The Psychology of a clubhouse: The Blue Jays edition


Somewhere, out there, hopefully in a very dark, gloomy room sits Shea Hillenbrand probably giggling to himself hysterically because he was spot-on back in 2006 when he so immaturely wrote the, “ship was sinking” on the clubhouse bulletin board. At least, that’s one way to picture the former Blue Jay given the most recent clubhouse drama which was released via Arash Madani’s Twitter account on the eve of Tuesday August 19th.

As you can see, the player is unnamed but refers to when Jose Bautista previously voiced his displeasure with the lack of activity made by the front office at this year’s non-waiver trade deadline. In its own right, that comment was damaging enough from someone who is, as my friend calls him, ‘the heart and soul of the Toronto Blue Jays.’ The bigger issue however, is that this clubhouse drama and repetitive spouting off to media, is not a new phenomenon; it has been going on for years.

The first domino to fall in this series would have to be the Hillenbrand fiasco. Hillenbrand wrote some questionable and offensive phrases on the bulletin board, forcing acting manager at the time, John Gibbons, to call him out in a players only meeting where he proceeded to ask Hillenbrand to, “punch him in the face.” 

A few years later in September 2009, career minor-leaguer Dirk Hayhurst came to town and finally received a shot in the big leagues. In the following off-season, Hayhurst injured himself training and was put on the disabled list. There he was bullied by teammates for writing about his major league life pushing the clubhouse into an anarchic state.

By June 2012, John Farrell was the manager and had a falling out with the future Hall of Fame shortstop Omar Vizquel after Vizquel confronted Farrell about his choice to push Henderson Alvarez‘s start back a day.

Last season, it was well documented the ongoing struggles within the Jays clubhouse. To start, it was reported only a month into the season that a players only meeting was called by veteran Mark DeRosa after he began feeling a, “bad vibe creeping into the Jays locker room.”

Although the meeting took place, one could argue the issue went unresolved with the team continuing to struggle throughout the season. This rapidly accelerated to the point where starting catcher J.P Arencibia called out reporters Dirk Hayhurt and Gregg Zaun for defaming him on television, painting him with the wrong brush and consequently hurting his reputation to the fan base.

All of that is the past and most would be willing to forget it, but here the Jays are, again, dealing with what appears to be issues between the clubhouse and the front office. The question is why?

There really isn’t any reason for Bautista and his teammates to spout off to the media about the lack of additions made at the deadline because, in reality, that’s not their jobs. Their jobs are to go out, take the field, and win as many games as possible.

What’s most striking about these comments is that they are clearly a cry for help. Would you ask for help if you didn’t think you needed it? It’s possible of course, but it’s also irrational. Thus, these comments show that Bautista and what appears to be the rest of the clubhouse, are insecure about what they have and feel it will not be enough for a post-season berth.

More from Toronto Blue Jays News

Additionally, those who made a big splash at the deadline did not automatically improve. Look at both the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics. Detroit ‘upgraded’ through acquiring ace David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays. Since then, the Tigers have played 0.500 baseball going 10-10 and fell behind the Kansas City Royals for the lead in the Central division. To make matters worse, the Athletics, who acquired starter Jon Lester for slugger Yoenis Cespedes, have gone 8-11 since the trade and have also lost their division lead to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Therefore, while acquiring another starter may have been beneficial to the Jays playoff hopes, it does not neccesitate improved performance and results.

Ultimately, it’s not an attitude that’s conducive to winning a championship this year or any year in the near future. This is an attitude that must be addressed by the front office, managerial staff and most importantly, the players themselves before fans can turn on their televisions to Jays baseball in October.

One thing is for certain, if the Jays don’t resolve their clubhouse drama out soon, it could cost them a lot more than just this year’s post-season. It could spill into next season and beyond so as former U.S President Harry S. Truman once put it, “The Buck stops here.”