Ross Atkins recently discussed how the Blue Jays’ front office goes about their business these days, including a very collaborative process.
Fans of any professional sports team are going to question the decisions of the front office on a regular basis, and that’s just the nature of the beast.
However, for the Toronto Blue Jays the last few years, the second-guessing from the fan base has increased pretty significantly. That’ll happen when a talented veteran team goes from a legitimate World Series contender into the 73 win team they were in 2018. As a result, the veterans have been mostly stripped from the roster, a coaching change has been installed, and this team is going to look very different as the begin the rebuilding process.
Some fans are understanding that this is a necessary evil of professional sports, especially when you play in the same division as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Others can’t wrap their head around how a team in a market as big as Toronto would ever need to rebuild, and in some ways that’s a fair question too.
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Regardless of how they got to where they are now, the front office in Toronto has a plan to build a sustainable winner, and with a talented minor league system on the way it’s entirely possible that it could happen sooner than later. Whether things go well or not, the credit won’t all go to Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro, at least not the way they are operating things with the Blue Jays these days.
In a recent interview captured on Fangraphs, Atkins talked about some of the philosophies of the front office these days, and how it’s very much a “collaborative process” among a lot of employees. While it’s easy to point the finger at Atkins and/or Shapiro when there are decisions made that we don’t necessarily like, it sounds like there’s reason to spread the blame, or the credit around to a lot of different people.
"“We’ve tried to create a culture that’s extremely collaborative. It comes down to constantly thinking about how we can improve — how can we get better every day — and having a large number of people doing that. Not just Mark, or me. We want to have 200 players thinking that way, and another 200 employees thinking that way.”"
That kind situation sounds all well and good, but surely there would be a smaller group that takes the ideas of the whole and bring them to a smaller table. Right?
"“We don’t really have an inner circle. We have a very large group that is exposed to every trade discussion that we have, every free agent discussion that we have. It’s not limited to people with director titles. It goes well beyond that. Our baseball operations staff is 25-plus, but the number of people touching decisions is even bigger.”"
Personally, I’m in favour of this type of set-up when it comes to front office decisions. Atkins mentioned things like not caring where an idea comes from as long as it makes the team better, and that type of humility can be very helpful, especially when you surround yourself with other intelligent baseball people in the front office.
Atkins also paints a picture of a very thorough process, and one with a very modern feel for the league and the way things are in baseball today. There is no room for emotions in decision making, and the front office seeks to hire people who are as “obsessed with learning” as everyone else in the office. As the game continues to evolve, Atkins and his team intend to be at the forefront of those changes.
I’ll admit that I raised an eyebrow when they DFA’d Danny Barnes last week, and yet he’s cleared waivers and remains in the organization. I did the same when they left Jordan Romano unprotected in the Rule 5 draft earlier this winter as well, and when they selected 18 year old Elvis Luciano, who will have to stay in the big leagues in order for the Blue Jays to hang on to him. I don’t always understand the method to their madness, but there’s no doubt that it’s been considered from multiple angles by dozens of people.
So while we may not always agree with the decisions being made in Toronto these days, there seems to be a calculated reason for whatever they do these days.