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Cathal Did A Blue Jays Thing Again

I am sitting here sighing, shaking my head. Am I really going to do this? Am I really going to blast another Cathal Kelly piece about the Blue Jays? Do I really need to go through those same motions, and lay out the same caveats, as I now seem to do whenever he deigns to poke his head into the Jays’ business? Is there anybody who will read this that doesn’t already get it?

Yes. Yes. No. And probably not.

But ugh. It just drives me nuts when people with big platforms are out there giving gifts to Mark Shapiro-hating squids.

And the thing about that is, Shapiro obviously isn’t perfect. He’s got a whole long track record full of wins and losses, successes and imperfections, and while it feels to me like right now the Jays are on a pretty good path with smart and experienced executives at the helm, there will be many opportunities for them to veer off course, for any number of reasons. Some of those might even come down to Shapiro being a dastardly incompetent who has fooled his way to the top with accountant-impressing corporateskpeak!

I don’t think that’s likely. I, in fact, think that to believe such things is pretty terrifyingly fucking stupid — there are so many successful top executives around the game to have been groomed by him that thinking of Shapiro as some kind of bungling halfwit is downright bizarre, even if, sure, you can squint hard enough, and ignore what operating in the Cleveland market means hard enough, and cherry pick enough moves that didn’t work out, to maybe even successfully convince yourself, against all evidence to the contrary, that he’s useless — but I don’t want to push back so hard against the dumbs as to seem as though I’m out here trying to convince everybody that this new front office is assuredly going to make all our dreams come true.

That said, holy shit, is Cathal’s latest ever a goddamned gift to those dipshit fans who pathologically reject all but their own worst instincts. Woof.

Let’s have a look, shall we?…

Back in May, when everyone was still talking as though the year could be saved (though they knew it was doomed), Shapiro sat in this same office and testily batted questions away. Asked if the team was balanced (because it isn’t), he said, “I don’t have to answer that.”

Well, if not him, then who?

That’s funny that the front office knew the season was doomed in May, seeing as on June 11th the club sat just a game under .500 and game-and-a-half back of the second Wild Card spot. There was definitely no looking up from there, eh???? Nor was there on August 17th, I guess, when the Jays were 59-62 and three games back. I mean, I know that teams aren’t out here playing for the chance at being the away team in a play-in game, but you’re hardly doomed if you’re in that race.

And the “I don’t have to answer that” quote? Our intrepid author has left out the very important sentence that followed. In a May 12th piece for the Globe, here’s how Cathal himself quoted Shapiro:

“If you’re skewed one way or the other, it’s trouble. At some point, to have a sustainable championship team, you need that balanced roster.”

Is this team balanced?

“I don’t have to answer that,” Shapiro said, momentarily non-plussed. “You can answer that for yourself. For me to come out and say that would be disrespectful and not constructive.”

Translation: “No, of course this team isn’t balanced.” Nor should anyone have thought that Shapiro believed that it was! Though he understandably didn’t want to throw his current players under the bus, this is clearly not the “some point” in which they’ll have a sustainable championship team. That is the goal they’re working toward. And, in that sense, it’s actually OK that the 2017 team isn’t balanced, because the front office was simply playing as best they could with the hand they’d been dealt by their predecessors and the pressure not to tear down a team that had made the ALCS in back to back years and become a revenue-generating machine.

Omitting all of that from the quote in the latest piece serves one purpose — and that purpose isn’t illuminating the reader, it’s painting Mark Shapiro in as negative a light as possible. Which, of course, is the same thing he’s doing by ham-fistedly suggesting that he was lying to the fans in May by not totally conceding defeat.

Someone is being dishonest here, but it ain’t Shapiro.

Well now, Kelly tells us, Shapiro has finally conceded, and finally looks comfortable in his skin because of it. But apparently there’s a problem. The Jays are going aren’t going to immediately and dumbly blow apart their team!

So there you go – it’s ride-or-die baseball for one more season, and then the whole thing begins to come apart on its own.

