‘Ripples through the clubhouse:’ Toronto Blue Jays’ Ross Atkins pins pull of Jose Berrios on skipper John Schneider; players reportedly say otherwise
Photo credit:Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing1 month ago
Let the finger-pointing begin.
Days after a Shakespearean tragedy to end the Toronto Blue Jays’ 2023 season that featured all the likes of the famous authors’ most notable work — revenge, death, and destruction — the franchise has turned towards a much different type of work: a comedic one.
And no, not in the “ha ha” kind of comedy. The kind of comedy that leaves you shaking your head in confusion, and when Jays general manager Ross Atkins sat in front of the media on Saturday morning, you couldn’t help but do just that.
One of the largest looming topics of conversation — beyond the obvious fact that the Blue Jays scored all of a single run across two games — was the decision of the team to pull Jose Berrios after one trip through the order in the definitive Game Two of the series. The confounding decision to pull their starter who diced the Twins’ lineup only compounded when Yusei Kikuchi entered the game and promptly gave it up.
Skipper John Schneider said after the game the team had multiple different plans in place, but it wasn’t his words that made the headlines. It was the fact that members of the Jays’ media contingent close to the team promptly made note about how it was an organizational decision and not one that solely lay at the feet of the manager.
Atkins, however, not just threw his manager under the bus, but he backed it up over top of him.
“Stepping back on the why, the why the thought process occurred why to lean into our pitching as heavily as we could was based on the three-game series, the depth of our starting pitching — having Yusei as someone that’s opposite handed of the starter — would allow us to hopefully get their right-handed hitters into the game to better deploy our very strong bullpen at the end of the game facing right-handed hitters,” Atkins said when asked about how the decision was reached to pull Berrios for Kikuchi. “That was the thought process going into it.
“As it relates to the meetings, those are John Schneider’s meetings. He has a group of individuals he prepares with every day. His process, his preparation, his routine was no different that day.
“The group is the staff that’s on the field. It’s not the front office. I do not attend these meetings, and I certainly do not make those decisions. When that decision occurred, I found out about it when you did when Yusei was getting warm in the first inning, it was obviously very clear we had a strategy to potentially deploy. There was no plan to concretely deploy that.
“John Schneider made that decision to deploy that, and that’s what occurred.”
The answer is one of Atkins protecting himself and trying to shield the organization, not standing in front of the manager you promoted just 14 months ago and taking it on the chin.
After the game, frustration from the players was palpable. Whit Merrifield said he “hated” the decision to pull Berrios, while Vladimir Guerrero Jr. said “everyone was surprised.”
And what makes Atkins’ astonishing answer Saturday morning evermore confusing were comments made Friday by play-by-play man Dan Shulman, who was on Sportsnet’s Blair and Barker show.
When asked his thoughts on the situation, Shulman didn’t hold back and offered a tale quite different than that of Atkins.
“Full disclosure, two things: I think analytics are good. I think by in large, they have helped guys play smarter better baseball,” Shulman said, who himself said he didn’t like the decision and admitted he wished he said more about it on-air during the game. “Also full disclosure and other members of the media can back me up, before Game One in John Schneider’s office, I asked him ‘is there a chance Kikuchi could have a bigger role in this series than just somebody takes a comebacker off the knee, or if the game is in extra innings?’ I thought it was possible they could deploy him in such a way that could help them.
“When we saw Kikuchi come out before Game Two, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know he’s coming in… I thought if it had been sixth-inning, third time through the order, that’s different than fourth-time, second-time through the order. Berrios does not show any weakness this year second time through the order, the numbers are almost identical to the first time through the order.
“I think it sent ripples through that clubhouse man. Like I know, I know that pitchers walked into John Schneider’s office after and said ‘We know this wasn’t your decision.’ This comes from above, and I believe a manager should be given all the information in the world, but at the end of the day, a manager needs the autonomy to do what they think is best.”
The situation is nothing short of ugly all around and shows signs of miscommunication and dysfunction. Atkins is pointing fingers at Schneider, players are pointing their fingers at Atkins and upper management, and everyone is left continuing to scratch their heads about what has transpired over the course of the week.
Somehow, it feels as if this story is far from over.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at email@example.com.
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