The Blue Jays have been quiet at the Winter Meetings so far, as they seem to be intent on slow-playing a market that’s already slow itself, and — according to Ross Atkins — teeming with “opportunities and alternatives”.
Er… actually, more accurately, the club has been quiet in terms of making moves. But Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins haven’t exactly been quiet in terms of saying entirely benign things with the potential to rile up fans desperate to twist their statements into reasons to dislike them. HOW FUN.
First, on Tuesday, it was Atkins:
Atkins: "Fortunately we're in a position, because of our core, that we don't have to do anything to start the season. I think very likely we'll make a couple of significant additions but we're in a pretty good spot." #BlueJays
— Gregor Chisholm (@gregorMLB) December 12, 2017
I quoted this tweet with the words “cue morons,” and they sure did take it.
To react negatively to a quote like this, one has to do a few plainly ridiculous things. First of all, you have to pretend as though Atkins hasn’t been perfectly clear for months and months that the team has areas that need to improve. Second, you have to be ready to act like it’s some kind of an inexplicable, wild, unacceptable thing for a General Manager to dare to say positive things about the players on his roster — and that you take such a statement, despite all the evidence to the contrary, as the GM’s singular full-on face value assessment of the club’s urgency to improve. Third, you have to posture like the concept of negotiation is completely foreign to you, and that you actually think a GM saying something like, “Yeah, we’re really desperate to find a way out of the fucking Carrera-Peace mess in left field,” or “We feel like we absolutely have to sign a right fielder and that our offseason would be a total failure without doing so,” would be a good thing for his negotiating position.
Like, it’s really not so difficult to figure out what’s going on here, right? Jesus.
Today, it was Mark Shapiro’s turn to bear the brunt of the pointless ire:
— Alex Seixeiro (@alexfan590) December 13, 2017
Again with this one, I don’t think it’s terribly difficult.
For one, I don’t think it’s a secret that Shapiro doesn’t think that the way to build a team is the way he’s needed to build the Blue Jays, doubling down on an old and slow roster, trying to find a path to upgrading mostly through free agency without losing out on the draft picks needed to kick start a much needed replenishment of the farm system.
More than that, though, I don’t think it’s difficult to read between the lines of this hypothetical. A team without fans is a team that’s not thinking about TV ratings and about gate revenue — it’s a team that doesn’t have ownership thinking about those things, either. True, he’s not saying they’ve done anything because of ownership, he’s saying they’ve acted a certain way because of the fans. But they’re pretty connected — and it’s obvious why he’d prefer to say “we’re doing this for the fans” instead of “we did this against our better judgment because ownership insisted.”
I’m not sure that insisted is the right word, either. They might not have even had to.
Selling off everything after 2015 would have been a total non-starter. Impossible. The same is true of the 2016 trade deadline, when the Jays woke up on July 31st leading the AL East with a 59-45 record. Doing so after the 2016 season would certainly have been at least a little easier, though. Bautista and Encarnación were free agents, Donaldson had two years left and would have netted them a bounty, Estrada with a year left and Happ with two left would have been attractive trade candidates. But holy shit, it would have been very difficult for fans to watch that roster be dismantled immediately after making the ALCS, and for Rogers and the club to be seen as simply pocketing all the gains of 2015 and 2016 for themselves without reinvesting in the team. It would have been incredibly poisonous to the brand and created an incredibly tough situation for a front office that was already reviled in many corners. I’m not sure they really could have done it then, either. Many fans who today are acting casual about how much they love the idea of a rebuild likely wouldn’t have been as receptive to the idea then as I think they’d like to believe.
Still, I get it. Nobody wants the people running making decisions they don’t actually believe are best for the franchise. But I honestly don’t read this as that, because you can’t separate the team from its fans like this. Shapiro is saying this is what they would have thought was the best thing for the franchise in a universe where fan bases don’t exist (or at least the Jays’ one didn’t). In the universe that does exist, clearly it’s not what they thought was best.
Fans who are oddly desperate for a rebuild, either because they can’t see how absolutely dreadful that could become, can’t see beyond the 2017 Jays’ record to how decent the roster still really is, and can’t see how the half-pregnant path forward might actually work (and won’t kill them long term if it doesn’t), are understandably going to be upset by what Shapiro is telling them here. I don’t think they should be — I think they should probably appreciate the honesty — but judging by some of the horrorshow replies to Alex’s tweet, they definitely are.
Ahh, the Mark Shapiro era. Where the front office just can’t win no matter what!