the story. How primary owner Edward Rogers phoned baseball looking for Beeston’s replacement as club president. How one of those phone calls came to Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. How Reinsdorf is Beeston’s best friend.
Alright, this isn’t about explaining the details of your top secret plot to the intended target of the plot, although it’s funnier.
But back to Atlanta.
After leaving the Jays six years ago under a cloud, Anthopoulos first worked for the brooches money in Los Angeles. Having had an idea of ââwhat winning Toronto looked like, he wanted more. Hence the attraction of taking over a franchise ready for the playoffs in Georgia.
âBut when I got here, I found out there really was a sports story from Atlanta. The first part – no good thing can happen here.
It doesn’t sound familiar at all.
It took him four tries, but he succeeded. It’s unfair to keep comparing one diet to another, especially as things start to work out with the Jays, but it’s also impossible not to. While a team searches for that secret sauce, the guy who wrote his recipe cooks elsewhere. They make films about this stuff.
Like most successful middle-aged people, Anthopoulos explains how his priorities have changed. Where he once focused on the ladder, he now focuses on sight.
For example, he came home late on Sunday evening.
âI don’t know my neighbors well. I’m busy. I travel. I keep odd hours, âsays Anthopoulos. âBut last night, everyone in the street, everyone had signs, balloons, Braves flags. They even made our mailbox. I said to my wife, âDid you see what they did? I have chills.
His brother, Bill, has never seen an Atlanta game.
âHe doesn’t like sports,â Anthopoulos said. âHe has no interest in sports.
But he’s coming to Atlanta for the World Series.
âI know it sounds very old-fashioned, but that’s the impact that sports can have. After getting to know Toronto and what winning can bring to a community, it changed everything for me.
He is embarking on this contemplative path because I reread one of his own quotes. It was based on an interview he did shortly after taking the top job in Toronto twelve years ago.
âI understand that I won’t be in this chair forever, but I will be a fan of this team and I will be living in this city,â Anthopoulos said at the time. âSo I want to see this team do well. “
Does it still hold?
âOh man,â Anthopoulos said, looking a little hazy. âYes. Of course. My wife’s family is still in Toronto. My side is in Montreal. My kids go to camp in Canada. So it’s easy to root them. Because they’re in the AHL.
Which will show you that even the sensitive, mature nostalgia of a man in his prime has its limits.