The Toronto Blue Jays want to win in Buffalo. The Bisons are desperate to recapture the success they had for so many years with the Cleveland Indians.
So it makes perfect sense for one of the best managers in a modern era of Buffalo baseball filled with great skippers to get another chance at the head of the Herd.
Veteran minor-league manager Marty Brown, who led the Bisons from 2003-2005 and won the 2004 International League championship, was officially re-introduced Tuesday as the Herd’s manager for the first year of the new affiliation with the Blue Jays.
Brown won back-to-back International League North Division titles for Buffalo in ‘04 and ‘05 but the Bisons haven’t been back to the playoffs since. He managed from 2006-10 in Japan and spent the last two years with Toronto’s former Triple-A affiliate, the Las Vegas 51s. Brown has a 783-719 record in 16 years as a manager in the United States.
“I’ve told the Blue Jays that Buffalo is a real sports town and you go in there in order to compete every day,” Brown said. “I said, ‘You don’t do that, it will be the shortest affiliation Toronto has ever had.’ That’s just the bottom line. That’s the way it works in Buffalo and it’s one of the reasons I love to manage here. I think the fans expect that. The expectations are to win every day and I don’t accept anything less.”
Brown was introduced during a press conference in Pettibones Grille inside Coca-Cola Field. Surprise guests included Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos and new manager John Gibbons, who was introduced during a media gathering earlier Tuesday morning in the Rogers Centre to reclaim the job he held from 2004-2008.
In another surprise move, the Blue Jays announced they have signed St. Francis product Jim Negrych to a minor-league contract with an invitation to major league spring training. Negrych, an infielder who represented the Syracuse Chiefs of the Washington chain during the Triple-A All-Star Game here in July, was also on hand and inked his contract with Charlie Wilson, the Jays’ director of minor-league operations.
The day also featured the unveiling of the Bisons’ new logo, a circular patch with Buster Bison getting ready to swing a bat. The pose and the red, white and blue color scheme, with a few changes in shade, return the team to its look for the first 10 years of the ballpark’s history (1988-97). Caps and uniforms will be revealed in January.
There was no surprise at the return of Brown, who was barraged by questions about the possibility during All-Star week here when he represented Las Vegas and managed the Pacific Coast League team.
Brown led the Bisons to a 73-70 record in 2003 before posting marks of 83-61 and 82-62 the next two years. His 238 wins are 15 shy of Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Brian Graham’s franchise record of 253 set from 1995-97.
“We’re hoping those 16 wins happen in April,” said Bisons general manager Mike Buczkowski, who turned to Brown and then joked, “Let’s not string it out past April.”
“I’ve missed Buffalo very much,” said Brown, 49. “It was a very good two years for me of a great run after the first year that was a little bit of a trying year. But we got things worked out. It led to me going to Japan for five years and then to the opportunity to team up with the Toronto Blue Jays.
“It was a lot like the Cleveland organization when I got in with them. There’s a lot of really good talented young players due to the scouting staff and some of the trades the organization has made. We’re all going to benefit here in Buffalo.”
The Blue Jays, of course, struggled to a 73-89 record last season as they were riddled by injuries, especially to slugger Jose Bautista and the starting rotation.
That led to more than 100 roster moves in Las Vegas but Brown still managed to put together a 79-64 record there, the best by a Toronto Triple-A team since Syracuse went 81-63 and fell a half-game shy of the Bisons in the IL North in 1998.
“This guy is a proven winner at the minor-league level,” said Wilson. “He is a tremendous teacher of the game. Fundamentals, individual work. You name it. This guy is going to start early, finish late. He brings a winning culture to the field. The players like playing for him and he gets the most out of everybody.”
The Bisons figure to have many top Toronto prospects in Buffalo next season, notably catcher Travis D’Arnaud and outfielders Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra. But All-Star shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, likely ticketed for Buffalo, was part of the 12-player trade with Miami that was finalized Monday.
“Alex [Anthopoulos] has been straight that if we need a piece of that puzzle now, we’re going to go get it,” Brown said. “He’s putting John Gibbons in a system where he’s going to have some talent and he’ll be able to figure out which buttons he wants to push. Hopefully, he can help out here, too, and we can help him out as well.”