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Dumbing Down the Discourse: Simmons Again Naturally

After it became public that the Blue Jays had let go of a couple dozen members of their internal staff, including some very well liked and well respected PR people who served as liaisons between the club and the media, John Lott wrote a feisty but rather reasonable piece about it for the Athletic. In it he skewers the club for not making reference to the people let go — “not even as an anonymous collective,” he says — and adds that, in the club’s official statement on the matter, “there was not even a cursory thank-you for years of service.” He also goes to bat for the fired PR staff, explaining that, while it’s hard for an outsider to gauge the job-worthiness of ticket staffers and sales people, when it comes to the PR folks, those in the media “know they did an excellent job. We could not imagine why anyone would doubt their competence, dedication or professionalism.” And he also voices concerns about the new front office’s commitment to hiring Canadian employees.

“Many veteran employees believe that seems less important now,” we’re told. And John notes that, among the staff Mark Shapiro has added, “hiring Canadians has not been a priority.”

I don’t often disagree with John, but I must admit that the latter kind of stuff doesn’t really move me so much. Not because I don’t think it would be great if the Jays had a robust Canadian contingent in their offices, but because I don’t think an organization like the Blue Jays has to be purely or even mostly Canadian to understand or do right by Canadian baseball — or maybe not even very Canadian at all. And also because this kind of stuff can so easily be used as a crutch by lazy writers and fans itching to take giant technicolor dumps all over the club, and happily willing to dumbly latch onto any pretext to do so.

That’s not at all to say that I’d have preferred John didn’t write what he wrote or that this is a subject we shouldn’t talk about — we should. It just seems that inevitably some over-the-top flag-waving shit-dullard is going to come flapping in trying to stoke the dumbfuck fires of the most hopelessly unthinking dipshits of the fan base. Hey, and what do we have here???

Had Mark Shapiro been in charge of the Blue Jays in the early years, you probably wouldn’t know the names Beeston or Ash. They wouldn’t exist. They would not have been given the opportunity to flourish.

They weren’t cronies from Cleveland. They weren’t old buddies or pals.

They were just hard-working Canadians, rewarded for their success.

And now we have these soulless Shapiro Blue Jays, a team that raises ticket prices after a season in which attendance was their best statistic. As Shapiro has conducted the Blue Jays orchestra, he has played wrong note after wrong note, the latest sour stumble being the widespread firing of 20 some employees.

Good people and people good at their jobs were let go. Reasons were not really given. Explanations weren’t provided. It was goodbye and no real thank you from the condescending Shapiro, very cold and very corporate.

These are the new Jays: impersonal, obtuse, uninterested in the team’s history or culture, uninterested in promoting Canadians, and worst of all, losers.

I’d laugh at this, but the whole screed is actually just sad. A real newspaper probably wouldn’t print a thing like that, so naturally this is from the Toronto Sun. And, as you might expect, the writer in question is Steve Simmons — showing here that he’s fully versed in the language of the reflexive Shapiro-hating cretin.

Where to even begin?

I guess from the beginning…

Had Mark Shapiro been in charge of the Blue Jays in the early years, you probably wouldn’t know the names [Paul] Beeston or [Gord] Ash. They wouldn’t exist. They would not have been given the opportunity to flourish.

This is pure fantasy, but based on what, exactly? The implication seems to be that having the wrong passport would have disqualified Beeston and Ash from advancement in the organization, or even from keeping their jobs in the first place — pretty fucking funny stuff from a collection of paragraphs that is so close to openly declaring that Shapiro has the wrong passport that I can hardly even call it “subtext.”

Hey, and I guess when Beeston oversaw nearly two dozen firings “all across the business side of the organization” back in 2009 — firings that came “10 months after about 40 people lost their jobs” in the front office while Beeston was the club’s interim president — that was completely different. RIGHT? I’m sure we heard all about how good Canadians were getting a raw deal from President Unpatriotic when that happened, RIGHT??

They weren’t cronies from Cleveland. They weren’t old buddies or pals.