Y’know, unless the club can take this next year and continue to add talent to its farm system, develop players into being closer to big league ready for 2019, flip some of the current pieces for ones that make a little more sense in the long term, or work to figure out how to maximize the value they can get out of the roster on the trade market next July if things don’t go as well as hoped. Other than that, and other than their actually attempting to field a competitive roster rather than sucking the lifeblood out of the on-field product and the fan base and the TV ratings immediately, it’s all very bad and scawwwy!!!!

That will enrage some people. This sort of course – the middle way, the maybe-things-will-turn-out way – led the Jays into two uninterrupted decades of mediocrity.

It sure did! Back when there was only one Wild Card team per league, when clubs weren’t getting massive payouts every year from the league’s national TV contract and MLBAM, when stringent luxury tax penalties didn’t also artificially narrow the gap between rich and poor, when top draft and international talent didn’t slip through the fingers of less moneyed clubs because of “signability,” when the league had yet to stop revenue sharing dollars from flowing to big market teams with creative accountants, and when the Jays had executives that were either in over their head and dealing with a terrible ownership situation (Ash), or took too long to understand the need to keep innovating and keep evolving or else be left behind by smarter clubs, like the one Shapiro was running (Ricciardi).

Other than all that, HOOOOOOLY SHIT, I GUESS WE’RE IN FOR IT!

Given his druthers, Shapiro might choose the other way, the risky way. He’s seen how Houston and the Chicago Cubs did it – by tearing out the foundation and rebuilding entirely. If performance were the only consideration, that would be the route to take.

But the Jays are stuck between those models for financial reasons.

Mark Shapiro hates winning. It’s plain as day, sheeple! If given his druthers he’d slap uniforms on the grounds crew and lean back in his chair watching the Rogers Centre become increasingly derelict. But I guess the poor bastard, for financial reasons, has to at least look like he’s putting in some kind of effort, rather than embracing the approach that he (according to Cathal’s mind reading) must truly believe is working so well in San Diego and in Oakland and Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Ahhhh, to preside over that many years of abject failure. ‘Tis the dream!

Meanwhile, they’ll put their faith in a minor-league system that Shapiro says is now among the top-10 in baseball. The most promising players in it are still teenagers.

Yes, the two most promising players in the system are still just teenagers — teenagers who will likely start next season a stone’s throw away from the big leagues, in Double-A. FUCKING EH IT’S IMPRESSIVE AS HELL.

Oh, but I’m sure the kinds of squids who don’t know Baseball America from Breakfast In America (look it up, kids) will be very impressed by the sarcasm. To Cathal’s keen MLB rebuild logic, I can only say, “goodbye, stranger.”

At some point, the Jays will have to jump from “win right now” to whatever’s coming next. It’s going to be a considerable distance – a couple of depressingly mediocre years at the very least.

YOU ARE ARGUING FOR EVEN MORE DEPRESSINGLY MEDIOCRE YEARS BEGINNING EVEN SOONER YOU DAFT FUCK!

Give Shapiro this much credit – he is an unapologetic capitalist in a business full of guys who like to talk about doing it all for love while making seven or eight figures.

You’ve seen what he did with Rogers Centre ticket prices – raised them substantially for next year. That was another thing people didn’t like.

Oh, so now we’re just listing reasons to pisspants about the Blue Jays being dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era and actually grappling with some of the bullshit and false promises of the crew that came before this one?

Later he asks, “What other dreams can Shapiro crush? What about a grass field?” so… yep.

“This market was conditioned that prices wouldn’t go up if the baseball team didn’t win,” Shapiro tells him, completely reasonably. “It created a huge gap in the value of our ticket, which impacts payroll and limits our ability to compete with our competitors.”

So are you saying that if prices go up, payroll goes up as well?

Shapiro pauses pregnantly before answering: “No. We raise prices just to maintain payroll.”

So, to sum up: Same team. Same investment. No new toys.

