Alex Anthopoulos Missed Braves World Series Win Because of Covid-19

HOUSTON — The Covid-19 test came back positive Saturday morning. The man who crushed the trade deadline by bringing in four outfielders who would carry his team through the World Series was now crushed himself.

Alex Anthopoulos, Atlanta’s president of baseball operations and general manager, architect of one of the greatest trade deadlines in memory, a man who not long ago left a five-year contract extension and millions on the table in Toronto as a matter of principle, now would have to stay home and miss Games 4 and 5 in Atlanta and, ultimately, Game 6 here Tuesday night as his team clinched its first championship since 1995.

“I’m fully vaxxed, I don’t have any symptoms, I feel great,” Anthopoulos said by phone from his home in the Atlanta area around 2 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday as Atlanta’s celebration roared on 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 Year’s Eve party at my house counting down the outs at home. I’d love to be there.”

Only Terry McGuirk, the club’s chairman, and Manager Brian Snitker knew about the positive test, Anthopoulos said, because “what I didn’t want was for it to become a story where the players and manager were getting asked about it. I wanted all the focus on the team.”

The players didn’t even know until after they won the title, Anthopoulos said, because “one minute of time spent with me being the topic would have been inappropriate.” It turned out he wasn’t alone: Kevin Liles, a photographer for the team, revealed a positive test Wednesday and he, too, missed the trip to Houston.

Everyone in and out of an Atlanta uniform playing for the team, working for the organization or simply lucky enough on this night to be somehow related to all this fun, agreed: Life and baseball both sometimes are not fair, but it is how you play the hops that counts.

Anthopoulos played them beautifully. This was a team that didn’t quite take off until the season’s second half. The 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 he was arrested on domestic violence charges.

The story already has 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 acquired four outfielders at the trade deadline: Joc Pederson from the Chicago Cubs, Eddie Rosario from Cleveland, Adam Duvall from Miami and Jorge Soler from Kansas City.

Duvall and Soler combined to knock in 12 of Atlanta’s 25 runs in this World Series. Rosario, who was the most valuable player of the National League Championship Series, scored five of them. Soler was named the most valuable player of the World Series. Never before have two midseason acquisitions cornered both postseason M.V.P. awards for a team.

“He’s here, he really is,” McGuirk said of Anthopoulos while celebrating on the field. “We’ve lived dog years through this year. We were left for dead multiple times in the first half.”

Back home in Georgia, Anthopoulos’s family was back in bed. Alex watched the game with his wife, Cristina, and, partly, with his daughter, Julia, 11, and son, John, 9. The kids went to bed at 8:30 p.m., but Alex woke Julia when Soler smashed a three-run homer in the third inning. Then he woke John in the ninth inning “so he could watch the end.”

“I wouldn’t trade Alex Anthopoulos for any executive in baseball,” McGuirk said. “I fell in love with him the first time I met him, and he’s more than rewarded the faith we had in him. I just FaceTimed him a few minutes ago and he’s as ecstatic as all of us.”

Anthopoulos’s path to the World Series came after a near miss in 2015 and then a bombshell. A native of Montreal, he started in baseball with the Expos in 2000, moved to the Blue Jays in 2003 and ascended to vice president of baseball operations and general manager there in 2009. By 2015 he had built a 93-game winner that nearly pushed Kansas City, the eventual World Series champion, to a Game 7 in the A.L.C.S., leaving runners on second and third in the ninth inning of a 3-2 loss in Game 6. 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 involve himself in baseball operations. Anthopoulos, the newly minted A.L. Executive of the Year, declined the five-year extension that he termed a “beyond generous offer” and bet on himself.

“Trust me, I was 38, I remember walking out of that meeting with that offer thinking, ‘OK, I think I’m going to stay,’” Anthopoulos said. “But the more I thought about it, I just couldn’t get comfortable. I wanted to get comfortable, I really did. But I couldn’t. And it wouldn’t have been fair to the organization and to everyone there for me not to be all in. And if I was not all in, I wasn’t going to sign.”

He and Cristina talked that night.

“Her family was there, our kids were in school, we were settled and she said, ‘What do you think?’” Anthopoulos said. “I said, ‘I want to take it. It’s unbelievable for my family. But I don’t believe I’m going to be happy. But if you want me to sign it, I’ll sign it.’ She said: ‘If you’re not happy, you’re not going to be a good dad and you’re not going to be a good husband. You’re 38. Let’s not worry about the money.’”

So they slept on it. Anthopoulos asked Cristina the next morning if she was sure she was OK with the decision. And with that he left the Blue Jays.

Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ chief baseball executive, quickly added Anthopoulos to a powerhouse staff that included Farhan Zaidi, now San Francisco’s president of baseball operations. Two years later, when M.L.B. issued a lifetime ban to Atlanta’s general manager, John Coppolella, for violating international signing rules, the club brought Anthopoulos east.

He inherited a team that included several key components of this year’s run, including Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies and Acuña. He added several of his own touches, like naming Snitker as manager and this year’s trade deadline flourishes.

“Personally, it is impossible to be any happier for Alex, Cristina and their kids,” Friedman said in a text message shortly after Atlanta won Tuesday night. “He is as committed, passionate and knowledgeable of an executive as I have been around. He and his staff have done an incredible job adjusting to all of the challenges they were confronted with this season.”

John Schuerholz, the Hall of Fame executive who was Atlanta’s general manager from 1990-2007 and remains vice chairman emeritus, called Anthopoulos the “perfect fit.”

“He’s smart. He cares about people. He knows how to interact with people,” Schuerholz said. “He plans ahead. He’s always got good plans and he activates them when it’s appropriate.”

At home in the wee hours, Anthopoulos paused to take inventory. Toronto is in a “great position” right now, he said. He had two good years with Friedman and Zaidi out west and, now, this. He is the first Canadian-born general manager to win a World Series title, and while he said that everything happens for a reason, he acknowledged “this isn’t the way I thought it would work out.”

The first World Series game Anthopoulos attended was in Toronto, Game 5, 1992, when Atlanta’s Lonnie Smith hit a grand slam. His uncle was a Toronto season-ticket holder and his friend had seats. And Anthopoulos watched Atlanta regularly in Montreal because his family had TBS, the cable network that carried Braves games for more than 30 years.

“It’s incredible,” Anthopoulos said. “You never know where your path is going to bring 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 there. ‘Elated’ is probably an understatement, but I view this as not a one-night thing. It is something you celebrate forever.”

James Wagner contributed reporting.

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