“Cronies,” he says! Clearly implying something sinister about Mark Shapiro’s hires. “Old buddies or pals.” You know, cronies like Gil Kim from the Texas Rangers, or Steve Sanders, Mike Murov, and Ben Cherington from the Boston Red Sox. Or former IMG Institute director Angus Mugford. Or holdovers from his predecessor’s front office, like Tony La Cava, Andrew Tinnish, and Joe Sheehan — or, outside of baseball operations, PR folks like Jay Stenhouse, or Sebastian Gatica, who came over from the head office at Rogers.

Of course, “cronies” is the word every assclown Jays fan lazily falls back on about this. Because, while they all badly want to slag the front office, they don’t actually want to think too hard or with too much of an even hand about the dumb shit they’re saying. It’s not an accurate descriptor, but it sure says a whole hell of a lot about the person using it. And, in this instance, the person using it is none other than the local media’s grand defender of Beeston! Funny that.

I’ll admit, the way Beeston was ousted from his position as president of the Blue Jays was none too pretty — especially how he was almost ousted a year early, when Rogers went fishing for Dan Duquette — and I don’t think anybody could blame him for still being angry with the company for it, or even with his successor, who maybe hasn’t quite been vigilant enough in protecting his legacy. But decrying cronyism after so consistently carrying someone’s water is pretty goddamned rich. Especially when that water belongs to Paul Beeston. (Or perhaps I should say Paul “half of life is just showing up” Beeston — a phrase the former commissioner’s office executive told his son David when advising him to take a job as Senior Vice President/Strategic Planning and Senior Counsel for the Boston Red Sox  — a pretty impressive first paid professional sports gig for someone who had been dreaming of somehow finding an entry point into the sports world while working five years as a lawyer *COUGH*).

That all said, I don’t think Simmons needs Beeston’s help to write a terrible, discourse-dumbing take about the Jays. It’s entirely possible that he has many of his own reasons for trading in such petty nonsense. But whatever they are, the charge of cronyism, while maybe looking like having a tiny kernel of truth to it in the fact that Shapiro has hired a couple of his top Cleveland lieutenants (a smart thing to do, if we’re not trying desperately to be total fucking morons about it), is nothing more than red meat being waved in the faces of stupid people.

They were just hard-working Canadians, rewarded for their success.

Is it possible to read this bit without hearing the strings of the world’s tiniest violin for this sadass Tim Hortons ad of an attempt at manipulation? Jesus Christ.

And now we have these soulless Shapiro Blue Jays, a team that raises ticket prices after a season in which attendance was their best statistic. As Shapiro has conducted the Blue Jays orchestra, he has played wrong note after wrong note, the latest sour stumble being the widespread firing of 20 some employees.

It’s absolutely true that, at this point, as it’s been from day one, just about everything Mark Shapiro or Ross Atkins does sounds a wrong note to a whole hell of a lot of Blue Jays fans. But the thing is, that certainly isn’t helped by a widely-read columnist doing his damnedest to gin up a consumer confidence crisis for the club out of spite, legitimizing the worst, dumbest instincts of the worst, dumbest fans, or slipping in words like “soulless” as though they’re self evident enough not to warrant explanation.

Good people and people good at their jobs were let go. Reasons were not really given. Explanations weren’t provided. It was goodbye and no real thank you from the condescending Shapiro, very cold and very corporate.

Shapiro hasn’t said a single thing publicly about this, so where this corporate and condescending stuff is coming from, I have no idea. If it’s based on some fired employee’s account it would have been nice if we had been told as much. Though, even if that’s what it is, when was the last time you got fired and had the head of the company waving goodbye at the window after thanking you all the way to the door? Like… huh??? Hey, but at least ol’ Steverino got to hit ’em for being too corporate — a well worn page from the anti-Shapiro playbook, to go along with the hitting ’em on being soulless, inept, nefarious, Canada-hating toads jacking up ticket prices out of sheer malice. A totally not-completely-fucking-deranged portrait of people just trying to run a fucking baseball team if I ever did hear one!