“We raise prices just to maintain payroll” is a thing that Cathal might have actually wanted to try to hang the guy with, and might have been been able to achieve, too, if this piece wasn’t already such a bloody slanted mess. Like, “Same Investment. No new toys.”? PAYROLL IS $163 MILLION THIS YEAR! IT WAS $70 MILLION AS RECENTLY AS 2011! WITH A WHOLE BUNCH OF MONEY DUE TO COME OFF THE BOOKS! AND THEY’RE POURING DOLLARS INTO STADIUM RENOVATIONS, TOO!

Cathal then assures fans that Josh Donaldson isn’t going to be offered an extension. He astoundingly legitimizes the Strochez bromance breakup stuff by causally mentioning it here in the pages of the mainstream Globe and Mail, full-on with the implication that the Jays, if they’re not doomed by every single other slice of fucking nonsense he’s determined to bring up, are especially fucked if they choose to have the post-Donaldson version of the club led by two pitchers “who were once best pals, but have famously fallen out.” And he gets in one last, squid-pleasing dig:

This is the sin-eating phase of a baseball executive’s lifespan, the time he has to stand up and take his licks for fielding a loser. Stretching back to his days in Cleveland, Shapiro has deep experience with that sort of thing.

I mean… really I guess my question is just… why? Is it so boring to actually attempt to be fair to this front office? Is gifting arguments to dumbfucks really the best we can do?

I’m certainly not saying everybody should be some kind of cheerleader, but it’s hard not to come off like one when the arguments one hears from the other side are so fucking petty and hollow. I get how blame-desperate fans can get so sour, but analysis intentionally absent of any concept of cost versus benefit, process versus result, or any attempt to relate how the small things make sense in the big picture to the people making the decisions — analysis that instead is just a litany of subtle digs, dripping with sarcasm and disdainful implications that anybody who wants to see this team succeed should probably just give up now is… pretty fucked up. It’s unserious, and not only is it unhelpful, it’s poisonous to the conversation. People end up nodding in agreement to this shit! UGHHHH!

    • Seguaro

      Just saw Dunedin win the Florida State league championship plus a bunch of games before that. Vlad has a great bat but will be hard pressed to play any position beyond 1st base. Third base defense was middling at best. But who cares if he can play first or is a great D.H. FYI he has a much different build than his dad. He is very thick below the waist and is not, in any way, fast. Biggio and Bichette are much slimmer and quicker but the three of them have great upsides.

      • The Humungus

        Gil Kim was on I think Blair this week and said Vlad Jr is a 3b until he proves he isn’t, and said he hasn’t done so yet. They said he’s still learning, because he didn’t have a real position until 2016 in Bluefield. He had played everywhere prior and they asked him where he felt most comfortable. Lauded his instincts and arm, but says he’s a work in progress.

        I guess what I’m saying is, don’t make him a 1B yet. He’s still developing.

  • Nice Guy Eddie

    There are a lot of stupid people who read about the Blue Jays, and who want to read something which confirms their opinions. Kelly fills that ‘need’.

  • The Humungus

    “Meanwhile, they’ll put their faith in a minor-league system that Shapiro says is now among the top-10 in baseball. The most promising players in it are still teenagers.”

    Wait, hold the fuck on just a second here.

    He’s advocating for a rebuild while noting that (“Shapiro says”) the farm system is loaded at the lower levels?

    Two things about this:

    1. Vancouver and Dunedin both won championships. And Lansing was near the top of the league before the Vlad/Bo call-up. And Bluefield won their division (at 46-22, they had the best regular season in the Appy League). So, that would seem to jibe with Shapiro’s assertion.

    2. Why the fuck would you rebuild now when your minor leagues are going to start pumping out high level talent at the exact same time as they would if you rebuild? Why not just keep trying to win by spending money on player salaries while your system develops the next wave. I mean, writing for the Globe and Mail isn’t my strong suit, but business kind of, sort of, is, and it seems like REALLY BAD BUSINESS to give up on two seasons where you could be competitive in order to get to the EXACT SAME PLACE you’d be without giving up on those seasons. Almost like you’d be throwing money in the toilet.

  • DAKINS

    People don’t actually think that Shapiro leaving Cleveland is what allowed them to blossom into a good team suddenly, do they?

    Who am I kidding, of course they do.