Alex Anthopoulos missed out on Braves World Series victory because of Covid-19
HOUSTON – The Covid-19 test came back positive on Saturday morning. The man who crushed the trade deadline by bringing in four outfielder who would carry his team through the World Series was now crushed himself.
Alex Anthopoulos, president of baseball operations and CEO of Atlanta, architect of one of the biggest business deadlines in memory, a man who not so long ago left a five-year contract extension and millions on the table in Toronto on principle, now expected to stay home and miss Games 4 and 5 in Atlanta and ultimately Game 6 here on Tuesday night as his team won their first championship since 1995.
“I’m completely vaxxed, I have no symptoms, I feel great,” Anthopoulos said by phone from his home in the Atlanta area on Wednesday around 2 a.m. EST as the celebration Atlanta was happening without him at Minute Maid Park. “I was surprised. My family is fine.”
He added: “We watched the game together at home like it was a New Years party at my house including the outings at home. I would love to be there.
Only Terry McGuirk, club president, and manager Brian Snitker were aware of the positive test, Anthopoulos said, because “what I didn’t want was for it to become a story where the players and the manager were questioned on this subject. I wanted all the attention to be on the team.
The players didn’t even know it until they won the title, Anthopoulos said, because “a minute of time spent with me as a subject would have been inappropriate.” It turned out that he was not alone: Kevin Liles, a photographer on the team, also revealed a positive test on Wednesday.
Everyone in and out of an Atlanta uniform playing for the team, working for the organization, or just lucky enough that night to be somehow connected with all that fun, okay: life. and baseball are sometimes not fair, but it’s how you play the hops that matters.
Anthopoulos played them beautifully. It’s a team that didn’t really take off until the second half of the season. Starting pitcher Mike Soroka (Achilles tendon) and outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. (knee) were lost early in the season to devastating injuries. Another outfielder, Marcell Ozuna, did not play after June 1 after being arrested for domestic violence.
The story has already been told countless times and will be told by Atlanta baseball fans for generations to come. Rather than feeling sorry for themselves and waving the white flag, Anthopoulos and his front office acquired four outfielder by the trade deadline: Joc Pederson from the Chicago Cubs, Eddie Rosario from Cleveland, Adam Duvall from Miami and Jorge Soler of Kansas City.
Duvall and Soler combined to strike in 12 of Atlanta’s 25 races in this World Series. Rosario, who was the National League Championship Series MVP, scored five. Soler was named the World Series MVP. Never before have two midseason acquisitions cornered both playoff MVP awards for a team.
“He’s there, he really is,” McGuirk said of Anthopoulos while celebrating on the pitch. “We have lived dog years throughout this year. We were left for dead several times in the first half.
Back in Georgia, Anthopoulos’ family was back in bed. Alex watched the game with his wife, Cristina, and, in part, with his daughter, Julia, 11, and son, John, 9. The kids went to bed at 8:30 p.m., but Alex woke Julia up when Soler broke a three-run homer in the third inning. Then he woke John up in the ninth round “so he could watch the end”.
“I wouldn’t trade Alex Anthopoulos for a baseball executive,” McGuirk said. “I fell in love with him the first time I met him, and he more than rewarded the trust we had in him. I just FaceTimed him a few minutes ago and he’s as ecstatic as the rest of us.
Anthopoulos’ path to the World Series came after a near miss in 2015, then a bomb. A native of Montreal, he started in baseball with the Expos in 2000, moved to the Blue Jays in 2003, and became vice president of baseball operations and general manager in 2009. By 2015, he had built a 93-game winner who nearly pushed eventual World Series champion Kansas City to Game 7 in the ALCS, leaving the runners in the second and third innings in the ninth inning to a 3-2 loss in Game 6. He It was Toronto’s first playoff appearance in 22 years.
Less than a week later he was gone. The team had hired Mark Shapiro from Cleveland to replace Paul Beeston as president, and unlike Beeston, Shapiro’s style was to get involved in baseball operations. Anthopoulos, AL’s new executive of the year, declined the five-year extension he called an “offer beyond generosity” and bet on himself.
“Believe me, I was 38, I remember walking out of that reunion with this offer thinking, ‘OK, I think I’m going to stay,'” said Anthopoulos. “But the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t feel comfortable. I wanted to be comfortable, really. But I couldn’t. And it wouldn’t have been fair to the organization and to everyone out there if I wasn’t fully into it. And if I wasn’t fully, I wasn’t going to sign.
He and Cristina spoke that night.
“Her family was there, our kids were at school, we were settled in and she said, ‘What do you think?’ ”Said Anthopoulos. “I said, ‘I want to take it. It’s amazing for my family. But I don’t think I’ll be happy. But if you want me to sign it, I’ll sign it. She said, “If you are not happy you will not be a good father and you will not be a good husband. You are 38 years old. Don’t worry about the money.
So they slept on it. Anthopoulos asked Cristina the next morning if she was sure she agreed with the decision. And with that, he left the Blue Jays.
Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers baseball general manager, quickly added Anthopoulos to a powerful team that included Farhan Zaidi, now president of San Francisco baseball operations. Two years later, when MLB issued a life suspension on Atlanta general manager John Coppolella for breaking international signing rules, the club took Anthopoulos east.
He inherited a team that included several key elements of this year’s race, including Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies and Acuña. He added several of his own touches, like Snitker’s appointment as manager and this year’s trade deadline is blossoming.
“Personally, it’s impossible to be happier for Alex, Cristina and their children,” Friedman said in a text message shortly after Atlanta’s victory on Tuesday night. “He is as committed, passionate and knowledgeable about an executive as I have been. He and his team have done an incredible job adjusting to whatever challenges they’ve faced this season.
John Schuerholz, the Hall of Fame executive who served as Atlanta general manager from 1990 to 2007 and remains vice president emeritus, called Anthopoulos “the perfect person.”
“He’s smart. He cares about people. He knows how to interact with people,” Schuerholz said. “He plans ahead. He always has good plans and he activates them when appropriate.
At home in the early morning, Anthopoulos stopped to take stock. Toronto is in a “great position” right now, he said. He had a good two years with Friedman and Zaidi out west and now this. He’s the first Canadian-born GM to win a World Series title, and although he said everything happens for a reason, he admitted that “that’s not how I thought it would work” .
The first World Series game Anthopoulos attended was in Toronto, Game 5, in 1992, when Atlanta’s Lonnie Smith hit a grand slam. His uncle had a season pass in Toronto and his friend had seats. And Anthopoulos regularly watched Atlanta in Montreal because his family had TBS, the cable network that broadcast Braves games for over 30 years.
“It’s amazing,” Anthopoulos said. “You never know where your path will take you. As long as you make decisions in life for the right reasons, in the long run things should work out.
He paused, then added, “Obviously I would have loved to be here.” “Elated” is probably an understatement, but I don’t consider it an overnight affair. It is something that you celebrate forever.
Jacques Wagner contributed reports.