Toronto Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro tries to clarify decision to pull Jose Berrios, but only offers further window into organizational dysfunction
Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing1 month ago
A little over a week after the Toronto Blue Jays got unceremoniously bounced from the 2023 playoffs at the hands of a two-game sweep by the Minnesota Twins, fans of the team continue to be left with more questions than answers.
And while general manager Ross Atkins tried to clarify what happened last week in his own press conference — especially regarding the confounding decision to pull Jose Berrios from Game Two — he didn’t help.
Atkins effectively threw manager John Schneider under the bus, backed it over him, and sped off by saying it was the skipper and his staff’s call. It’s left nothing short of a sour taste in the mouth of Jays fans, doubly so considering comments from multiple players like Whit Merrifield, who “hated” the call, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who was “surprised” by the decision, and most importantly, Berrios, who was left scratching his head about it.
The hope among many was when club president Mark Shapiro stepped to the podium Thursday for his post-mortem on the season, he would clarify exactly what happened. Some of that actualized.
“Accountability lies at the top. It lies with me,” Shapiro said, trying to cover up some of Atkins’ comments while saying what the GM should have done a week ago. “We’re not looking to say that John Schneider made a mistake, Ross made a mistake or who made a mistake. We made a mistake. It didn’t work. We need to learn and get better from it, but we need to be OK making mistakes.”
As quickly as he said that, other comments from Shapiro insinuated he was well aware of the plan to remove Berrios in favour of the matchup-driven move to bring in the lefthanded Yusei Kikuchi.
“I knew the game plan, I knew the purpose behind it, I was aware of it,” Shapiro said. “I knew the goal of it was to bring Kikuchi in to turn over the lineup and get some of their left-handed hitters out of the lineup for better matchups later in the game, which actually worked.
“I didn’t know when it would happen, so I found out at the same moment in time when John walked to the mound.”
While he didn’t know exactly when it would happen, Shapiro was evident in that he knew it would happen. That’s different than Atkins saying, “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,” and that “there was no plan to concretely deploy that.”
Talk about not being able to get your story straight.
The Jays’ plan as a whole is to run this thing back. Ripples through the clubhouse or not, Schneider will be back, Atkins will be back, and Shapiro will be back. Nobody, so it seems, will have to answer in any serious way for a second straight Wild Card exit at the hands of an embarrassing sweep.
After being the best division in baseball this year, the AL East collapsed in the playoffs. The Twins swept the Jays, as the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles were both swept at the hands of the Texas Rangers, who outscored the clubs a staggering 31-12 across five total games.
It’s a silver lining of sorts for the Jays, who don’t have to sit and think about a division rival having any sniff of the AL Championship Series. Yet, it still shows Toronto had an opportunity to separate themselves from the pack, make some noise, and put six rather disappointing years of ball behind them.
Alas, here we are. Sitting, waiting, wishing. Maybe next year will be their year.
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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