Last winter, the club was forced to lower its payroll, experienced layoffs and headed into this season expecting a tough six months playing in the American League East. With one game left on the schedule, Toronto has a 75-86 record, guaranteeing its first losing season since 2005 in a year the club saw its home attendance drop for the first time since '03.
On top of all of that, the Blue Jays are expected to reveal a permanent president and CEO in the coming weeks after Paul Beeston has filled the role on an interim basis for the past year. Combine that with recent reports that some of Toronto's players have issues with manager Cito Gaston, and the future seems uncertain for a team that has not made the playoffs since 1993.
Even with all of the issues at hand, team ownership is relaying a sense of confidence. Tony Viner, president and CEO of Rogers Media, the division of Rogers Communications Inc. that operates the ballclub, was in Baltimore on Saturday.
Without getting into specifics, Viner noted that the search for the new president was going well.
"We think we're in pretty good shape with the CEO search," he said. "I really can't say much more than that."
Along with Beeston, Viner said he believed the Blue Jays were heading in the right direction.
"Listen, I'm very happy with the state of the team," Viner said. "We believe that the team -- sure it's gone through some turmoil -- but the club is positioned to really do well. J.P.'s done a tremendous job in establishing a foundation and I think Alex is the right guy to take it forward."
Anthopoulos shares that belief.
"The arrow is pointing up with this organization," Anthopoulos said. "It may not seem that way right now, but there's a lot to look forward to. In terms of a direction and plan and so on, I'll probably have that for you guys down the road. I can't really give you a timeline right now. We're going to sit down with Paul and Tony and Cito and the staff and get everybody's input, and we'll have a direction going forward.
"The first thing really is to talk to the department heads, all the directors, get their input, talk to the staff. I certainly have some thoughts on what I'd like to do, but I want to have everybody's input. I have a head start on a lot of other people that would've gotten this opportunity, in the fact that I do know the organization top to bottom."
The 32-year-old Anthopoulos -- born in Montreal -- joined the Jays as a scouting coordinator in 2003, after working in the Expos organization. Anthopoulos, who is highly regarded for his creative work with player contracts, was promoted to the position of assistant to the general manager in '05 and was then named vice president of baseball operations and assistant general manager in '06.
As far as addressing payroll, Beeston and Anthopoulos both said that the team needs to evaluate its situation before determining what monetary route to take. Beeston added that it is not about a specific dollar figure, but about what type of phisolophy the club plans on adopting this winter.
"If you give a payroll and you just say, 'Go spend it,'" Beeston said, "you might might say that you're going to target pitchers and end up with hitters, or you might say that you're going to target hitters and you end up with pitchers. Let's find out what's out there, what direction we want to go and put it all as part of a business plan."
One of the first things Anthopoulos will have to do is sort out the situation with ace pitcher Roy Halladay, who is signed through 2010. If the Blue Jays don't feel they can contend next season, the club may decide to entertain trade offers for the pitcher this offseason. Toronto also has to decide whether to attempt to re-sign free-agent catcher Rod Barajas and shortstop Marco Scutaro.
"I really think all of the choices that we make with those three players are going to be contingent upon dollars, contingent upon the direction of the team," Anthopoulos said. "It's really going to tie into what the philosophy is. We like all those players. We'd like to keep all those players. Will they fit into the direction of what we're trying to do going forward? I can't answer that right now."
Anthopoulos said he plans to lean heavily on Blue Jays assistant general manager Tony LaCava, who has been considered for general manager roles with other teams in recent years. Beeston noted that Anthopoulos is not serving as the GM on an interim basis, though there is always the possibility that the new team president might want to hire his own staff.
"Alex is the general manager," Beeston said. "Having said that, there will be a CEO, and when that CEO comes in -- and I've told Alex this so that everybody knows -- he will have a blank canvas. ... Alex is a special person with a huge upside, and he'll be my recommendation to be the general manager."