It’s Shapiro speaks season, which means I spent quite a bit of time transcribing close to 1,500 Mark Shapiro words from his recent interview with the dynamic duo of Stephen Brunt and Jeff Blair. If you haven’t listened to it yet, I am going to give you the juicy-ish bits, or just pretty much everything that he said because I suffer slightly from OCD and feel the need to include every damn thing (even though I probably should’ve included more of his thoughts on the Dunedin project and how that facility is going to help change the culture of the Jays’ organization, which it will).
Cam already discussed the whole payroll thing, so I didn’t include that money talk, but here’s everything else…
On his role in the Charlie Montoyo Hiring
Well, my role I would say is similar to every decision, ya know, we make. And Ross talks a lot about it, but we’re a collaborative organization. So similar to player personnel decision where there is a group of people: Ben Cherington, Mike Murov, Joe Sheehan, Ross Atkins, I was involved in helping…hopefully they benefit from my experience of going through 4 managerial searches before; involved from tapping into a network of people throughout the industry, which each of us did to get background information. And then in the privacy of moments being a resource for Ross, as he went down the final decision. I would say the managerial decision, may be more than any other singular decision for a General Manager though, is a very personal one. I mean, it’s a relationship where Ross and the Manager are elbow-to-elbow (and) side-by-side through the tough moments maybe more than any other moments. And so it’s a person you need to ensure you’re aligned with, and it’s a person you need to ensure you enjoy being around. So for anything, my role was to remind Ross of just how important his own personal connectivity with that person was really important because he tends to diminish his own self-importance in decisions because he is so humble and he’s so collaborative in nature.
So, I guess Shapiro and Atkins didn’t toss darts at a list of possible candidates to decide on a manager. And there was no two-tailed green Starbucks mermaid telling Ross to ask the Babe. And there was no Hall and Oates or canoe. But, there is only one captain now, and his name is Charlie.
On Blue Jays culture
I think that we need to form an identity. We need to build a culture that is built upon outperforming our expectations (and) that is built upon outperforming our talent. And that’s an exceptional culture.
I skipped some stuff about how he talked about the culture last season not being bad, but then Shapiro circled back around and said this…
However, I think for us to be successful in the American League East that not having a bad culture is not good enough, um, that we need to have an exceptional culture. We need to have a culture that is built upon some very clear and defined values: that the identity and the traits and attributes of what a Blue Jays player is; and what a Blue Jays teammate is; and the way we go about playing the game; and the way we treat each other; the way we treat the people around the team, media included, would be different. And, I think, that, ah, that’s tough to change. That’s tough to have higher standards or different standards and expectations than we had in the past.
So last year’s culture wasn’t bad? But, it wasn’t good, which makes sense because losing doesn’t exactly create a fun clubhouse environment. It’s interesting that Shapiro mentioned the media thing though, which leads me to wonder about where Marcus Stroman fits in this new culture that the Jays are trying to create.
I’m probably reading into that media line a bit too much, and I’m probably reaching for the low-hanging fruit. I can’t speak about this topic because I have no idea what the inside of the clubhouse is like and how the players interact with each other. But, Stroman’s tweets and constant battle with the local media is a thing. I think the reason that Atkins gushes over J Happ so much is because J Happ, in his eyes, exhibits the ‘exceptional’ culture that they are trying to create in Toronto from his work ethic to his professionalism and everything else. I’m not so sure if Marcus Stroman does.
I skipped some more stuff where Shapiro talked about culture change in a business being a difficult process, or something like that because whatever. But, then he broke into the fact that the Jays are in a perfect position to change the culture from ‘not bad’ to ‘exceptional’…
But, we also have a very rare juncture where the roster, almost in total, is being turned over. So it’s an opportunity, it’s a moment in time…
Jeff Blair asked a question about what the role of the manager is around the 18:38 mark in the interview, which I’m going to skip over because Shapiro goes on about, ya know, how long the season is, how many days they are together, how important it is for the manger to manage the clubhouse and all that stuff. So the gist of it is, it’s a long season and the manager better have the capability to manage humans. It’s not all about the analytics.
About Shapiro’s infamous ‘Intellectual Exercise/Reset over a year ago” comment
It’s very easy to go back and say, “Well, we should’ve made a different decision.” But, we didn’t know that Josh Donaldson wouldn’t play much this year. We didn’t know that Aaron Sanchez wouldn’t pitch at all this year. So we only have some of the information when we’re making those decisions. So when we made that decision, and if I go back in time and I’m in the exact same spot, we’d make the exact same decision. If you were able to tell me that we wouldn’t have any of those contributions; if you were able to tell me that some other performances that we were expecting would not be what we expected, I would say, “Oh yeah, with that information, we would have made that decision earlier.” But, we didn’t have that information in place. We still explored making those decisions earlier. We still examined values of players and examined trades, and we ultimately said that the return on what we were getting was not enough to suffer the pain of proactively going through that cycle. Had we been in a smaller market; had we been in a place that had had more than two years of success, ya know, of playoff success in 23 years, we may have been more proactive.
