Blue Jays Nation

Anthopoulos, Beeston, Lawrie, and Morrow Guests of 3rd Annual Luncheon

Alex Anthopoulos

On Friday the Vancouver Canadians hosted their 3rd annual Hot Stove Luncheon at the Hotel Vancouver in front of about 500 people. The Vancouver Canadians are the Blue Jays’ short season single-A affiliate and two-time defending North West League Champions. In fact, Vancouver is the only place in Canada to find affiliated minor league baseball. This year’s headlining guests included Blue Jays’ president Paul Beeston, general manager Alex Anthopoulos, and players Brett Lawrie, and Brandon Morrow.

The proceedings kicked off with Charlie Wilson, director of minor league operations, announcing that the Blue Jays had extended their player development contract with the Canadians for 2 more seasons. It will now run through 2016. The agreement has been working in a very positive manner as it has allowed some of the Blue Jays’ prospects to get used to living in Canada and that goes along with that needed adjustment before they reach the major leagues. It also shows that the Blue Jays are willing to strengthen the bond between the two cities for the development of baseball in BC and across Canada. With two championships under their belt in their first two years of the affiliation, it’s easy to see why the Blue Jays would be willing to extend this agreement.

With the voice of the Canadians Rob Fai acting as the master of ceremonies, Blue Jays President Paul Beeston and GM Alex Anthopoulos were invited on stage for a Q&A. First up was Anthopoulos explaining the origin of the Marlins’ trade back in November stating:

“Josh Johnson was the target and we had a meeting with the Marlins at the GM meetings, but even prior to that we had gone to see a free agent pitcher that we were trying to sign and it just looked like that was going to take a little bit of time, so when we started the conversation with the Marlins about Josh Johnson they had asked for two of our very good young players and so I expressed to them if we were going to talk about those kind of players we were going to have to expand the deal…..so we asked for Mark Buehrle and then at the end we asked about Reyes.”

Paul Beeston, who was the team’s President during their early 90’s World Series years, was asked to reflect on the trade and whether or not it was the biggest trade in team history. Naturally the comparison was to the 1990 trade that sent Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez to San Diego for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter:

“Well, I think this deal could be bigger at the very end of the day because it’s taken us through a transformation. We were a good team back then, fact of the matter is we traded two all-stars for two all-stars. What Alex was able to pull off in this deal is he was able to transform this team.”

Beeston pretty much nailed it in that sense. Yes, the Blue Jays were a very good team in 1990 having lost in the ALCS in 1985 and 1989, and that trade really was in part to make room for the up and coming John Olerud at first base. The Marlins’ trade really was transformative. It took the Blue Jays’ rotation, which was in tattered pieces by the end of 2012, and instantly gave it 2 premium arms. It also gave the Blue Jays the all-star shortstop they haven’t seen since the aforementioned Tony Fernandez. Of course, part of me wonders as well who was free agent pitcher Anthopoulos talking to before the trade.

Next on stage came Blue Jays’ pitcher Brandon Morrow and local Langley, BC product Brett Lawrie. Now, first of all I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel the intensity and energy of Brett Lawrie the moment he walked on stage, in fact many of his quotes were quite typically Lawrie-esq. He began by reflecting on coming home for a few days.

“Yeah it was nice, anytime I get to come home and get back to where I grew up its nice.”

Later Lawrie was asked about what he believes his role on the team is as a young player.

“I like to get everyone involved, I feel like that’s my job, get everybody pumped up. I like to get myself pumped up because if I feel like I can get 24 other guys pumped up and ready it makes everyone better as a whole so I go out on the field everyday with some energy and try and get everyone involved”

Brandon Morrow, who I believe has the potential to be the most dominant pitcher in the Blue Jays rotation, talked about his time in Seattle and his time in Toronto.

“I enjoyed my time a lot with the Mariners…but it was a learning experience the whole time….it takes a while to get comfortable at the big league level, you know in front of 20-50 thousand people pitching out there every day…the more I started thinking about it as a job and not just a game every day, things started to come a bit more.”

Brandon was also asked to reflect on one player that he learned from or got to look up to during his time in the big leagues.

“Yeah, early for me in my first year in the big leagues at my first spring training JJ Putz, he was like a big brother to me for the two years we spent together in Seattle…and for a lot of the time it looked like I was going to take over his role, you know he was the closer and I setup for him for the two years and then I did some closing when he got traded. He helped me a lot in preparing for that. But thankfully, Alex traded for me and got me into a better suited role and I think I can contribute more as a starter.”

One of the biggest adjustments I noticed Morrow make last year was he seemed to back off the velocity a bit and as a result his command seemed so much superior and to both sides of the plate no less. If he can stay healthy Morrow has the ability to win a Cy Young award and be a key member of what looks to be a very dominant rotation in 2013.

All and all the event was a great opportunity for Blue Jays’ fans in BC and Vancouver to get some exposure to the team’s management and some of the players and their feelings on the upcoming season. With the shrewd moves they’ve made this offseason, the Blue Jays have captured the imaginations and attention of Canadians coast to coast.