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Jays' brass gives fans State of the Franchise

Jays' brass gives fans State of the Franchise

Jays' brass gives fans State of the Franchise
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' plea for patience appears to have struck a chord with their season-ticket-holder fan base.

The club received a warm reception from the approximately 500 people who attended the annual State of the Franchise event on Thursday night at Rogers Centre.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos was joined by president Paul Beeston and manager John Farrell in a town hall-style format, where fans had a chance to pose questions and comment on the direction the organization has taken over the past 12 months.

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This year's event featured plenty of praise for the second-year GM, who has overhauled the club's approach to player development and turned it into one of the highest-ranked Minor League systems in baseball.

"A lot of it is possible because the fans really do understand what we're doing," Anthopoulos said of his rebuilding strategy. "They're not always going to agree with it, but they understand the process.

"We want to get [to the playoffs] as fast as we can. What we won't do is shortcut it. When we do get there, it's not going to stop. It's going to be a freight train that's going to keep going."

Surprisingly, there wasn't any discussion from the fans about why the Blue Jays recently traded away All-Star center fielder Vernon Wells and No. 1 starter Shaun Marcum. Instead, the questions focused on the approach Anthopoulos took during those negotiations, as well as what his plans are for the club's young players.

Part of that understanding may stem from a new approach the club has taken with its fan base. Beeston alluded to a change in philosophy within the organization since Anthopoulos was put in charge.

In the past, the club began each season by trying to sell its fans on the potential of competing against the Red Sox and Yankees. That win-now mentality led to the signing of aging veterans, and some bitterness developed within the season-ticket holders when things didn't work out exactly as planned.

Now, Toronto preaches about its long-term strategy that centers around pouring millions of dollars into the First-Year Player Draft and scouting international players. The Blue Jays currently have three players ranked on MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects list, and their Minor League system has been ranked fourth overall by Baseball America.

Those rankings don't guarantee success, but Beeston is confident in the direction his team is taking.

"We don't want to overpromise, we want to overdeliver," Beeston said. "We're not here to be a competitive baseball team. We're here to win the World Series -- and we're here to win the World Series on a sustainable basis. How long that's going to take, I'm not sure. But I do know one thing -- we're headed in absolutely the right direction."

Anthopoulos told the fans he does not envision making any major moves prior to the start of the season. That seemingly eliminates any possibility of the club signing free-agent designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero. One reason for the lack of interest in the veteran slugger could be attributed to the faith the team has in Edwin Encarnacion, who Anthopoulos said has the potential to hit 30 home runs this season.

One fan did ask about whether the Blue Jays were trying to make a trade with Texas for Michael Young. He felt acquiring a third baseman should still be a priority because it would allow the club to keep Jose Bautista in right field, where he racked up 12 assists last season.

Anthopoulos didn't specifically comment about whether the team had any interest in Young, but he did give a pretty definitive outline of its intentions.

"There's no question you love to watch Jose play with everything that he brings," Anthopoulos said. "We haven't had a chance to see him in an extended period at third base -- and I think the thrills he gave us in right field, he'll give us those same thrills at third.

"We can all appreciate great third-base play. I think Scott Rolen was the most enjoyable to watch -- and I'm not comparing Jose to him -- but he's got that type of athleticism to make highlight-reel plays."

The surprise guest of the night was soon-to-be Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar. The Blue Jays honored Alomar with a video montage of his time in Toronto, and the former second baseman received several standing ovations from those in attendance as the night progressed.

Alomar, who will become the first player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame wearing a Blue Jays cap, offered to sign autographs for all of the fans, and he thanked them for his time in Toronto.

"It is an honor, first of all, just to be selected into the Hall of Fame -- and second of all, it's an honor to be wearing the Toronto Blue Jays hat," Alomar said.

"In the beginning when I came here, I didn't know what to expect. When I got here, you guys embraced me and welcomed me home. I think you guys made my job a lot easier, and I hope that I did all the best that I [could] do for you guys to have fun every time you came here and watched me play."

For Farrell, it was his first opportunity to take part in the State of the Franchise event. The first-year manager, who said he was in the final stages of purchasing a condominium in downtown Toronto, came away impressed.

"Educated, a lot of good questions," Farrell said. "Any time you're in a setting like this, when people have the ability to interact with you, you get the sense of the passion that exists here.

"But at the same time ... we've got a lot of work to make the group that was 400-strong tonight become, a year from now, 1,000."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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