Bass says he was surprised Jays released him

Former Toronto pitcher Anthony Bass said he reached out to the MLB Players Association after the Blue Jays released him last June, and disagreed with general manager Ross Atkins’ assertion that the move was a “baseball decision.”

The team designated Bass for assignment on June 9, nearly two weeks after he shared a social media post that supported anti-LGBTQ boycotts.

Bass, in his first public comments since the mid-season imbroglio, said he was told by the MLBPA that there wasn’t a grievance opportunity because he was guaranteed the remainder of his US$3-million salary.

“If this causes future issues, I think there is a strong case to be had,” Bass told The Canadian Press via direct message.

Bass, a 35-year-old free agent, has been training ahead of a potential return to the big leagues in 2024 and said “there has already been early interest.”

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“I have more left in the tank,” he said.

Bass made a brief public apology the day after his later-deleted post and met with Pride Toronto executive director Sherwin Modeste. They talked for about an hour and discussed Bass catching the ceremonial first pitch to kick off Pride Weekend at Rogers Centre.

Plans changed when Bass was designated for assignment a few hours before the game.

“No one should be fired because of his/her personal beliefs,” Bass said in a DM.

Atkins spoke shortly after the roster move was announced and said it was a “baseball decision to make our team better,” adding the distraction was something that the club had to factor in.

Bass, a native of Dearborn, Mich., said he was surprised by the news.

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“I thought they were calling me into the office to say that I would not be catching the first pitch to kick off Pride Weekend/month,” he said.

Bass was formally released on June 15 and didn’t land with another team.

“Ross didn’t give me an explanation,” he said. “Told me that they are releasing me.”

“I can read between the lines,” Bass added.

The 12-year big-league veteran spent the 2020 season in Toronto and was reacquired in 2022 in a trade with the Miami Marlins. Bass didn’t record a decision in 22 appearances this past season and had a 4.95 earned-run average.

“It was not a baseball decision,” Bass said. “I had a 1.80 ERA in the month of May. Coming off a career year where the Jays traded one of their top prospects (Jordan Groshans) for me.”

The Blue Jays activated reliever Mitch White from the 60-day injured list on the day of Bass’s demotion. White, who was 0-5 with a 7.74 ERA in 2022, struggled over 10 appearances and was demoted in July.

Bass was booed by home fans in his two appearances after the controversy first developed.

He spoke with a few beat reporters in the days after sharing the post and outlined steps he had taken after making his apology. Bass felt he was “in a better place” after meeting with Modeste and was looking forward to catching the first pitch by longtime LGBTQ advocate leZlie Lee Kam.

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However, the day before the Pride Weekend kickoff, Bass told reporters he still stood by his personal beliefs. He added that he initially didn’t think the video post — which described the selling of Pride-themed merchandise as “evil” and “demonic” — was hateful.

“That’s why I posted it originally,” he said at the time. “When I look back at it, I can see how people can view it that way and that’s why I was apologetic.”

Bass’s final media scrum as a Blue Jay only raised the potential for significant awkwardness on Pride Weekend. Pitcher Kevin Gausman caught the ceremonial pitch instead.

“It was my idea to catch the first pitch when I spoke to Sherwin prior to my release,” Bass said in a DM. “The Jays agreed to it saying it was a good idea. Later, they backpedalled and said they never agreed to me catching the first pitch.”

When asked how he reflects on that period, Bass said he was reminded “not to believe everything you read.”

“I am proud of my walk with the Lord,” he said. “I have no hate in my heart towards any groups of people.”

The Blue Jays went on to finish the season with an 89-73 record, securing a post-season berth on the penultimate day of the campaign. Toronto was swept by the Minnesota Twins in a wild-card series last week.

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Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro was scheduled to hold an end-of-season media availability on Thursday.

“Thank you to those who supported me in 2020, 2022 and this past season,” Bass said. “It doesn’t go unnoticed.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 11, 2023.

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