On the Fasano firing and other player development changes we all should probably relax about

Sal Fasano
Photo credit: mwlguide/Flickr-Wikimedia Commons

“They fired the moustache?!??!”

I don’t know if anybody actually put it that way when word came yesterday that the Jays’ housecleaning on the player development side has swept up the club’s lovable former catcher (no, not Gregg Zaun) in the tide of recent firings, but that certainly seemed to be the sentiment in a few places.

Sal Fasano is a throwback; a stocky dude with a down-to-earth demeanour, a love of classic rock, and his lunch pail porn-stache. He was a noticeable character when he played for the Jays, and an affable guy with media, and just generally well-liked. There were glowing reports from pitchers he worked with, there was talk of him being a future manager of the club, and that perception largely remained unchanged as he worked his way through the organization — first as manager at Lansing, then in New Hampshire (where he was the Eastern League’s manager of the year in 2011), then as roving catching instructor, and finally as the club’s minor league pitching coordinator, which is the job he lost this week, as first reported Monday by Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.

Fans have a certain attachment to the guy. They also see what’s going on with the turnover in player development, and because some continue to harbour a certain perception of the new Jays regime, we now have to have a damn conversation about it.

I should note that it’s not just fans who’ve expressed disappointment to see Fasano, and others, lose his job:

Behind the scenes I’ve also heard glowing things about Blake Davis, the national crosschecker who was let go by the club in this current cull as well. 

That said, none of us really knows what’s going on internally, what the new regime is looking for, how they felt these people were doing their jobs and whether or not they mesh with what the organization is trying to do. Keith surely has more insight than most, and all he’s saying here is that the club has let go of “good people,” without offering comment on the jobs they’ve done or are capable of doing. (Of course he did comment on Brian Parker’s last draft for the club, writing back in June at ESPN.com that “I don’t like giving draft grades, as I note in the lead, or even calling any draft class the “worst,” but I can say this is my “least favorite” of all 30, considering the picks and pool available, as well as the players taken.”)

Of course, the lack of insight into what’s actually going on hasn’t stopped fans from rushing to piss all over themselves on the subject. “Mark Shapiro at his finest,” was one response tweeted at Law. “Have u ever seen a first place club clean house like this?” harumphed another. And last week I was treated to a joy-sucking argument on the subject with someone who turned out to be very reasonable (which is actually the case quite a lot on Twitter!), but who insisted that because Shapiro was “sold” to us as being a great and welcoming communicator — “if you can’t work with Mark, you can’t work with anybody,” to paraphrase someone (Chris Antonetti?) — there was something inherently bullshit about him choosing not to continue to work with certain people. This person *needed* to say that all this an indication that Shapiro is no different any old suit because he just wants to bring in his own people — which, of course, there is zero evidence of.

It’s absurd! And as much as I don’t think my being a knee-jerk defender of Shapiro is a whole lot better than those whose instinct is to assume him the villain, at least what I’m doing is in the name of fairness and in opposition to unthinking spittle-encrusted vitriol.

So here’s the thing: as much as people want to, it’s hard to point to successes that pitchers from the organization have had since Fasano has been in the job and say that he’s necessarily been successful. It’s especially difficult since it’s a job he had only been in for a year-and-a-half. Similarly, we can’t say much about what he did when working with catchers, given the lack of talent the Jays have had at that position for sometime. Was he maybe miscast as a pitching coordinator? Would they prefer someone with actual mound experience? Was there a need, as Ross Atkins said regarding the folks let go earlier, for “a structural shift in what the reporting structure is”? (i.e. Were there communication problems?)

We truly have no idea. And while these certainly may be good people, and people we may want to root for, we can’t just look at results — “first place team!” — and assume we know anything about process. And we can’t just look at completely natural and expected front office turnover early on in this new era as the fiendish Shapiro and Atkins taking the first opportunity to fill their new workplace with cronies.

These guys have a philosophy and a way they want the chain of command to work and things they find important that may be different from what Anthopoulos and Beeston valued, and what made these departing employees fit better with the previous regime. And the thing is: they’re entitled to that!

It’s looking pretty good right now. It’s looking pretty good in Cleveland, too. And, just because it can’t hurt to repeat this again, let’s not forget that while Atkins and Andrew Miller have been high profile hirings from the Cleveland organization, the Jays have also added Gil Kim from the Rangers organization, Angus Mugford from IMG Academy, and promoted former AA lieutenants Tony LaCava and Joe Sheehan.

They are simply not doing what the mouth-breathers are so desperate to paint them as doing. It’s going to be OK.