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“They’re still who they are and I’m still who I am,” John Schneider’s second full season begins with plenty of noise and plenty of familiarity

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Photo credit:Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
15 days ago
Being predicted to be the first manager fired this season isn’t the most ringing of endorsements for John Schneider. His tenure hasn’t been bad, per se, with a 135-101 overall record since taking over halfway through the 2022 season. But four straight losses in the AL Wild Card Series have cast a shadow over Schneider and the Jays, setting him up as the scapegoat should management want to look for a different direction.
The thing is, getting rid of Schneider is also losing a big chunk of this team’s identity.
Schneider’s path to becoming Toronto’s manager is a script right from Hollywood. Selected by the Jays in the 2002 draft in the 13th round, toiling away in the minors before three concussions in 2007 ended his playing career, Schneider jumped into the organization as a catching coach. He worked his way up, from the Gulf Coast League to the Vancouver Canadians, from the Lansing Lugnuts to the Dunedin Blue Jays, winning a couple of championships along the way. After claiming the first Florida State League championship in the history of Dunedin, Schneider was named the manager of the 2018 New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Quite possibly the best minor league team that the Blue Jays organization has ever assembled, Schneider was entrusted with some of the best prospects in Toronto’s system, namely Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero Jr. It was never going to be easy, but it also presented an interesting challenge.
“When we broke camp, we knew what we had, we knew that we were good,” Schneider said in an interview with the National Post. “It was, A, how do we not mess up their development and keep doing what they need to get better; and, B, since it was a unique opportunity, it was a good time to try to hammer home how to win, how to be a good teammate and how to be a leader on your team.”
It was an interesting balance to strike. Schneider had to manage a young group, one that probably lacked the maturity and experience of a professional routine, having to be walked through some of the day-to-day grinds. On the other side, with their potential laid out in an abundantly clear fashion, the manager had to maximize the development they would get through their routines. “The workday was the development part, and game time was our ‘let’s go out and win’ time,” said Schneider.
“I was lucky enough to have these guys for consecutive years, so I tried to walk the tightrope of winning and developing, just because we knew these guys were going to be good,” Schneider said about the group. Minor league baseball is inherently a system for Major League clubs to develop their talent with winning anything but a guarantee – but establishing a winning habit certainly doesn’t hurt.
“I tried to win. I tried to match up in the bullpen. I wanted the guys to feel what winning was like. I felt like it just breaks up the monotony of the minor leagues when you’re having team success. I tried to do some things you probably wouldn’t do in the minor leagues, but that we felt were important for them to learn at the time.”
It would end up working out pretty well for Schneider and the Fisher Cats. They would go on to claim the 2018 Eastern League championship, and Schneider received Manager of the Year honours for his efforts.
The Jays that made it to the big club echoed a lot of lessons that they learned from him down in New Hampshire. “There was a lot of talent on the team, and he did a great job corralling that talent and teaching everyone that winning is the most important thing,” Jordan Romano said. “You’re in the minors and you care about your stats because you want to go up to the next level, but he made it a real culture about team and winning first. He’d tell us that when you’re winning, good things will happen.”
“He was very similar to how he is now. He always had our backs down there.”
“He was definitely a players’ manager, and he had a good feel for the minor leagues being a grind, giving us days here and there not to do as much when he felt it was necessary,” Bo Bichette said. “He had an understanding that the minor leagues aren’t fun all of the time.”
Schneider’s second full season at the helm includes plenty of familiar faces and relationships that he’s developed throughout the Jays system. There are many more complexities that come with managing a big-league club, from ownership to management to fans. The dynamics are a little different, but at its core, Schneider knows who he has.
“Understanding that was six years ago and times were different, at the end of the day, they’re still who they are and I’m still who I am,” Schneider said with Opening Day right around the bend.
Toronto will hope to usurp expectations after a lacklustre off-season and break their playoff losing streak. With all the noise surrounding his job security, there’s one thing for certain about John Schneider: There is not a manager who is more familiar with the core pieces of the organization — as well as one who has won more with them.

ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETANO

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