I have always found it difficult to evaluate the performance of major league managers and general managers because so much of what they do is hidden from the public eye. The least important of a manager’s skills are the ones that are obvious: what players they put in the lineup, and what pitchers they use and when. The most important skills are pre-game preparation and the ability to get the most out of the roster, and these are the things we don’t see.
For general managers, it’s even harder to evaluate. We can see the moves that a GM makes, but we do not know what options were available and what potential moves were turned down. We also don’t know how much money a GM is given to spend.
What we do know about John Gibbons and Alex Anthopoulos is this: they’re not afraid to try things. I don’t know many managers that would have solved the Jays’ second base problem by creating a complex platoon between Brett Lawrie, Juan Francisco, and Steve Tolleson. Lawrie played second when Francisco was in the lineup and then moved to third when Tolleson was playing or during the late innings when the Jays had the lead. Many managers would have just kept Lawrie at third and found somebody to play second.
Also, it seems obvious now that Adam Lind can’t hit left-handed pitching, but Gibbons was the first manager to actually do something about it: he left Lind on the bench against lefties and brought somebody else in to either play first or DH (moving Encarnacion as needed).
Anthopoulos also isn’t afraid to try things: who else would have made the huge trade with the Marlins, or acquired R. A. Dickey, or acquired Josh Donaldson? Not everything he tries works out – hello there, Frank Francisco for Mike Napoli – but you have to give him credit for not remaining passive. It’s hard to tell, but I think he’s done a decent enough job. Not to mention that he saved the Jays $89 million when he traded Vernon Wells to the Angels.
As for ownership: the problem with Rogers is not that they’re cheap, but that they’re a publicly traded corporation – and, as such, their primary responsibility is to maximize the return they provide to their investors and shareholders. Other teams in the league are either owned by billionaires looking for an expensive pastime or by companies whose sole reason for existence is to run the baseball team. I think that Rogers is genuinely interested in putting a winning team on the field – it would look really bad on them if the Jays were terrible – but their first goal, for better or worse, is to make as much money as they can. It could be worse: the Jays could still be owned by Interbrew, or they could be owned by a meddling carpetbagger.