The Blue Jays have an accountability issue
Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
Last week, the Toronto Blue Jays got swept by the Minnesota Twins in the American League Wild Card series, extending their post-season losing streak to seven games dating back to 2016.
After the loss, Fans were eager to hear from general manager Ross Atkins about the agonizing defeats, in-game decisions, and the future direction of the club. However, despite the Blue Jays losing on Wednesday, Atkins didn’t address the media until the Saturday of Thanksgiving Weekend. It wasn’t a great start and it wasn’t going to get any better.
When Atkins was asked about the decision to pull starting pitcher José Berríos from the second game of the Wild Card series, he emphasized that John Schneider was the one who made the decision and that Schneider is the one who holds those meetings with his staff. Atkins further clarified that he doesn’t make any in-game decisions and that he also found out about the Berríos decision when everyone else did.
While it’s easy to conclude that Atkins is throwing Schneider under the bus, what this demonstrates is the clear separation of power. This is arguably a good sign because the front office shouldn’t be meddling with things happening on the field. In fact, A.J. Preller, President of baseball operation at the San Diego Padres, is known for his micro-management and this created much of the Padres’ troubles over time, according to The Athletics’ Ken Rosenthal and Dennis Lin.
The Jays’ front office demonstrated some level of trust by letting Schneider take control of his meetings, staff, coaches and players and that separation gives a healthy space for any on-field affairs. This would explain why Atkins is bringing Schneider back as the manager – he still has trust in Schneider’s abilities to lead the clubhouse despite the bitter and questionable losses in the playoffs in 2022 and 2023.
At the same time, it’s hard to ignore that there are some communication issues within the Jays’ system. Even though Atkins said that Schneider controls all on-field aspects of the game, he confirmed that there are strategy discussions that involve the front office also. While the on-field staff has no obligation to share every single tactic and decision with the front office, it’s odd that the front office and on-field staff remain this disconnected even for the playoffs preparation.
The players made it painfully clear that they were taken aback when Schneider took Berríos out of the second Wild Card game and utility man Whit Merrifield even said that he hated the decision. This kind of confusion and frustration among players signal that there were ongoing communication issues at all levels throughout this season and even up to the playoffs. Despite all these underlying communication breakdowns, Atkins didn’t shed light on the Jays’ communication chain and accountability during his press conference.
Blue Jays beat reporters like Ben Nicholson-Smith revealed that the Berríos move during the second Wild Card game was a headscratcher for many MLB insiders outside of the Jays. While blaming isn’t necessary to address accountability, Atkins et. al could have provided a forward-looking strategy as to how they prevent these types of strategic mishaps from happening in 2024 and beyond. Let’s be clear, no front offices have offered insights into their processes 100 percent to the general public: they are known for saying something with no substance. In fact, the public doesn’t need to know every minute detail, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve transparency.
Fans deserve to know what exactly the core problem was for the 2023 Blue Jays and the front office’s plan for redemption. This isn’t 2020 anymore where the Jays made it to the playoffs with zero expectations. This team had high expectations since 2021 but failed to meet them for three years in a row. There is potential to turn it around, but that won’t be possible if Atkins and Schneider can’t figure out a future plan together. The press conference confused the fans more because there weren’t answers to the team’s chronic underperformance and a path forward next season. Instead, Atkins offered vague responses to how the team will approach this offensive slump and off-season while keeping mum about bizarre in-game decisions during this Wild Card series.
The true missed opportunity in this press conference is the failure to mend the trust/relationship with the fan base. Fans have endured egregious losses for three years now in spite of the front office’s efforts to improve the team each year. The press conference didn’t give any Jays fans a reason to believe in the front office, on-field staff or the core team again. Atkins does have until Thursday to address the other aspects of this team but re-establishing the trust should have been prioritized when he spoke with the media on Saturday.
As the conference went on Atkins didn’t hesitate to express his disappointment by saying that this has been one of the most frustrating times in his career. That’s understandable since he theoretically assembled a team that’s built for October on paper. But if Atkins et al. can’t weave in accountability to their communications moving forward, they are bound to produce another paper tiger next season and beyond.
Time is running out for the Blue Jays to live up to their full potential. And the sooner the front office realizes how much accountability matters in redemption, the better it will be.
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