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Over The Hate
By: Michael Chirico Posted in: Baseball on September 6, 2018
The Critiquing of This Front Office is Getting Old
I’m going to take a lot of heat for this article from a lot of die hard fans. But at this point in time, I have stopped caring. It’s starting to get to me in a bad way; as it is to some of the strongest supporters of this organization. Let me put this out there. Stop complaining about Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins immediately. You’re directing your anger at the wrong people and for the wrong reasons.
It’s not much of a stretch that these two guys came into control of this franchise at both the best possible time and the worst possible time. They were taking over a team that had just made the playoffs and looking as though they had a chance to make the playoffs again the following year; which they did. That’s the good part. The bad part was that Atkins was replacing the much-loved Alex Anthopolous who also happened to be Canadian. That’s tough. It’s hard to go into any job when the previous person was considered the greatest to ever do the job. I wouldn’t want to be in Atkins’ shoes but that’s why he gets paid the big bucks. To take the heat and make the tough decisions. The same reasons go for Shapiro but he gets even more cash; so, he’s got that going for him.
It’s hard to imagine that this team went 22 years between playoff appearances. We know the story by now. 2015 with this team was incredible. So many memorable moments from big trades to long winning streaks to the bat flip. I can go in depth into that season but I won’t. I want to look what transpired in the front office. Mark Shapiro was hired to take over from Paul Beeston. Both men were extremely well respected but Shapiro made waves when it was learned that he got into it with AA for making all of those trades that landed the high-priced talent that would eventually come to hurt the team a couple of years down the line. This wasn’t the best way to get off to a good start with the current GM and most people figured that at the end of the season AA would be let go. It turned out the Jays did offer him a 5-year contract but AA declined and it is presumed that it took some power away from him and wasn’t at the annual salary that he wanted. That brought in Atkins as a replacement and that went over just about as well as one could imagine. Here was a guy coming over from Cleveland to work for a guy that had just ripped the former GM for trading away too many assets even though it got them to the playoffs. I don’t blame Shapiro for bringing in Atkins. If you’re changing jobs and given control of who is hired and there is a person you trust completely and want to work with on a day to day basis; why wouldn’t you bring them on board? That only makes sense.
My biggest issue with the Shapiro/Atkins haters is that they only seem to remember the good times with AA. They don’t remember the 4th place finishes or the bad trades that were made. It’s like he only worked for the Jays from 2014-2015. From 2010-2012 the team finished 4th place in the division for three straight years. 2013 brought the massive trades for RA Dickey, Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson while shuttling out some of the most prized prospects this team had seen in a while. The team played to a 74-88 record; which was good for dead last in the division. What I hear from the AA supporters is “Well at least he had the guts to go for it!” and “Seriously; that team was better than their record.” No…no they weren’t. That’s why they finished so poorly. Had the new guys traded away the entire farm system and finished that poorly everyone would be calling for their heads. Come to think of it as I scroll through twitter; people are calling for their heads even though they’ve actually built up the farm system.
Give Them a Chance:
2018 is the year where the Toronto Blue Jays franchise had to pay the price for the success of 2015 and 2016. The aging players started to fall apart and hurt this team more than they helped them. Just take a look: Estrada, Donaldson, Tulo, Martin. All of them got very old, very quickly. Every one of those guys were originally signed by Atkins’ predecessor Anthopolous. I’ve seen a lot of people, including media members that I respect blaming the Jays front office for not trading Donaldson in the offseason. My only question is why would they? They were returning one of the better pitching staffs in all of baseball, they added a ton of depth throughout the major league roster and in the minors and there was no reason to think that Donaldson wouldn’t be close to his form in the second half of 2017. If that happened; this team would easily contend for a wild card spot. If you start the rebuild in December of last year; you definitely drive away all the fans.
Hindsight is 20/20 and having a chance to say “This would have worked out much better if we did this and this and this…” is very easy. Imagine if the Jays never traded Michael Young for Estaban Loazia or Roy Halladay for what amounted to be a bucket of baseballs? The team didn’t. They played the percentages; which is exactly why they traded JD when they did. Holding on to him until the offseason and offering him a qualifying offer would have managed to get them a compensatory pick at around the 80th pick if he declined it. There was always the chance that he’d sign the contract putting the Jays on the hook for a cool $18 million. The front office decided they didn’t want to go down that road again next year and felt that it wasn’t worth the risk and that a trade for any player at this point would be worth more than the 80th pick. You can be upset that they traded one of the all-time great Jays but he hasn’t been in that form for a full season in 2 years now. The JD whom we grew to love and expect MVP type things from really hasn’t been around since 2015 and there’s more chance that he could falter even more in the coming years.
This is my other issue with fans: they’ve gotten upset that Atkins seems to be very political in his answers and not give any info away. Of course he is, that’s how he’s supposed to answer. This is how you maximize your assets. He can’t come out and say “Roberto Osuna will never pitch in this organization again because of his pending legal case and current suspension.” The moment he does that he torpedoes any bargaining power he has and has to get even less of a return. Same goes for Josh Donaldson. In his latest interviews with both Arash Madani and Buck and Pat in the both during the games was exactly what one would expect. He believes the team will be better. Not this year, not next year but hopefully for the 2020 season and beyond. I’m not saying that it’s fun to hear this from the guy running our franchise but it’s an honest opinion and it lines up with when all the prospects who have had success this year at the lower levels should be arriving in the majors. Honesty should be valued a lot more these days when the team is struggling. This management team to me at least has been honest throughout the whole process.
I’m not saying they haven’t got things wrong; because they have. However, they have done a lot of good things that get overlooked when you compare them to their predecessors at the same point in their tenure.
So, I will leave you all with this: