There is still plenty of time before the 2018 season begins, but so far it’s been a disastrous offseason for the Blue Jays’ organization in several departments.
Over the last week or so, you can feel a palpable shift when it comes to the excitement around the Toronto Blue Jays. As with most years, a fresh slate brings a new excitement for the team, regardless of how the previous season finished. After a year that saw the Blue Jays win just 76 games and face a comedy of errors with their disabled list, there wasn’t a fan around that wasn’t looking forward to turning the page to next season.
So far it’s been a very quiet offseason, at least in terms of improving the team for 2018 and beyond, as has been the stated goal from the front office. They did make an early trade with the Cardinals to bring in Aledmys Diaz, but otherwise we’re left waiting to see how the market will develop, and just how Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro plan to react to it. It’s not entirely their fault that things have been slow thus far, but now that we’re getting close to Christmas it would be nice to see a few of the roster holes start to get filled.
However, it has been a busy offseason for the Blue Jays in other ways, and unfortunately many of them are negative. Again, many of these things are out of Atkins’ and Shapiro’s control, but there’s no doubt that some of the potential good vibes have soured on the team a bit. The headlines haven’t been a positive reflection of how baseball has been re-ignited in Canada, and hopefully that will change before the team reports to Florida in the spring.
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Don’t believe me and think I’m being negative? I give you the following examples:
Letting go of Training Staff/Media Department, etc
One of the first things to take place this offseason was a house cleaning of sorts, with many long time employees handed a pink slip. There were long time training staff members, media employees, and more let go, and talk of “communication issues” within the organization.
These things happen within any business, but it wasn’t a great way to start the offseason, and some fans and writers were miffed at how things went down. Compared to other things instalments on this list however, it’s nearly been forgotten by most people.
Ticket Prices going up
After a season that saw the Blue Jays spend all but one day in last place in the AL East, while also leading the American League in attendance, the organization announced a hike in ticket prices by up to 17% for next year. The news is never going to be received well when folks have to shell out more money for anything, but the timing of the decision was definitely questionable. It’s not as if Rogers didn’t make any money with over 3.2 million fans coming through the gates.
Rogers rumoured to be interested in selling the team?
Despite the fact that the Blue Jays had a tremendously popular product for the ownership to work with in 2017, there have been rumours that Rogers may consider selling the team. At this stage we don’t know how serious they are about such a thing, but I would argue that we shouldn’t celebrate the idea. In fact, I already did.
Roy Halladay tragically dies in plane crash
This one hurt, and is nobody’s fault of course. Still, losing a legend like Roy Halladay at the age of 40 is an absolute shame, especially when he leaves behind a young family and a long retirement from the game to enjoy.
There was some negative chatter around the fact that the Blue Jays didn’t have a representative from the organization who spoke at the funeral, other than now former trainer George Poulis. There were several speakers for the Phillies, and former GM J.P, Riccardi offered thoughts as well, but it was odd that certain figures weren’t in attendance, for whatever reason.
Gregg Zaun fired
This one was a bad look for the organization, but at least it was dealt with in prompt fashion. Gregg Zaun was accused of inappropriate workplace behaviour by several female employees, and was dismissed from his position as an on-air personality for Rogers Media.
Zaun was well known for his controversial opinions, flashy wardrobe, and his “Manalyst” segments. Other than issuing a public apology, he’s been otherwise quiet and staying out of the limelight for the most part.
Stroman on Twitter
While I’m personally a fan of the outspoken nature, there’s an argument to be made that a few of Stroman’s tweets would have been better served as text messages to the bosses. The one that caused the biggest stir was when Stroman was upset about Ryan Goins being non-tendered, which he learned about on Twitter. Some fans and writers felt/feel that he needs to leave that stuff off of social media.
For what it’s worth, this is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, and Stroman brings a lot of value to the organization with his social media presence.
Ryan Goins non-tendered
Speaking of Goins, he was let go by the Blue Jays at the beginning of the month, and Stroman was among the many who voiced their displeasure with the decision. Goins has always been a polarizing figure with the fan base, as one half adores the blue collar infielder, while the other half has long hoped the club would move on.
The front office did bring in Aledmys Diaz on the same day to help with the middle infield depth, but they’ve also admitted that they need to act further, and haven’t ruled out bringing back Goins either. Even if the decision was completely within reason, it was a bummer for some folks to be sure.
Atlanta Braves/Alex Anthopoulos cherry picking employees
You can never fault an organizational employee for pursuing a promotion somewhere else, and it happens all the time in baseball. That said, it’s been a familiar face that’s come calling for some Blue Jays’ employees this offseason, as Alex Anthopoulos has looked to put back together some of his band from his Toronto days.
He managed to get George Poulis to jump ship for a promotion as the director of player health, and head athletic trainer in Atlanta. He also hired Andrew Tinnish, who then subsequently returned to the Blue Jays, in a bit of an odd development. Again, this stuff happens in baseball, but it’s never a great thing to lose good employees, especially when it’s Anthopoulos who is luring them away.
Stanton lands with the Yankees
In a trade that felt like the NL MVP fell in their laps, the Yankees picked up baseball’s home run king from 2017 without having to send an elite return back to the Miami Marlins (with all due respect to Starlin Castro).
Pairing Stanton with Aaron Judge gives the Yankees one of the most fearsome power duos in recent memory, and their have the potential to terrorize the division for years to come. The Blue Jays were never serious players in the Stanton sweepstakes, and it’s doubtful he would approved a trade to Toronto anyway, but it still stings that he ended up in New York. As if they needed to add more power to their lineup.
Donaldson trade rumours won’t go away
Nothing has happened here yet, and perhaps nothing will, but you can’t help but get the sinking feeling that Josh Donaldson could still end up traded this winter. With just a year remaining on his contract, there’s an argument to be made for shipping him to the highest bidder, but it would of course put a serious damper on the Blue Jays’ chances in 2018. The Cardinals have reportedly been insistent on asking about him, and as many as five other teams have called to ask about his availability.
Here’s hoping the “Bringer of Rain” is still in a Blue Jays’ uniform when Spring Training rolls around, but the longer the rumours persist, the more likely it becomes.
So as you can see, it’s not a short list of negative storylines around the team since the offseason began. As I said, there is still plenty of time for all kinds of things to happen and most of this to be wiped from memory, but at this stage it’s hard to fault fans for being a little disillusioned.
With less than a week until it’s Christmas, is it too much to ask for a little good news?