While some fans don’t like seeing stern leadership from guys like Ken Giles or the stories about Bud Norris, that attitude is nothing new in Toronto.
Every workplace can have a different dynamic, but when it involves being a professional athlete, often handsomely rewarded for your work, then there’s a different level of expectation and pressure.
One of my best friends in high school was a gifted volleyball player who I had the pleasure of sharing the court with as a teenager. Our team did very well, and we had a very positive and supportive environment with that group. It was a big part of what I loved so much about high school sports, so I’ll never forget when I went to watch him play in University for the first time, and saw his Team Captain scream in his face after he made a mistake.
He wasn’t in high school anymore, and this was a whole different level.
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I remember thinking it was a terrible way to treat a teammate, but after the game he assured me that it was a different way of showing support, and that his teammates only wanted the best out of him. I’m still not sure it’s the most effective way to go about things, but “tough love” has been used throughout competitive sports since the dawn of time.
I share this anecdote with you not because I want to talk about myself, but because that “tough love” concept has come up with the Blue Jays already a few times this Spring. We saw it earlier this week when Ken Giles reportedly got after David Paulino during a workout, and many of us heard the stories that followed Bud Norris after he was signed a few weeks back. Norris had similar run-ins with young pitchers to what Giles had earlier this year, and the veteran leadership came with mixed reviews.
While some Blue Jays fans might be a little concerned about this “old school” way of thinking coming into the clubhouse, I would like to reassure you that this is nothing new in Toronto. For as laid back as John Gibbons appeared to be, don’t think for a second that he didn’t have a line that wasn’t to be crossed. Just ask Ted Lilly, or Shea Hillenbrand, who both had scuffles with the skipper during his first go-around with the Blue Jays in the early 2000’s.
You can be certain that negative behaviours wouldn’t been tolerated by the likes of Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, or other strong leaders that graced the clubhouse in recent years. You may not have heard much about motivation being an issue in recent seasons, but it shouldn’t have been in a clubhouse full of veterans. I’m sure the young players like Devon Travis, Kevin Pillar, or Roberto Osuna knew to keep their behaviour in check, and they had plenty of professional examples around them to follow.
I’m not saying that I condone a veteran player cussing out a younger teammate, especially when it happens in the public eye. That said, I know that being chewed out a few times as a younger man was exactly what I needed from people when it came from people I respected, and if it’s done properly then there can definitely be benefits.
As for this representing a culture change for the Blue Jays, I hardly think that’s the case. Maybe Montoyo is even more old school than Gibbons, and maybe things will be a little different, but I hardly think this is something new in the Blue Jays’ clubhouse.