Dear Blue Jays Fan,
Are you weary of all the losing? Are you frustrated that good baseball seems to be too far over the horizon? Does seeing a picture of Mark Shapiro’s smile stretched unnaturally across his face like that of a robot trying to pass as human make you want to vomit with rage?
If so, you are not alone. It can’t be denied that the fan base is restless, and that’s among those who could still bear to watch. In fact, the vitriol coming from certain sectors has been so noxious that someone who wasn’t watching might think that the team had prolapsed to a level of badness so low as to embarrass the game of baseball itself.
But fear not, for The Shapkins Defender™ is here to put a little rose colour back in your glasses and remind you that, despite what Hayden says, things are not as bad as they seem. Nor are the good times as distant as they may appear. And neither are the Shapkins duo doing anything particularly awful. In fact, they are doing just fine.
Now, I know you probably already have voices swirling around in your head, shouting all the ways in which I am “wrong” and “stupid” and “extremely punchable”. Well, I’d have a hard time arguing with those last two, to be honest. But I don’t think I’m wrong! But just on the off-chance that I might be, let this column be your opportunity to both exorcise those voices and maybe try to convince me that the Blue Jays’ proverbial world is ending. I will respond to your screeds weekly and perhaps convince you that it is only the real world that is ending.
But first, I will briefly lay out my perspective so that you know what to disagree with.
I’m not going to argue that Shapkins and the rest of the crew are some savants that are leaps and bounds ahead of the other front offices in baseball. Nor will I say that they are perfect and have not made any mistakes since taking over the team. Merely, I will point out that they are adequately following the playbook that has proven successful in recent years in building good baseball teams. Yes, the Blue Jays lost 95 games this year. But the Houston Astros lost over 100 games in three consecutive seasons while they were building the current core that already has one World Series title and could certainly win more. The Chicago Cubs finished last in the NL Central five years in a row while en route to their World Series win in 2016. And the Kansas City Royals that won the 2015 World Series had to endure nine consecutive losing seasons before opening that competitive window, which included five last place finishes!
Now, I’m not going to make some Orwellian argument that losing is actually winning. But this is the order of operations that has been working. The Major League team is bad for a while as the farm is built. The farm bears fruit, making the Major League team good, and then you make bold moves like getting a Jon Lester or a Justin Verlander or whoever to push your team over the line into being very good.
Of course, this only works if you make your organization adept at developing prospects into players that are actually good, which is something Shapkins have done! And that’s certainly something that didn’t exist before they arrived. As much as I love Alex Anthopoulos, his teams were always primarily built via trade, not development.
And because they have put that emphasis on development, I don’t think the Blue Jays fans will have to endure anything close to the dreary stretches that befell fans of the Astros, Cubs or Royals. I believe that this 95-loss season is the bottom of the barrel. And I think that a competitive team is coming up around the bend. I’m pondering perpetual motion and fixing my mind on a crystal day. But since I’m aware that I’m very much in the minority about this, I wanted to start this column and get the dialogue flowing. After all, as bad as the Blue Jays are right now, I think we all prefer bad Blue Jays to no Blue Jays at all. And we’ve got a long stretch of winter without the Blue Jays to cover.
So, bring me your hot takes, your diatribes, your harangues, your tirades and even your jeremiads. I will absorb them and do my best to respond respectfully. Perhaps we will both feel a bit better afterwards and realize that the true hot takes are the friends we made along the way.
Send me questions, concerns, complaints, or whatever else you want to vent about at @darraghfilm on twitter or firstname.lastname@example.org.