I’m not going to lie, I kind of got a bit inspired to do a ‘Time Travelling Shapiro’ short story after listening to this a bunch of times. I mean, I’ve already written a ‘Time Traveling Ross Atkins’ one, so why not? It is going to be a long offseason…
Now, only if Shapiro were to go back in time and have someone tell him the future, so that he did “have that information in place”. But, seriously, why would the Jays trade Josh Donaldson after the 2016 ALCS? And why would they have ‘blown it up’ without trying to kick the 2017 can? But, we’ve all been down that narrative road a bunch of times…so let’s move on.
Shapiro switches topics and begins to discuss Cleveland and their recent success and how Cleveland is exploring trades right now even though they are still in a winnable division. I’m pretty sure he is comparing the 2017 Jays situation to Cleveland’s right now (minus the whole AL Central thing versus the AL East thing). He explains that Cleveland is looking to possibly trade some of their talent because they don’t want the franchise to fall off a cliff and they need to feed their farm system. But, after all the Cleveland stuff, he transitions back to the Jays and talks about some of the nifty past trades that the Jays made and how they have benefited the future:
I do think that Ross (and) our baseball ops group did an amazing job of making little trades, under the radar trades, along the way that kind of brought in talent, ya know, whether it was Joe Smith or Francisco Liriano. We have systematically not been trading younger players – that’s a conscious effort, right? From the time that Tony (LaCava) was running the club in the interim, we signed J Happ and Marco Estrada back, so we didn’t have to give up any draft picks. Those were the guys that we signed, that was part of the strategy…to, ya know, going through things and not trading away young talent, except in a very rare instance. We’ve added small trades and then last year we added numbers. And ultimately, prospects are about having numbers. You need a portfolio, a broad portfolio.
Shapiro has said on many occasions (and again near the end of this interview) that he wants to be excited about a number of prospects, not just a couple. And, sure, a farm system that has only a few players that people are talking about is lacking depth. And as much as we love our large adult sons, they are just that…large adult sons. There’s no guarantee that any of these magical beans are going to turn into big league stars, so having a ‘broad portfolio’ and a system that constantly feeds talent at all levels is a sustainable way to building a damn good organization. But, seriously, the Jays have a shit ton of prospects that we are excited about and that’s fun stuff.
About the shitty Josh Donaldson situation
(It’s) not what Josh wanted to happen and not what we wanted to happen. It’s just what did happen.
(The whole thing sucked!)
And everybody does the best they can to navigate through a very tough, ya know, unexpected outcome that nobody benefited from. It wasn’t good for him. It wasn’t good for us. If Josh Donaldson is healthy and one of the best 2 or 3 players in Major League Baseball and playing, maybe our outcome and our season is a lot different. We weren’t actually that far from 2 or 3 players having better outcomes from being a Wild Card team.
And here come the list of ifs that had to break right that didn’t break at all…
If Aaron Sanchez is healthy and pitching like he did two years ago…if Josh Donaldson is performing at an MVP caliber…if Roberto Osuna doesn’t have the issues that he has and closes games…that’s not that much. That’s 3 players before the season starts (and) that wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities to say if those 3 things happened, we’re probably having a different conversation now. And we probably would have had a different end to our season.
It’s probably best that a team doesn’t go into a season hoping that all the ifs break right. If there are a lot of ifs, that’s not a good thing. But, seriously, if those ifs did break right, we could’ve possibly watched the Jays lose to the dumb Yankees in the Wild Card game – fun times.
After the little if-bit about what could’ve been if certain players played and everything didn’t fly into the shit winds last season, Shapiro was asked about Boras and pretty much just said that Boras is doing what’s in his best interest, which is, of course, making M O N E Y.
So, I skipped that little section of the interview because I’ve already transcribed a bunch of words and written about that topic last week. But what is worth noting is that he said that Boras being Aaron Sanchez’s agent isn’t going to negatively effect future negotiations. But, it’s not like he is going to come out and say that Boras is a difficult dumb fuck to negotiate with, he feels bad that Atkins might have to try and do that, and who knows what will happen when that time comes, is he? He’s not about to say that the Jays will trade Aaron Sanchez before even going down the Boras negotiation path to nowhere land.
Shapiro did say that when the Jays start winning again, the attendance will be up, which, ah, yeah, of course. The fact that Boras decided to take the piss out of the Jays’ drop in attendance in his last little whatever is just kind of funny stuff.
About the Rogers Centre upgrades/Dunedin
Ah, Shapiro didn’t really get into the Rogers Centre upgrades (I wonder why) at all and then danced his thoughts over to all the great stuff happening in Dunedin and how his focus has been there and on building a top facility for the organization. I’m not going to transcribe the direct quote, but Shapiro seems absolutely thrilled to get this project rolling and thinks that having this type of complex will change the culture of the Jays for many different reasons.
There’s a bunch of stuff that I probably should’ve included from the interview (especially the Dunedin stuff), but I think I covered quite a bit of it – like close to two thousand words of it. I would definitely have a listen to the interview if you haven’t already.