The questioning of Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos’ decision to designate Danny Valencia for assignment after the big trades made at the non-waiver deadline shows how fans view the importance of role players in sport. Most championship teams in any sport have at least two or three of these players on their roster.
The recent acquisition of Troy Tulowitzki and Ben Revere meant Valencia’s playing time would be cut significantly. He essentially became the 25th man on this Blue Jays roster, a spot that is now occupied by Munenori Kawasaki. But that doesn’t mean the positive impact he provided throughout the season would diminish too. Having a guy like Valencia who doesn’t bitch and whine (like many on social media, bulletin boards, and blogs) about the lack of playing time is a rare commodity. He was willing to do whatever manager John Gibbons asks of him to do, even if it meant riding the pine for the remainder of the season. Valencia is also a guy who can keep a clubhouse atmosphere positive when things are going down. Taking Valencia off the roster at this point of the season left many, including me, scratching their heads.
But I also have to take a cynical view of this situation. I mean why all of a sudden people in Toronto are crying foul over Valencia’s removal from the team? This is a sports city where there have been calls for teams like the Blue Jays to attract more star players in order for them to make a run for a championship. No better example than the Maple Leafs where so-called experts feel they have too many goons (even after the departure of Colton Orr and Fraser McLaren) and not enough skilled players.
Also, the amount of outrage towards Anthopoulos on designating Valencia for assignment is about as empty as the outrage towards the Minnesota dentist that killed that lion in Africa. Don’t get me wrong, I was just as surprised of this move as anyone else but there is bigger fish to fry. Valencia is by no means an insurance policy in case someone like Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion get hurt. You have to be as high as the CN Tower to believe that. If any one of those guys go down, the season would be over for the Blue Jays regardless. As much as Valencia was a good offensive bat against left-handers, there are 8 other right-handed bats ahead of him that can also do the job. Add to that the turf at Rogers Centre made him a more defensive liability. Even if Valencia had stayed, Anthopoulos would have still needed to get another utility man especially if he can be a third catcher and a left-handed hitter coming off the bench.
I feel sorry for Valencia in a sense that he is a good guy for all the reasons I have explained. I’ve been in his shoes before in radio. If more corporations (and the media for that matter) value character as much as they do the bottom line then there would be no concerns about high unemployment and low workplace morale. It was good to hear that Valencia has landed on his feet in Oakland. But this is not the first time a good guy has been cut from a team and it won’t be the last. People in Toronto who still can’t get over it should either move on or seek counselling.