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Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Say It In English Please, Blue Jays

As I wrote in my previous post, “it’s entirely possible that the front office by now recognizes that the only thing that’s going to get the majority of Blue Jays fans to believe in and trust them is winning baseball games.” If that’s really the case, then I suppose what I’m about to write about is a non-issue. But let’s presume for a moment that the Jays do consider it at least somewhat prudent to try to, say, win the hearts and minds of the public by relating — in English (or any recognizable language, really) — things like goals, strategies, a vision, or a reason to care about the people involved with the club and to invest our emotions and our dollars in their success beyond the uniform they wear and the city the play in. In that world? I… uh… I think the club could maybe use a little help. (My consulting fee is very reasonable [makes “call me” gesture].)

Why do I say that? Because holy shit, this Toronto Star article on the Jays recent behind-the-scenes staffing changes. And more specifically, holy shit this Shapiro-esque quote from Sebastian Gatica, the club’s VP of “fan engagement” — “an area that includes business-led PR initiatives and Blue Jays social media,” Griff explains, and now what remains of the club’s PR staff as well, apparently — as he speaks about staffing changes that were made public on Wednesday afternoon:

“In recent years, our business has become more focused on engaging fans through compelling experiences, unique content and personalized service,” Gatica said. “Today’s changes reflect that evolving nature of our business as we shift to meet these needs through a new structure and resources aimed at delivering memorable experiences to our passionate fan base.”

Well then I guess that clears it the fuck up!

I feel I should point out here that while I don’t know Sebastian, he did message me last season to compliment me on a piece I had written and offered to have a beer with me, just to be able to put a face to the name, which I thought was a particularly nice gesture. And I must admit I’m probably about to be a little too harsh and too picky here — even on Shapiro, who doesn’t always speak like he’s leading a tech seminar. But… uh… what???

Like… they know that nobody understands what the fuck they’re talking about when they talk like this, right?

Even Griffin’s editor doesn’t seem to know what to do with that statement (the only quote from a Jays employee in the piece), giving the piece the hopelessly vague subheading “Team says it is more focused on engaging fans.”

Engaging fans themselves, I think that should read. As opposed to relying so much on traditional media as a conduit between fans and team? Maybe?

And that, I think, is even a somewhat kind interpretation that elides the nebulous “experiences” or the specific nature of… uh… any of it.

Granted, I’m speaking as a total layman here. I have no idea if there’s some strategy to speaking in the corporate vernacular like this or not, or if it’s just how the folks with the standing desks talk these days. And I guess I can see how there are a whole lot of positive and impactful words squeezed in there — “memorable,” “compelling,” “unique,” “personalized” — which maybe (maybe?) are more important to hit on than it is to make any kind of coherent statement in the English language. But where the hell is the “how”? What the hell “experiences” are these? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?? IN WHAT WAY DOES FIRING PR PEOPLE HELP PERSONALIZE MY SERVICE??

I know it’s just short quote about a subject the club would surely prefer not to talk about, but Shapiro talks like this sometimes too, and it always comes off as totally weird and hollow and distracting. (Is the disconnect that bizarre corporatespeak plays differently in the States, perhaps?). At least give me some straight bullshit like ol’ Paul Beeston used to do, not a bunch of words that I instantly recognize as being positive arranged into a fucking puzzle for me to decipher.

Y’know?

Anywho, the Jays now have a “one-person media department” which Griff says is “unique to Major League Baseball.” This, the way Griff puts it, means that longtime communications VP, Jay Stenhouse (the most visible of the club’s former PR crew; you’d see him in the background of just about any interview, press conference, etc.) now reports to Gatica, who has only been with the club since last year, when he moved over from Sportsnet to “coordinate personal affairs for Mark Shapiro” (which, as I understood it — though not from him — was basically being Shapiro’s personal PR person). Well that could make for some compelling and unique office experiences! (Or maybe I don’t have this right at all.)

Whatever the case, it still sucks that a bunch of good people lost their jobs this week, and it should be interesting to see how this all ends up working, in a practical sense, with traditional media access perhaps taking a backseat to other kinds of “engagement” and one person seemingly doing what was the job of four people.

Hey, and it looks like that’s going swimmingly so far!

Fucking with the media is probably not the greatest long-term strategy here, you guys. (Ask JP Ricciardi). Constantly coming off like you’re trying to Rasta-fy Poochie really isn’t a much better one. Missing opportunity after opportunity to not shoot yourselves in the foot by handing fans something new to gripe about probably isn’t a great idea either.