These are the new Jays: impersonal, obtuse, uninterested in the team’s history or culture, uninterested in promoting Canadians, and worst of all, losers.

I think baby’s diaper needs changing.

In Lott’s piece the anger comes through, but so too does an actual attempt to be balanced, and to enlighten and serve his readership. It’s an intelligent piece that has clear questions about the Blue Jays’ actions here. It respects the reader and it respects facts. But when Lott’s “hiring Canadians has not been a priority” turns, in Simmons’s hands, into little more than “Mark Shapiro is a big anti-Canadian poopy head,” we can’t say those same things.

If Simmons respected his readers he wouldn’t think he could get away with such empty and transparent vitriol — words that seem to me to serve his ego and perhaps the interests of a pal he relies on for quotes (like the one earlier this summer from a “Blue Jays executive” about Marcus Stroman becoming a jerk — as if, at this point, there’s anybody in the front office, other than the President Emeritus, who would have given him a juicy agenda-serving off record quote like that), but I’m not sure what else. If he respected his readers he wouldn’t, later in the same piece, take a shot at the hockey analytics crowd — “Nikita Zaitsev has been the best Leafs defenceman through four games – ask anyone in management – yet his possession numbers are atrocious” — backed up only by an appeal to authority, and presented with precisely zero curiosity as to why the numbers and management’s take might diverge. It’s not analysis, it’s axe-grinding. It’s not journalism, it’s just trying to stir up a troll army.

None of this would matter, except here we have the Sun publishing it. What gets written in the pages of the city’s biggest sports section, and how it’s written, and the terms that get used there, continues to drive a part of the conversation about the Jays. I’m sure there are fans out there who can hardly enjoy following their team because they swallow up this kind of horseshit and get enraged about the duplicitous front office. They should be offended that the best they’re getting is a small man’s petty and painfully transparent grudges; an attempt to create a self-fulfilling prophecy; childish whining at a grade three reading level from a second rate paper. I’m offended for them, frankly. And for myself and the rest of us out here who have to deal with the fallout by trying to wrest these dumbasses back toward having even the tiniest semblance of fairness in the way they think about the front office and the job they do.

If we were able to look at the Jays’ front office and the job they’ve done over the past two years somewhat fairly there would be plenty to like and plenty to  dislike. But with some fans it feels we can’t even have that conversation yet. That one of the country’s best known sports writers is leading the charge in the direction away from intelligent contemplation and respectful debate is not helping any of us. It is also, I have to say, thoroughly unsurprising.

  • The Humungus

    “Had Mark Shapiro been in charge of the Blue Jays in the early years, you probably wouldn’t know the names Beeston or Ash. They wouldn’t exist. They would not have been given the opportunity to flourish.”

    This is the dumbest thing ever written. He did it. He finally proved that he’s the greatest writer (of really dumb things) in Toronto Sports history.

  • Kristen Sprague

    It’s funny that ever since I stopped reading the Sun sports, I feel much more informed about the TO sports scene. Best decision I ever made. Now if I can only cull my addiction to listening to PTS…..

    • The Humungus

      I’m culling mine guest by guest. I started by automatically tuning out whenever Bob Ryan was on. Gradually, I’ve dropped regular guests one at a time. At this point, it’s basically just Schulman, Becker and the roundtable. Deitsch I take on a week-to-week basis depending on the topic. I will always listen when he has Declan Hill on, though.

        • The Humungus

          Bob has sounded lately like he’s mulling over retirement. I hope the real reason Schulman ditched ESPN is because he’s taking over for Bob, then we can get the old-man takes of McCown and Shannon and Mr. “I just think you have to ask the question” off the air for good.

  • SnidersSwing

    ‘I don’t think one has to be Canadian to understand or do right by Canadian baseball’.

    From everything I’ve read on the CBC for the last 10 years, you do have to be X to do right by X’s interests, which I agree, is bullshit.

    • Thank you for making it clear that I’ve not quite articulated my point here well enough. It’s a good thing to have X’s represented and in decision making processes when their interests are at stake. I’ve changed my wording so as not to line up with yours any longer.

