Well, it wouldn’t be an offseason around these parts if there wasn’t some sort of controversy, right? Although their season is long since over, the Toronto Blue Jays are still finding a way to grab the headlines during the postseason.
It all stemmed for an article from earlier this week penned by Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, which is an amalgamation of the series of events which may have led to a breakdown between the Blue Jays front office (namely Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston) and the players.
Shi chronicled the series of unfortunate events which all added up to a very compelling dynamic between the guys on the field and the guys in the front office.
Anthopoulos Fails to Address the Team
To me, the standout quote from the piece came from an anonymous player in regards to the apparent absenteeism of the Blue Jays General Manager:
Compounding matters was that Anthopoulos wasn’t with the team in Houston on deadline day, and didn’t address the non-activity with his players.
When the team returned to Toronto on August 5th, a member of the team approached me, nodded his head in the direction of Anthopoulos and said, “Who’s that?” “You mean the GM?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Haven’t seen him for a while.”
Prior to the trade deadline, Alex Anthopoulos had originally planned to travel to Houston; however, following the July 31st deadline, for whatever reason, he suddenly cancelled his flight to Texas.
In retrospect, the fact that AA cancelled his commitment is quite curious; was he afraid he might potentially be entering a hostile environment with his players, or was there something else happen entirely?
The fact that Anthopoulous addressed the media and yet didn’t explain the team’s inactivity to the players themselves is quite troubling. Although the asking prices may have been astronomical at the trade deadline, at the very least, the players deserved an explanation.
No Go on Prado
Davidi points to a missed deal for Martin Prado which could have been easily executed had the front office been willing to take on the remaining $22 million dollars on Prado’s pre-existing contract.
From an outside’s perspective, it was quite evident the Blue Jays weren’t going to make any significant moves at the trade deadline. Fans were only hopeful the Jays would be in on someone like David Price, Jon Lester, or even Asdrubal Cabrera or Martin Prado.
However, as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays player who was reassured that reinforcements would be brought in if the team were still in the thick of things, one can certainly see why the players would be quite perturbed.
More than anything, I think the players were just looking for a sign from ownership that they were going to honour their part of the deal. After all, the players were reassured that if the team were in contention, the money would become available.
Even if Prado was only a slight upgrade at the time, that move would have been quite symbolic as a sign of faith from the organization. Instead, all they got was Danny Valencia; hardly a “sexy trade” for a team in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Obviously, the best players don’t whine and pout or let a lack of moves by the front office impede their play, but it all comes back to the underlying theme of Davidi’s article; and that’s trust. In the Toronto Blue Jays’ case, it points towards a lack thereof.
Bautista and Janssen Speak Out
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that two of the most tenured players on the team were the ones who were the most vocal about the entire situation.
But these were not simply off-the-cuff remarks; this was a calculated move seemingly on behalf of the entire team to send a message.
Jose Bautista and Casey Janssen wouldn’t have done that had they received at least some form of communication from upper management. The players came out and essentially called out the front office, and Alex Anthopoulos’ subsequent silence was deafening.
Jose Bautista has been with the club since 2008 and he’s essentially been the face of the franchise since 2010. Casey Janssen was drafted in 2004 and developed by the Jays and has spent his entire eight year career in Toronto.
These are two guys who have been through two different team Presidents, two different General Managers, three different managers, and have likely been fed a lot of promises over the years.
I got the sense that Bautista and Janssen were finally fed up with all the inactivity from this team over the years and decided to take matters into their own hands.
Voicing their displeasure publicly may not have been the best strategy, but its apparent Bautista and Janssen spoke out the media because they felt they weren’t being heard by the front office.
To me, all of these signs are indicative of a disconnect or a lack of trust between the front office and the clubhouse. Or at the very least, there was a lack of communication between the two parties following the July 31st trade deadline.
An Apparent Lack of Trust
Even if a shred of this distrust is true, then it really could be detrimental to the team. Things like that don’t exactly foster a great relationship between the front office and the players.
If the players don’t feel like Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston have their backs, what incentive do they have? If the players felt like they were slighted by management by failing to bring in reinforcements (as it was implied), that had to create some resentment.
I mean, with the artificial turf alone, the Blue Jays have enough trouble as is attracting free agents, and if the players give management less than a glowing review, that’s just another reason for a potential free agent to sign somewhere else than Toronto.
A few years ago, the Blue Jays were forced to go into damage control with the fans after the entire John Farrell debacle. And after what transpired this season, the front office will need to do some damage control with their very own players.
And repairing those relationships this offseason may prove to be quite a challenge.
Images courtesy of Zimbio & The Grid TO