On June 24, Mark Shapiro appeared on Fan 590 to discuss all things Blue Jays. He touched on many subjects, including decision making, roster improvements, expectations, run prevention and returning to the Rogers Centre this season.
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Mark Shapiro, President & CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays, was interviewed on the Fan 590’s morning show, Lead Off with Ziggy and Scotty Mac. It was a wide-ranging conversation that I found to be very interesting. Let’s review the highlights.
Shapiro fielded questions regarding emotion and decision-making. He noted the fact “that we have been in every game means that most of the losses have been tough ones.” Shapiro opined that “we are losing games late, they’re one-run losses, they are gut-wrenching, heartbreaking losses.” He said it hurts to lose, mainly because the team has fought so hard to get where they are.
However, Shapiro observed that “decisions made emotionally, decisions made with short-term momentum often are bad decisions.” Hence, Management falls back upon the club’s objective views, including its run differential, the toughness of the schedule to date, the magnitude of injuries, and other challenges. Nevertheless, Shapiro said that he feels pretty good about where they are and that there is a good run for the team this season. He emphasized the team is “positioned for a multi-year run of Championship baseball.” He expressed confidence that Ross Atkins and his team are working tirelessly to “address the concerns this year and continue to fortify the team for the years to come.”
The Trade Market
According to Shapiro, historically, not a lot of trades occur in June. He noted that the price would carry an extremely high premium if the Jays executed a transaction now. Shapiro added that the current discussions between teams set the “roots of the deals we will make between now and July 30.” He was confident that the Blue Jays would improve the team; some improvement will be from within the organization. Some will arrive from outside the group. Shapiro expressed confidence that the Jays will “add pieces that help us win.”
On June 23, Paul Goldstein of FanGraphs wrote an interesting article entitled Why Teams Wait to Make Trades? Goldstein’s piece gives background to Shapiro’s contention that, historically, teams do not make many in-season trades in June compared to July. The data below, courtesy of Spotrac, illustrates this phenomenon for the 2017-2019 MLB seasons.
When asked whether the Blue Jays have met his expectations, Shapiro focused upon the positives. He offered that the players have had a challenging time operating out of a minor league facility, dealing with hostile crowds at home and injuries. However, despite all that, Shapiro stated that the Blue Jays are above 0.500, one of the best offences in baseball, a young group of positions players, and getting players back from injuries. Also, Shapiro opined that other positives are the knowledge that the Blue Jays will add to the team and that the club has the financial resources. He stated that he believes that there is a “good run of baseball in us this year; I feel even better about where we sit for the next 4 or 5 years.”
One of the Fan 590’s hosts asked Shapiro if he was satisfied with third base and corner outfield defence. Shapiro began his answer by pointing out that young players historically become better defenders with experience as they handle more balls under the pressure of an MLB game environment. He cited his time spent as a Farm Director when he had to manage his “patience with the transition to the Major League level of players, especially young infielders.” However, he did acknowledge that third base and the corner outfield are the areas that the Jays have been below-average defensively; Shapiro remarked that “we need to be better.”
Shapiro stated that the recent MLB crackdown on sticky substances is tied to a bigger problem in the game: the lack of balls in play. He offered that any time we get to the point where a ball is in play every four minutes, it is bad for the game and bad for fans. Shapiro commented that hopefully, after two years of research, a tackier baseball could be introduced next season. He remarked that if MLB does not develop a tackier baseball, the focus will shift to examining acceptable substances that pitchers could use.
Playing at Rogers Centre
When asked about his thoughts regarding the Blue Jays playing in Rogers Centre this season, Shapiro stated, “I feel different than last year.” He noted that the conversations with public health officials at all three levels of government, particularly the amount of engagement with the Federal Government, are much more extensive this year. He also noted that everyone, including government representatives, has more COVID-19 experience to draw upon during recent conversations.
Shapiro emphasized that the border is a challenge. He acknowledged the public health concerns involved in cross-border travel. Still, he noted that “almost all our players are fully vaccinated,” as are most MLB players. He stated that the Blue Jays are “aggressively pursuing the opportunity to come back.”
In addition to the matter of the border, Shapiro mentioned that timing is also an issue. Although July 30 and August 20 are the start dates of long home stands, Shapiro stated that the Blue Jays could not make a unilateral decision to move back to Toronto. Such a matter would require the team to seek approvals from MLB, MLBPA, public health officials, three levels of government and other stakeholders.
Shapiro observed that “there is a chance that it could happen this year.” However, moving an entire operation and the families of players and other employees is not a simple task. He offered an interesting analogy: it’s like turning around a big vessel in the middle of the ocean.
He concluded with a positive thought. “There is only one place we want to be; there’s only one place that it will feel right for us to play, and that is the place on the front of our jersey, and that’s Toronto and Canada.”
Shapiro made comments concerning the injuries suffered by George Springer and Nate Pearson. He also spoke highly of Vlad Guerrero Jr. Finally, Shapiro noted that people should not read anything into Gabriel Moreno’s recent stint at third base in a minor league game. The decision was solely to keep a good bad in the lineup. I highly recommend listening to the interview.
The Last Word
Mark Shapiro covered many topics during his Fan 590 interview. He stated that the team would make additions to the club before the upcoming July 30 trade deadline. Shapiro also provided insights into MLB’s crackdown on sticky substances and the prospect for the Blue Jays 2021 return to the Rogers Centre. It was an intriguing and informative session with the Blue Jays President & CEO.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Bob was a St. Louis Cardinals fan until the Blue Jays arrived on the baseball scene, although he still has a soft spot for the Cards. Similar to straddling the Greenwich Meridian, as depicted in the avatar, Bob applies sabermetrics when applicable, but his heart tells him that Lou Brock belongs in the Hall of Fame.