HOUSTON — He tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday morning. The man who crushed the trade deadline by bringing in four outfielders to carry his team through the World Series has now crushed himself.
Alex Anthopoulos, Atlanta’s president and general manager of baseball operations, architect of one of the biggest commercial deadlines in memory, a man who extended a five-year contract not so long ago and left millions on the table in principle in Toronto, now stays at Home and has 4 Games 5 and 5, and ultimately here on Tuesday night, would have had to miss Game 6 as his team clinched their first title since 1995.
“I’m fully vaccinated, I don’t have any symptoms, I’m feeling great,” Anthopoulos said over the phone from his Atlanta area home at around 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday as the celebration roared without him at Minute Maid Park in Atlanta. “I was surprised. My family is fine.”
“We watched the game together at home, counting the exits at home as if it was a New Year’s Eve party at my house. I would love to be there.”
Anthopoulos said only the club’s president, Terry McGuirk, and Coach Brian Snitker were aware of the positive test, because “what I didn’t want was for this to become a story when asked about the players and the manager. I wanted all the focus to be on the team.”
Anthopoulos said the players didn’t even know it until they won the championship because “a minute spent with me as a subject would be inappropriate.” Turns out he wasn’t alone: Kevin Liles, a photographer for the team, tested positive Wednesday, and he missed the Houston trip.
Anyone who played for the team, worked for the organization, or wore an Atlanta jersey and was lucky enough to be somehow involved with all this fun tonight would agree: Life and baseball are sometimes unfair, but that’s how it’s played. The important thing is hops.
Anthopoulos played them very well. This was a team that did not have much success until the second half of the season. Starting pitcher Mike Soroka (Achilles tendon) and shooter Ronald Acuña Jr. (knee) was lost to devastating injuries earlier in the season. Another outfielder, Marcell Ozuna, did not play after June 1 after he was arrested on domestic violence charges.
The story has already been told countless times and will be told by Atlanta baseball fans for generations to come. Rather than feel sorry for themselves and wave the white flag, Anthopoulos and his front office bought four outfielders on the final day of the trade: Chicago Cubs’ Joc Pederson, Cleveland’s Eddie Rosario, Miami’s Adam Duvall and Kansas City’s Jorge Soler.
Duvall and Soler teamed up, knocking out 12 of Atlanta’s 25 runs in this World Series. The most valuable player of the National League Championship Series, Rosario scored five goals. Soler was named the most valuable player of the World Series. Never before had two mid-season purchases cornered both end-of-season MVP awards for a team.
“He’s here, he’s really here,” McGuirk said of Anthopoulos as he celebrated on the field. “We’ve had dog years this year. We were left to die many times in the first half.”
When he returned to his home in Georgia, Anthopoulos’ family was back in bed. Alex watched the match with his wife Cristina and partly daughter Julia, 11, and son John, 9. The boys went to bed at 8:30pm, but Alex woke Julia up when Soler hit a three-pointer. Activate Homer on the third hit. Then he woke John up on the ninth beat so he could “watch the end”.
“I wouldn’t trade Alex Anthopoulos for any manager in baseball,” McGuirk said. “When I first met him, I fell in love with him, and our faith in him was rewarded greatly. I FaceTimed him a few minutes ago and he’s just as ecstatic as any of us.”
Anthopoulos’ path to the World Series came in 2015 after a near miss and then a bomb. Born in Montreal, he began playing baseball with the Expos in 2000, moved to the Blue Jays in 2003, and was promoted to vice president and general manager of baseball operations in 2009. By 2015, he had won 93 games. The reigning World Series champion Kansas City went to Game 7 of the ALCS, leaving the runners second and third in the ninth half of a 3-2 defeat in Game 6. This was Toronto’s first playoff game in 22 years.
Less than a week later, he was gone. The team had hired Mark Shapiro of Cleveland as president to replace Paul Beeston, and unlike Beeston, Shapiro’s style was to involve himself in baseball operations. The newly minted AL Manager of the Year, Anthopoulos, refused the five-year extension, calling it “beyond a generous offer” and bet on himself.
“Trust me, I was 38, I remember thinking from that meeting I was thinking, ‘OK, I guess I’ll stay,'” Anthopoulos said. “But the more I thought about it, the more I felt comfortable. I wanted to relax, I really did. But I couldn’t. And it wouldn’t be fair to the organization and everyone there if I didn’t fully participate. And if I didn’t fully participate, I wouldn’t have signed.”
He and Cristina talked that night.
“His family was there, our kids were at school, we settled down and said, ‘What do you think?’ he said. “I said I want to buy it. It’s incredible for my family. But I don’t believe I’ll be happy. But if you want me to sign it, I will.” He said: ‘If you’re not happy, you won’t be a good father and you won’t be a good husband. You’re 38. Let’s not worry about money.'”
That’s why they slept on it. Anthopoulos asked Cristina the next morning if she was happy with this decision. And with that, he left the Blue Jays.
Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers chief of baseball, quickly added Anthopoulos to a powerhouse roster that now includes San Francisco’s head of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi. Two years later, MLB banned for life According to Atlanta general manager John Coppolella, the club brought Anthopoulos east for violating international signing rules.
He inherited a team that included several key components of this year’s run, including Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies and Acuña. He’s added a few of his own touches, like naming Snitker as manager, and this year’s trade deadline is improving.
“Personally, it’s impossible to be happier for Alex, Cristina, and their kids,” Friedman said shortly after winning Atlanta on Tuesday night. “He’s as committed, passionate and knowledgeable as any manager I’ve ever been around. He and his team have done an incredible job adapting to all the challenges they have faced this season.”
Hall of Fame director John Schuerholz, who was Atlanta’s general manager from 1990 to 2007 and is currently vice-president, described Anthopoulos as a “perfect fit.”
“He’s smart. He cares about people. He knows how to interact with people,” said Schuerholz. He always has good plans and sets them in motion when appropriate.”
Anthopoulos took a break early at home to take inventory. Toronto is in a “great location” right now, he said. He spent two good years in the West with Friedman and Zaidi and now this. He is the first Canadian-born general manager to win the World Series title, and he said everything happened for a reason.
Anthopoulos’ first World Series match was at Game 6, 1992, in Toronto, where Atlanta’s Lonnie Smith won a big slam. His uncle was a Toronto season ticket holder and his friend had seats. And Anthopoulos regularly watched Atlanta in Montreal because his family had TBS, the cable network that has been carrying Braves games for over 30 years.
“Incredible,” Anthopoulos said. “You never know where your path will take you. As long as you make decisions in life for the right reasons, things should go well in the long run.”
He paused, then added: “Frankly, I’d love to be there. ‘Happy’ is probably an understatement, but I don’t see it as a one-night stand. It’s something you’ll celebrate forever.”
James Wagner contributing reporting.