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Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On the Blue Jays’ pursuit of a good culture

It wasn’t that long ago that Mark Shapiro said this about the type of culture that the organization is trying to build:

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. 

So, I guess, I’ve got to ask: Why Bud Norris? In a terrific piece by Rachael McDaniel over at Vice, which you should read if you haven’t yet, McDaniel looks at why ‘Bud Norris is bad for baseball’ (also the title of the piece).

I’m not about to copy and paste the entire article here because you are fully capable of reading it on your own, but I do want to share this bit:

Using the royal “we” in reference to either American players or America writ large, Norris declared that if players were “going to come into our country and make our American dollars, you need to respect a game that has been here for over a hundred years.” In short: players coming from different baseball cultures, with different modes of expression and styles of play, had to either assimilate into the imagined monolith of American baseball—with its unwritten rules and codes of conduct—or find themselves unwelcome in the game.

The truth is that not only does baseball need less Bud Norris’, so does the world, which is why I am having a difficult time trying to understand why Toronto’s front office would sign someone who makes Kenny Powers from the show Eastbound And Down look like a paragon of virtue.

If the Blue Jays want to have an exceptional culture that has clear and defined values, why would they bring in a racist? In an America filled with swastika saluting trash, it’s become ever more important to rise against something that isn’t ethically right.

I’m not suggesting that Bud Norris is some ‘Alt-Right’ Dick Spencer loving white supremacist, but I am saying that the Jays’ front office signed a racist baseball player who said some vile and offensive words. And words do matter.

At this point in time, every Jays fan is well aware of the odious behaviour of Bud Norris; his ‘old school mercilessly riding rookie’ ways. So, with all of this information out there from the racist ‘Merica comments to the Jordan Hicks story, wouldn’t Toronto’s front office want to stay as far away from that kind of person – that kind of culture.

In a great piece over at SportsNet, Shi Davidi asks if this is the type of old-school leadership that the Blue Jays want in the clubhouse – referring to Bud Norris, of course. And I think that is a question that I would like to hear Mark Shapiro or Ross Atkins answer.

I think that Blue Jays fans have every right to take to Twitter and be disgusted with the Bud Norris signing because we expect more from our organization. I’d like to think that even though we sometimes disagree with each other, we can all agree that the Goose Gossage ‘old school’ and ‘racist’ Bud Norris’ out there need to leave the game of baseball forever.

Shame on the Blue Jays front office for bringing in a Bud Norris. This was a poor decision by everyone involved. Even if Bud Norris had vintage Tom Henke numbers, I still wouldn’t want the team to sign him to any kind of deal – minor or major. This was a major mistake. And one that I’m sure has left Jays fans questioning the ‘values’ of the front office.

Now, the major reason that the organization brought in Bud Norris is because they were able to sign him to a minor-league contract, otherwise wouldn’t it make sense to sign a veteran pitcher like Adam Warren? I mean, I guess, these days the San Diego Padres are doing everything right, so I don’t want to compare Toronto to an in impressive organization like that because that wouldn’t be fair.

Mark Shapiro said that he thinks for the Jays to be successful in the American League East that not having a bad culture is not good enough, and that they need to have an exceptional culture. Unfortunately, there is nothing exceptional about Bud Norris. Jays fans don’t usually boo or hiss their own, but I won’t be surprised when that happens to Bud Norris. Maybe it will send a message to the front office that we expect exceptional culture, too.

    • Jmr

      Well said – I am failing to see the “vile and offensive words”. I can see some people may disagree with Norris (myself included), but this article is way overboard. Time to get back to writing about baseball.

  • Cincinnatus C.

    Funny thing is, I don’t particularly object to the Jays signing Bud Norris, and anyway, what do you want to do, blackball him, require everyone to pass some kind of ideological purity test to be a major league baseball player, what? As for “culture”, a couple of years ago they wanted to get more athletic and signed Kendrys Morales. There’s how you’d like to improve the team, and there’s how you can improve the team, and sometimes those two things don’t line up. But, like I say, funny thing is, I don’t want to click on a Vice link because I still think of Vice as one of the original internet homes of the alt-right. And I also don’t want to click on the link to what I guess is the same story in the Huffington Post, because I still think of the Huffington Post as one of the original things that wrecked journalism and made it virtually impossible to make a living as a writer–but here I am reading (and writing!) shit here for free. We all got problems is all I guess.

  • Cincinnatus C.

    Come to think of it, speaking of Tom Henke, remember back when Tom Henke was wearing an OPERATION DESERT STORM hat (or t-shirt or both or whatever) around the clubhouse? Good times, good times.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love the hell out of Carlos Delgado for not standing for God Bless America. But it takes all kinds.

  • canadian1967

    Excuse me Ryan, but if you are quoting someone, then actually quote them.

    As soon as you took 2 Sentences from a quote and then used the words “In short:” to Summarize the part of the quote that you Cut Up in order to suit yourself then ALL the words used, became YOUR WORDS, not Bud Norris’ words.

