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More Trouble in the Blue Jays Clubhouse?

Another day, another report of dissension in the Blue Jays’ clubhouse.

Last week, there were rumblings of R.A. Dickey’s supposed lack of a positive influence in the Blue Jays clubhouse. Now that the dust has settled on the 2014 season, we’re beginning to get a clearer picture of what things might have been like for the guys in the clubhouse.

And it’s not very good.



Mike Wilner spoke with Ben Ennis on Sunday’s edition of Blue Jays This Week, and Wilner gave a pretty blunt answer when asked about what the atmosphere was like around the team this past season.

“It was a terrible clubhouse. There were people around there who said to me that this was the most dysfunctional clubhouse they’ve ever been around in Major League Baseball.”

It’s not known whether Mike’s inside source were players, personnel or front office staff, but I’m inclined to believe it’s players; mostly because of that last very specific parameter, “Major League Baseball”.

Of course, this all falls in line with something else John Gibbons said at season’s end about the Blue Jays perhaps needing to shake things up in terms of personnel.

At the time, Gibbons’ comment was fairly innocuous and made it seem like
the Blue Jays should add “fresh faces” in the way of free agents or
trade acquisitions. But perhaps it was more about getting rid of some of
supposed “bad apples” on the roster.

Namely, Colby Rasmus, Adam Lind and Anthony Gose.

Russell Martin would certainly qualify as one of those fresh faces, but I
don’t think it’s a coincidence all this information is suddenly coming
to light after a number of players have moved on from the Blue Jays
organization.

Now a third piece of evidence in Jeff Blair’s latest, which again points to some dissension between a very specific set of players on the Blue Jays roster.

“Gibbons described his team on occasion this past season as being ‘dead-assed’.

Bringing in somebody like Martin and disposing of Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus and Anthony Gose — in a bizarre set of circumstances, those latter two players somehow glommed together and there were those within the Blue Jays coaching staff who worried that Rasmus was a lousy influence — is seen to be a start.”

At first glance, Colby Rasmus, Anthony Gose and Adam Lind might not seem like the type of guys that have a lot of influence in a clubhouse. Lind carried some clout as a nine year veteran, but could Rasmus and Gose really have had influence on anyone?

My estimation is yes. There were a lot of up-an-coming young players on the roster this year, many of which factor into the future of this team (Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Drew Hutchison, Dalton Pompey, Daniel Norris).



These are young players who might be inclined to gravitate towards teammates with more tenure than them; teammates who were more approachable and perhaps less intimidating than their experienced counterparts.

Lind, Rasmus and Gose may have seemed much more approachable than say Jose Bautista or Jose Reyes, the former of which really didn’t have very many good things to say about the Blue Jays organization this season.

So these guys (and others potentially) might not have been an outright bad influence on the team, but they may have radiated a pessimistic presence behind closed doors; and the front office may have deemed that was enough to send them elsewhere.

A Major League Baseball clubhouse is indeed an unusual environment, but it’s not unlike a regular workplace; negative voices or influences can very easily overshadow a positive one.

In that regard, it’s not all that surprising the Blue Jays attempted to weed out the bad influences this offseason and are hoping to foster a much more positive environment this coming season.

In years past, there has definitely been less of a focus on clubhouse chemistry, but this offseason is notably different. The departure of Rasmus, Lind and Gose, perhaps even Melky Cabrera as well, and bringing in revered leader Russell Martin are key components of this culture shift.

That’s not to say the Blue Jays have now completely rid themselves of any negative presences on the club; there are still plenty of opinionated  players and distinct personalities on the roster; Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes and Brett Lawrie just to name a few.

But if guys like Colby Rasmus, Anthony Gose and Adam Lind were already in the doghouse so to speak, and the Blue Jays were cognizant of improving the clubhouse culture, then those were the players that invariably needed to go.

Of course, it’s very rare in a professional sports environment where every single player gets along. 25 different personalities on a Major League roster are bound to produce some conflicts along the way.

However, in the case of the Toronto Blue Jays, the difference was these issues became evident because the team ultimately didn’t capture a playoff spot, and they essentially broke down in the month of August.

Winning really does cure all, and I don’t doubt that some of the most successful teams in MLB history also had very dysfunctional clubhouses. But you never hear about that, because winning trumps everything.



Image courtesy of Michael Zagaris/Getty Images Sport

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez “mine” incident. He’ll also retell the story of Game 5 of the ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.


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4 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    November 24, 2014 - 5:20 pm

    Should be "may NOT have been a benign presence."

  2. Parker

    November 24, 2014 - 9:08 pm

    I hope the division isn't a "latino clique vs. everyone else" kind of deal, or things are just going to get MORE divided with an actual leader like Martin being brought in.

    I'm having a hard time assigning any credibility to the people who say that Gibbons is a good at managing the clubhouse with reports like this… not to mention the physical altercation with Lilly and the attempted physical altercation with Hillenbrand. I don't know if there's another manager in the last 50 years who got into a fistfight with one player, tried to start one with another, and now presides over a clubhouse with a reputation like this.

    Sorry, I didn't mean to get off on a Gibbons rant here (well, maybe a little.) Fine work as usual, Ian.

    1. Ian Hunter

      November 25, 2014 - 12:08 am

      I imagine that might be part of the divide in the clubhouse – and this isn't the first time there have been reports of it, either. Even during games, the cliques on the team are very evident.

      John Gibbons does have some responsibility here, but I think these guys also need to police themselves as well. Gibbons isn't in the clubhouse all the time (I think his office is actually further down the hall), so he may not be in there that often. Regardless, the moves made this offseason signal a culture change, and I don't expect things to drastically change with Martin, but there has to be a marked improvement.

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