With the Toronto Blue Jays’ 2018 season set to begin, you can bet there will be no shortage of commentary. Unfortunately, you’ll have to sort through it all
The Toronto Blue Jays are bringing baseball back. Yes, I heard Justin Timberlake singing that line in my head. Don’t hate. There is bound to be enough hate flying around over the next little while. We just sat through an offseason that some would call rather unexciting. While the Yankees and Red Sox look to be very good, many feel that the Blue Jays are just plugging holes and spinning tires. Raising the floor doesn’t excite many people. That’s obvious by looking at ticket sales.
To be fair, we should probably expect a certain level of negativity masked as realism. After all, the Blue Jays will have a tough slog ahead of them to compete this season and they didn’t land any so called “big fish” this winter. Fangraphs has them pegged at a 39.6% chance of making the playoffs, sniffing around the Wild Card. That should be reason enough to look forward to the season, you know, if simply having baseball wasn’t enough for you. Before games are even played, Toronto figures to be a playoff team.
But, that doesn’t stop people (who probably aren’t the most versed in baseball, or the Blue Jays) from writing their Hot Takes, hoping to cash in on the discontent that may be out there.
For example, take Damien Cox of Sportsnet fame. Writing for The Star, he decides that every sports team in Toronto has been successful and everyone is loving it, but the Blue Jays are just a disappointment. I mean, sure. It is something that has been said before and probably holds some truth. But, the take is really only a disguise for trying to fan the flame of discontent.
Cox has no problem throwing stones at the front office (something that has actually become old and tired, honestly) when he says: “In 2017, the Jays were horrific in April (8-17) and never recovered. They were old and brittle. Management had done little to improve the team, and decided not to be ambitious sellers at the trade deadline, either.” This analysis, embedded in something akin to the hockey mindset, clearly wants us to think that the smart thing would have been for Ross Aktins (merely an assistant to Mark Shapiro if you believe Cox’s writing) to simply sell off every piece he could and totally waste any kind of competitive window the club may have.
The reality of Toronto’s situation is that, with the current roster and commitments, logic dictates that you try and make a run with the pieces you have in 2018, not sell everything off and become the Astros of a few years ago. Rebuilding doesn’t happen in baseball like it does in other sports. Atkins knows this. He has a roster (that honestly had little value last summer thanks to injuries) that can be competitive with some retooling, even if said retooling doesn’t remove Toronto from being one of the oldest teams in baseball, something Cox would have you look down your nose at.
To hammer the point home, Cox uses other examples of teams who win: “Houston went the smoking crater route to ultimately build last season’s World Series championship team, while teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox, Giants, Nationals and Angels are spending at levels above that of Toronto.” Should the Blue Jays have cratered? They could have, but they wouldn’t have seen the return you’d like on current roster members and drafting talent, like the Astros takes a good number of years of losing. Think fans would be cool with that? Of course, maybe Cox just thinks that the Rogers run team should just start spending and snatching up all the top level names and take on payrolls like the clubs he mentions. Who wants to tell Cox that Toronto currently sits 10th in the league in payroll? Maybe if they were 5th or 3rd, they’d have a better shot. Should we also point out that the teams with the highest payrolls are also among the league’s oldest rosters? Given his comments about the Blue Jays being old and brittle, this might not sit well.
Cox clearly feels that getting younger is in order, which apparently can only be done by tanking. But, rather than applaud – or at least acknowledge – the front office for trying to field a competitive team AND grow the farm system, he simply says it is taking too long. He doesn’t buy into the youth of this organization (I mean, he writes Anthony Alfred, so…hopefully, that gets changed) being all it’s cracked up to be, but scoffs at those “outside of Toronto” thinking the front office has done a good job. But, they’re outsiders, donchaknow?
But, wait! There’s more. “Shapiro wants fans to believe he will oversee an operation that develops stars. He just doesn’t want to go all in on the rebuilding effort or lose enough games to get the best picks, and most believe that’s because his corporate bosses at Rogers would prefer the bottom line to stay reasonably healthy as this team gets turned over. So the Jays are neither fish nor fowl at the moment. They’re not pursuing a World Series, and they’re not in full tear-down mode, either.”
Oh, boy…This whole statement is rife with unawareness, no? Firstly, it implies that nothing short of spending the most amount of money in baseball will bring a World Series. It completely ignores the trend to avoid big spending on aging stars. Money doesn’t equal winning. Not any more. Full tear down also means years of losing. Like, we’re not talking of years of losing because of poor management, leading to a lesser product. We’re talking about losing because of not having talent to begin with. That’s what starting from scratch looks like. And, it takes years to recover from. More years than Cox would tolerate, I assure you.
Cox ends with this gem: “The Jays want you to believe they can do both things — win and rebuild — at once. The uncertain future of third baseman Josh Donaldson, held by injuries to 113 starts last year and headed for free agency, will impact both of those objectives. So it remains a question of faith. Do you believe these suits, these “Cleveland guys,” can build a serious contender without first going through serious pain like the Astros did before emerging as the best team in baseball? You don’t have to answer now. We’ll check in again in six months.”
Look, there has not been a move made this offseason where the front office has tried to convince the fanbase that they should book off a date in November for a parade. Not once have they tried to say that they will win it all. Anyone who tries to do that is just being silly. They have improved their team. That makes things better. That is what improvement means, right? Is it enough to win the World Series? Who knows. That is why baseball is so much fun. Anything can happen. Are the Blue Jays a contender? Well, baseball thinking would say they are. Should they have to strip down to lose 100 games to compete? No. They are competitive now. Will they stay that way? Maybe not. They may put together another losing season. But, they may not.
That is why it is suggested that you choose your Blue Jays’ narratives carefully. At this point any of them very well could prove to be correct. So, it’s up to you which you would rather spend your time with. The season hasn’t started and already there are these doom and gloom posts. Believe them if you like. Heck, you may even be right. We can check again in six months.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.