    Whether or not Bud Norris is a quality Human or not, you seem to have outed yourself as not exactly being of high Quality yourself.

  • El Cabeza

    Snowflake as in someone who would get all triggered and bent out of shape if he happens to see Latin ballplayers having fun on the field? It seems like the Jays have gone full snowflake with this signing.

  • Oz Rob

    Not sure I feel as strongly about Norris as you do, but I agree it seems like an odd move by the Front Office on the surface anyway. There’s been a few of those this year already for sure.

    I am not sure how much I am looking forward to this year. Vlad Jr yes (but watching that footage of him hitting that double…he’s huge…how long until he becomes a full time DH?), but it’s hard to get excited about the journeymen scrubs who are getting picked up for year contracts. How do kids get excited by these players I wonder? Such a faceless team in so many respects.

    • Mose

      Agreed. Vladito seems much larger than last year, and surprising considering all expectation have him in the majors this year….

      For all the discussion/concern around how the Jays are taking advantage of the current CBA to keep a player down so they can gain another year of service time, I’d expect the player to be in better shape….

      Note. On Sunday, Vladdy was thrown out at home trying to score from second off a single to RF… with the secondary lead and extra jump he should have had with two outs, that lack of speed isn’t going to help the Jays win games…

  • The Humungus

    “I think it’s a culture shock,” Norris said, regarding foreign players. “This is America’s game. This is America’s pastime, and over the last 10–15 years we’ve seen a very big world influence in this game, which we as a union and as players appreciate. We’re opening this game to everyone that can play. However, if you’re going to come into our country and make our American dollars, you need to respect a game that has been here for over a hundred years, and I think sometimes that can be misconstrued. There are some players that have antics, that have done things over the years that we don’t necessarily agree with.

    “I understand you want to say it’s a cultural thing or an upbringing thing. But by the time you get to the big leagues, you better have a pretty good understanding of what this league is and how long it’s been around.”

    This is the actual Bud Norris quote, for anyone who doesn’t have 45 seconds to spend googling it. It’s not from Vice, it was originally in an Sports Illustrated article.

    Presented without comment.

    • The Humungus

      And now, he’s the comment:

      Saying “If they want our money, they need to stop doing things that are culturally acceptable to them” is, in all cases where the culturally acceptable thing puts no one in the way of harm or danger, a bigoted statement.

      Period. End of discussion.

    • Matty

      When did America become a race? Norris is talking about his country and how the game is played there. He doesn’t say white people or black people or Hispanics. It’s his country he refers to and the game.

      I don’t see anything racist. Close-minded and old school not wanting to see change within a game.

      But racist?? Nope

  • Flash McLennan

    Unpleasant person? Probably. Confirmed “racist”? Man, I hope for your sake that you have a REALLY clear understanding of just where the libel line is.

  • The Humungus

    Ryan,

    I do have to be clear, I’m pretty sure you know I enjoy your writing. But, you should be a bit careful about terminology.

    What Norris said isn’t “racist”. It’s bigoted and ignorant.

    Obviously there is a connotation there that makes is easy to conflate the two, and you can certainly draw a conclusion, but I know you know the difference between the two.

    That in mind, he’s absolutely a bigot. I can’t wait for a guy like Stroman or Vlad to put him in his place for their wanton enjoyment of playing baseball.

    • Mose

      I also enjoy Ryan’s columns and I’d like to think I’m open to a different perspective.

      I also believe our world is a better place when we’re more tolerant towards each other.

      With kudos to The Humungus for sharing Mr. Norris’ full quote, I struggle to find racist comments.

      RAC-IST – a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.

      I could see how Mr. Norris’ comments could be construed as bigoted.

      BIG-OT – a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions.

      With more questions, I personally would like to clarify Mr. Norris’ specific beliefs and perspective. Without, it seems we’re speculating on his character. I personally choose the see the best in someone else, or at least until they consistently prove differently with their actions and words.

      Given the org behavioural work I do with senior leaders, I could see Mr. Norris as someone who is passionate about honoring core values, which are vital to the strong culture Mr. Shapiro et al seem to be seeking.

      Given Mr. Matheny’s very public support of Mr. Norris’ role of maintaining the Cardinal Way (which played out publicly in his Mr. Norris’ “mentoring” of Mr. Hicks last summer), perhaps it matters not to Mr. Norris the color or origin of his teammates, so long as they are committed to the team’s core values, culture and goals.

      Mr. Norris could also be a terrible person who values and beliefs don’t align with my own. I hope not, for his sake and his new Jays teammates.

      The Jays could very well be taking leadership shortcuts instead of staying true to their own core values.

      As Mr. Hicks is poised to assume the closer role in St. Louis, perhaps the “mentorship” helped. Or maybe you don’t need to follow team rules if you throw 100+MPH….

      Time will tell…. And hopefully with more grace and tolerance from all…