Will Toronto Blue Jays brass Mark Shapiro, Ross Atkins or John Schneider be forced to answer for yet another Blue Jays letdown?
Photo credit:Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing2 months ago
John Schneider put his job on the line Wednesday afternoon and it very might cost him it.
With the Toronto Blue Jays looking to rebound in game two of their Wild Card series against the Minnesota Twins, they stuck with Jose Berrios as the guy to start this game. And while there already had been chatter Tuesday about the club’s entire pitching staff, sans Kevin Gausman, being available for Schneider to choose from, they did just that.
The problem, however, was that Berrios was giving the club everything and more pitching three tremendous innings against the Twins. He fanned five batters and allowed three hits until he reached the top of the fourth, when he walked the first batter he faced, Royce Lewis, with lefties Max Kepler and Alex Kirilloff next up.
Despite the walk, Berrios had already faced Kepler and Kirilloff in the bottom of the 2nd. He induced a ground out off Kepler on his second pitch of the at-bat and struck out Kirilloff on four pitches outside of the zone.
Yusei Kikuchi, meanwhile, had spent the first three innings warming up in the Blue Jays bullpen after taking a pre-game that looked a lot like he was preparing to be the starter. Before the first pitch of the game was even thrown, it was said-without-being-said that Kikuchi was going to enter the game at some point to relieve Berrios and that right there was the first mistake that the Toronto Blue Jays organization — namely Schneider — made.
Kikuchi entered the game allowing a single to Kepler on his second pitch, a slider right over the heart of the plate, and forced the Twins into pinch-hitting Donovan Solano for Kirilloff. Solano took first on a seven-pitch walk. With Carlos Correa at the plate with the bases loaded and no outs, he drove the second pitch he saw, another slider, into centre field scoring a run.
Lefty Matt Wallner was up next, and he was pinch-hit for by Willi Castro, who grounded into a double play while scoring a run to get a 2-0 lead. Minnesota never looked back.
Back when Kikuchi was warming up as Berrios was dicing, Sportsnet colour commentator Buck Martinez made a note in the second inning about how Kikuchi was throwing with lots of velocity in the bullpen — something seemingly innocuous, but it raises a question: did Kikuchi tire himself too early? Entirely possible given how he struggled entering the game, but there are much larger questions that loom.
How do any of the Toronto Blue Jays’ key people — president Mark Shapiro, general manager Ross Atkins, or skipper Schneider — keep their jobs after this debacle?
Given how many local media members were quick to make note of how the decision to go from Berrios to Kikuchi was an organizational one, it’s safe to say that this was the plan all along, and boy — was it the wrong one. The use of analytics in baseball has become integral and is evident in many decisions made around the league, but Wednesday’s debacle was further evidence of how sometimes, you have to truly account for what is happening in front of you.
We don’t, and likely won’t know exactly who was the first to think up the idea. Was it Shapiro? Atkins? Pitching coach Pete Walker? An analytics-minded assistant? Schneider? Truth be told, it doesn’t matter. What does matter, however, is that the key members of this organization need to wear it.
Shapiro, Atkins, and Schneider should all be shown the door for an ungodly oversight that cost them dearly.
Say what you will of Shapiro’s work to boost payroll and bring massive improvements to the Rogers Centre, the team has gone 5-10 in the postseason since he took over as CEO. All five of those wins, however, came in 2016 with the team he inherited. Toronto has missed the playoffs four times, and been swept in three Wild Card series’ since. That’s simply unacceptable.
Atkins, meanwhile, is the one whose fingerprints are all over this aforementioned mess. He dismantled the 2016 team to make his mark on the franchise, only for the team to miss the playoffs four times and get swept in three Wild Card series’. That’s simply unacceptable.
Schneider, lastly, has made questionable managerial decisions all season long and while I’ve stood fast in my belief that he is the right man for the job, his decision to pull Berrios for Kikuchi has changed my tune about him. If Schneider truly knew this team as well as I thought he had, keeping Berrios in the game was the easiest decision he could’ve made in these playoffs.
It’s not hard to see how good Berrios was pitching. He had thrown just 47 pitches and while yes, the margins are slimmer and the need to manage a game and your pitching staff are key, the decision was mindless and based solely on what was decided upon before the game. No matter how you cut it, it’s simply unacceptable.
The saving grace for Schneider might be the fact that he’s still a young manager with all of 236 regular season games under his belt. The world in which he returns next season as the Jays’ skipper is very much there, and one I’m not completely opposed to — no matter how egregious of a mistake made Wednesday way. If that’s the case, the leash on Schneider becomes as tight as can be.
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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