When Alex Anthopoulos decided to leave the Blue Jays organization after being named baseball’s Executive of the Year by Sporting News following the 2015 season, newly hired team president Mark Shapiro looked to his old front office for a replacement.
But instead of hiring one of the key architects of Cleveland’s baseball operations side like his successor as president Chris Antonetti, newly promoted GM Mike Chernoff or assistant GM Derek Falvey (now president of baseball operations and architect of the current Minnesota Twins), he hired Ross Atkins, their vice president of player personnel.
Atkins had a 15-year career in Cleveland’s front office after retiring in 1999 following five seasons as a pitcher in their minor league system. They first hired Atkins in 2001 as assistant director of player development, and he was promoted to vice president of player personnel after the 2014 season. Over that time, Cleveland won one AL Central division title in 2007, and made two playoff appearances; they lost to Boston in the 2007 ALCS, and lost the 2013 ALWC to Tampa Bay.
In now eight seasons as GM of the Toronto Blue Jays, the teams he has built have yet to win a World Series. In fact, the Jays have more 3rd and 4th place finishes in their division under Atkins (6) than they do playoff game wins (5 games in 2016 with a team whose core was built by his predecessors).
Combined with his 15-years in Cleveland’s front office with Shapiro, that makes 23 seasons without any World Series appearances by teams employing Atkins in their front office. The Jays regular season record under Atkins over his eight seasons is 609-585 for a .510 winning percentage.
That’s not to say Shapiro deserves to lose his job. He’s overseen the successful renovations of the spring training complex in Dunedin, and the ongoing renovations of Rogers Centre. He also helped rebuild attendance numbers to 3,021,904 in 2023 after league leading declines in both 2018 and 2019, with average home game attendance up to 37,307 in 2023 from a low of 21,606 in 2019.
He’s also successfully celebrated the Blue Jays rich history and past stars, as evidenced by a moving ceremony for José Bautista when he joined the Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence. And let’s not ignore that he’s convinced owner Ed Rogers to spend commiserate with the GTHA’s (and Canada’s) size as the fourth largest market in MLB after NY, LA and Chicago, which all support two teams.