  • Jeff2sayshi

    I think there is some importance in hiring Canadians for the front office jobs. Not necessarily all of them, but at a certain point the idea of having a company here is that they also hire people from here. To have a front office here filled completely with people who have never lived here doesn’t really work. If you don’t believe that look at some of the blunders by retailers like Target which didn’t bother specializing to the Canadian market.

  • King Dong

    I’ll have to *barf* agree with Simmons on the hiring-Canadians-isn’t-a-priority part. While I’m aware that I’m being a tad blunt with my argument here, there is a tendency in Canada to constantly look for talent from elsewhere rather than actively encouraging and incubating the very capable talent that’s already here.

  • fred2

    There’s an easy fix for the ‘not hiring Canadians’ issue. Canadian law is pretty explicit about who you can hire for Canadian jobs, and how the process of offering jobs to non-permanent residents is meant to go.

    From CIC website:
    “You will first need to try and find a Canadian or permanent resident to fill the job. You will need to meet some requirements, including posting your job ad on the Government of Canada’s Job Bank, and advertising in two other places.

    “Once you do this, if you are still not able to fill your job, you can apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) through Employment and Social Development Canada/Service Canada. If they agree there is a need for a foreign worker to fill the job, you will get a positive LMIA.

    “You can then offer a job to an Express Entry candidate, supported by the LMIA (or, if you have a person you want to hire who is not in the pool, tell them to create an Express Entry profile). Then, they may be invited to apply for permanent residence in the next invitation round from the Express Entry pool.”

    Now … that actually seems like quite a high bar to jump, and you don’t get the feeling that Mark Shapiro’s job was ever advertised on GoC’s Job Bank website, but that’s the theory of how non-Canadians/non-permanent residents obtain employment, unless their are exemptions I’m not aware of.

    If Simmons and the rest think that Canadians are being unfairly excluded from job opportunities, they can and should hire a lawyer rather than just moaning.

    • Barry

      I wonder how that law works when it comes to professional sports teams. Are there exemptions? Presumably there are, at least as far as players go. I mean, I don’t think there’s a team anywhere that tries to fill its rosters with Canadians.

      But how far do the exemptions go? Do they go beyond players and include front office personnel?

      I know nothing about this, of course. Your post made me curious. (Though obviously not so curious that I’d do the research. I’m hoping some here knows the answer so I can continue to be my lazy self. Thanks in advance, knowledgeable person.)

  • Overall your conclusion seems to be that John Lott is a better, more nuanced writer than Steve SImmons. That’s a bold take, sir.

    The only issue I have with not hiring Canadian talent for front office positions is that it becomes that much more disingenuous to market the team as “Canada’s Team”. And yeah, you might think that’s not a valid thing, that’s fine but bullshit is a stench that’s hard to get rid of.

  • Jays of Thunder

    I appreciate you highlighting the contrast between Lott’s reasoned critique and Simmons’ nationalistic polemic – to highlight that the team’s leadership can reasonably be criticized for this decision, and the shoddy communication around it. I’m particularly uncomfortable about potential for the caricature Simmons draws (a “soulless” profiteer who doesn’t care about Canadians) to be scooped up by some shit-ball anti-Semite. It’s clear Simmons doesn’t respect Shapiro, I’d appreciate if he could do it in a way that’s humanizes more than it others.

    Unrelated, here is a worthwhile piece from a while ago that highlight’s Shapiro fumbling over his words in defending the Cleveland baseball team’s racist mascot. http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/2013/04/cleveland-indians-president-mark-shapiro-chief-wahoo-isnt-going-anywhere/

  • A Guy

    Unless I missed it, the FO never actually stated why they were fired, and if they’ve been replaced. Is it downsizing or replacing? If they’ve been replaced, I suspect they’d be Canadians, as the jobs were basically administration, right?

  • Barry

    I always enjoy a good and thorough takedown of Simmons, but it’s made even more sweet when Simmons’ insanities are contrasted with the eloquence of John Lott.