Why John Schneider does not deserve to be the scapegoat if the Blue Jays struggle to start the season

Toronto's skipper shouldn't be the fall guy for a team that could be headed for trouble this season

Wild Card Series - Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins - Game One
Wild Card Series - Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins - Game One / David Berding/GettyImages

As the Toronto Blue Jays are about to embark on a new season, the spotlight on manager John Schneider's job status is shining brightly. The Athletic (subscription required) lists him as one of the managers in danger of losing his job. It seems like the Blue Jays are landing on all the preseason projections of teams that will take a step back this season. All of this for a manager with a 135-101 regular season record, but a shoddy 0-4 postseason record. Blue Jays fans are understandably feeling pessimistic after an extremely disappointing last few months.

Having said that, Schneider shouldn't be the scapegoat if this team struggles out of the gate. First, how early in the season are we talking about? 3 weeks? 5 weeks? The baseball regular season is six months long! Even the best teams will go through a down stretch or play .500 baseball for a period of time. The issue for Toronto is that fans still have a bitter taste in their mouths and rightfully want it washed out immediately in 2024. It all comes down to sequencing because if the same poor stretch occurred in July or June, would the casual fan notice?

Unless this team is ten or fifteen games under .500, Schneider deserves to keep collecting his paycheck. If you decide to fire him, who exactly do you install as an interim manager? That individual will still need to manage a team expected to compete for a championship in 2024. It's not like this is a team devoid of expectations. There will still be so much to accomplish for a team with a lot of star players nearing free agency.

Fans understandably view offensive coordinator Don Mattingly as a "manager-in-waiting". Mattingly is not the answer in the dugout. His tenures in Los Angeles and Miami both ended in underperformance and the sides "mutually" agreeing to part ways. Mattingly is clearly an extremely accomplished former baseball player, but not someone who has experienced much success in the managerial ranks.

Other candidates on the staff include associate manager Demarlo Hale. Hale has some managerial experience when he filled in for former Cleveland Guardians manager Terry Francona in 2021 as the skipper underwent a health-related leave of absence. Firing Schneider would only be understandable if the team was struggling in early July and needing a fresh voice. The Blue Jays could follow the same script from 2022 when Charlie Montoyo was fired with a 46-42 record before then-interim John Schneider led the club to 92 wins. In other words, if history repeats itself and the team is flatlining at the mid-point, an interim manager like Hale may lead the club to more success than the incumbent.

Most importantly, if Toronto is performing badly out of the gate, it's probably because they were poorly constructed by the front office. An observer should ask if it is fair to place that blame on Schneider's shoulders. While acknowledging that Schneider should accept some level of culpability for the disaster in Minneapolis, he wasn't the one in the batter's box when the offense only scored one run in the series. Plus, most baseball fans can probably correctly assume that the Berrios plan was at least in part designed by his bosses prior to the game.

On a larger level, the theme for Toronto this season centers on internal improvements from the players currently on the roster. In other words, the front office seems to be communicating that the players will be the ones responsible for the course of this team, not Schneider.

Ross Atkins and Schneider have worked together long enough that they should be allowed to see this through together. If the upper levels of team ownership don't like the direction of the team, then fire both of them and start fresh. The worst outcome in terms of stability would be keeping one but not the other. That would only lead to more dysfunction down the line. In the meantime, let the New Jersey native keep trotting out to the mound and instead focus your ire on the other parts of the team registering underperformance.