I know staff changes after a management change are going happen sooner or later, and I acknowledge that this front office seems to be in a place where they sometimes just can’t win no matter what they do, but I dunno… it would probably be a little easier to let this stuff slide if one ever got the sense that the front office really understands the wants and needs of the fans. Or, y’know, how best to communicate to them.

  • PeterJMoss

    Odd that this bothers you now because this is exactly how Shapiro and the Jays front office talks about most things these days. Same thing you hear in meetings with corporate types everywhere.

    It works fine when you’re delivering positive news – high performance team, etc – people fill in the blanks and wishcast something amazing instead of the boatload of spreadsheets and databases it probably is. When you’re deliverying bad news – the audience has no interest in solving the word puzzle so they see it for what it is – a bunch of corporate gibberish.

      • PeterJMoss

        Words like modernize, high performance, etc – all fit the bill as meaningless corp-speak. We as followers as the team and you as a blogger/media guy have to be careful in how we interpret messages from the team.

    • Oakville Jays

      I think this is a bad move by Shapiro. I can understand the firings of the trainers if they made mistakes in dealing with the injuries to Travis & Sanchez.

      The firing of the “fan engagement” & PR /media relations staff is puzzling at best. Will they be replaced? If so, with other Canadians? This could end up being a disaster next year if the team doesn’t do well on the field.

  • IMW

    See I’m ok with this vague statement because it seems like the more humane approach when firing people that either of:
    1) “We fired these people because we think they sucked”
    2) “None of your damned business”

    Both of which are very probably true. Best to just leave it vague and let those who are fired have their dignity.

    Now as to whether they should have actually MADE this move… That I think is very up for discussion.

    • I completely disagree. For one, I don’t think whether they should or shouldn’t have made the move is worth discussing at all, because what the hell would we even discuss? It’s their right and we have literally zero information with which to form an opinion. And as for the vagueness, I don’t think details about anybody’s firing is what the vagueness is hiding at all. They’re telling us a restructured department will better equip them to “deliver memorable experiences” and “engage fans through … unique content and personalized service,” but what are those things and how are they delivered/engaged? Not much, if anything, to do with why anybody was let go there.

      • IMW

        Hmm.. All fair. You’re right that none of us are armed well enough to debate the merits of the move.
        As for the crafting of the message, I guess I’m not that bothered by it because I’m used to it. I’ve worked in some very corporate environments and this is par for the course. There are lots of reasons for it. People trying to sound smart, people remaining vague in order to give themselves wiggle room later (very possible in this case. I.e. they don’t actually know how they are going to change things so they are just throwing out some buzzy words and letting people interpret).

  • Barry

    I thought it was just me. I’ve had a lot of caffeine today, and that’s made my reading comprehension suspect, but I was reading that article and wasn’t quite sure what the fuck they were talking about.

    Another question is … Why wasn’t Griffin wondering/clarifying what they were talking about? For whatever faults we might think he has, he doesn’t generally write pieces that are so maddeningly vague, and if the fault lies with the people giving him the info — the Jays — he usually calls them on it. (I guess that’s why I thought it was “just me” at first. I expect more clarity from Griffin.)

    • Barry

      I can confirm, from experience, that people who get standup desks quickly regret it but, since they’re stuck with the desks and don’t want to admit their mistake, tell people it was the best thing they’ve ever done.

      • The Humungus

        The idea of a standup desk appeals to me when I’m working from home, as my “desk” chair at home is a hardwood kitchen chair that makes my ass hurt.

        However, when I get to the office and sit at a real desk, I quickly remember that yeah, fuck that. I’m not standing all day. That shit is for chumpstains.

  • I work in PR, so I know a little bit about this kind of thing. It’s slightly odd that putting fan engagement and media under one person because it’s very much not the same thing. Social media is not traditional media. Fan engagement is not dealing with the media. What I don’t want to happen is that access is limited to Sportsnet people and heavily controlled messages, when the diversity in media (multiple papers/radio stations/websites) is a strength of the Toronto landscape. I’m not saying that Sportsnet/Fan 590 are just mouthpieces right now.

  • HNZ

    The social engagment from club to the fans sucked. The marketingand media department didnt make quality content worth sharing to friends and other fans. Glad theres new people coming in. *shrugs*