Over at Sportsnet Shi Davidi has a post up about the "lack of trust' that 'impacted" the Blue Jays season.
For the most part it is a look at chemistry issues in the Jays clubhouse. Not my favorite subject A team wins, we get told it is because they had great chemistry. A team loses, it's because of a lack of chemistry. The Jays didn't lose because they had no major league second baseman, Colby Rasmus forgot how to play baseball, the bullpen sucked, they made some lousy roster decisions and they had some key injuries. Nope, it was clubhouse troubles. It doesn't make sense to me.
But Shi makes some good points, lets talk about a few of them.
Whether it was the salary-deferral scheme to try and sign Ervin Santana in spring training, a clubhouse described by some as dysfunctional, or the lack of moves made prior to the trade deadline, one thing certain about the 2014 Blue Jays is that there was a lack of trust all around.
I think it is pretty fair to say that none of us trust the things the front office says. Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos continuously tell us if they ask for money Rogers always says yes (or some variation on that theme). I don't know anyone that believes that. I'm sure the players don't either.
Not that I think it is a terrible thing that Rogers expects the front office to work inside a budget. That's part of any business. The Jays were something like 7th in the league in payroll, that's not bad. I think it is fair to criticize how they have used that budget, but I don't think it is wrong that Rogers set a budget and expect the team to work within it. But that doesn't take away from the fact that Alex and Beeston are lying to us when they say Rogers will always give them more money if they ask.
Shi goes on to talk about Alex trying to borrow from the players to sign Ervin Santana. This clearly shows that Rogers hasn't always given Alex the money he's asked for and, as he notes, if Alex didn't have to take the time to go to the players to ask for a loan (and getting approval from the players' union to do so), Santana would have been signed before the Braves had a couple of injuries in their rotation and suddenly had a need for Santana.
That Anthopoulos was forced to borrow against future payrolls to try and sign Santana eroded some of the faith players had in the team's commitment to winning. It also left the Blue Jays scrambling to fill out their rotation at spring's end, with Dustin McGowan turned to in desperation as J.A. Happ opened the year on the disabled list, weakening a bullpen that would also begin the season minus Casey Janssen.
I can understand why it would cause the players to question the "team commitment to winning". It certainly made me question the team. What a horrible idea that was. Asking the players to bankroll the team is just a stupid idea and one that I'm sure Alex wouldn't have considered, unless he was really desperate.
He was right to be desperate. The team badly needed another starting pitcher. The only thing is, in my mind he should have been able to go to Rogers and say "we really need this" instead of begging money from the players.
Next:Soon after the Santana debacle, the Blue Jays gathered for their annual spring training dinner hosted by Beeston, and during the event the players received what they interpreted as a promise of money for a contender at the deadline if needed.
"Get to June in the hunt and the money will be there is how I took it," said one person in attendance.
Whether the money was there or not, no major trade happened.
Now, it's as likely as not that there wasn't a trade that Alex was willing to do. Shi brings up Martin Prado and how cheaply the Diamondback gave him away, but maybe there wasn't the same deal open to the Jays. Or maybe the Jays decided the Prado wasn't someone they really wanted.
But this does bug me: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 Aug. 5, 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."
Alex had to know that the players would be upset that there wasn't a deal done. Why didn't he talk to the players about it.
GMs and managers, when they are hired, always talk about how they will have an open door. The players can come to them at anytime. And then, later, we find out that they didn't have an open door at all.
In this case, Alex should have been there, should have talked to the players. He should have been proactive. He isn't a fool, he had to know that, at least, some of the players would have been pissed that nothing was done. He should have been there to explain the reasoning to the players. Alex talks about communication a bunch, this was the moment that communication was needed and he wasn't there.
If you wanted to make a case that Alex should be fired, that's where I'd start. Communication is so important. Treat the players like they are grownups. Deal with them honestly. If there is an issue talk. Explain your thinking to them. Make them feel like they are part of things. It can't hurt.
Shi also talked about the revolving door at the bottom of the lineup:
Complicating things was the revolving door on the fringes of the roster. Anthopoulos was understandably grinding to find every incremental gain he could, but by so frequently shuffling out player A for player B - like going from Kevin Pillar to Brad Glenn to Cole Gillespie to Nolan Reimold only to eventually end up back at Pillar; or bringing in Brad Mills to get pounded - all he did was leave guys looking over their shoulders, unsure of their status. True, they were being given opportunities, but they were often of the swim-or-sink variety.
For me. a lot of that stuff showed a management group that couldn't make and stick to a decision if their life depended on it. "We need a long man, it's Esmil Rogers, no it's Rob Rasmussen, no Brad Mills, nope it is Sean Nolin". The fourth outfielder spot changed like the weather. You can't convince me that we wouldn't have been better off to say 'Kevin Pillar is our fourth outfielder', and stick with him, than to run Moises Sierra, Nolan Reimold, Darin Mastroianni, Brad Glenn, Cole Gillespie and 20 other guys through the spot.
I was always a fan of Earl Weaver and one of the things he would do was pick his 25 guys in spring training (more likely before spring training) and then run with them, not allowing small sample size issues to cloud his judgement. He trusted his ability to pick the right guys and wouldn't let a bad game or 3 convince him that he was wrong. I guess you could say he was stubborn, but his players knew that if they had a bad game they wouldn't suddenly be out of a job.
Act like you know what you are doing and people will start to believe you know what you are doing. Change your mind every 5 minutes and no one will trust that you know what you are doing. Jeremy Jeffress is a good example. I was surprised when he made the team, at the start of the season, but Alex didn't even have the strength of conviction to let him stay on the roster for 10 days. 3 poor outings, he's gone. We wanted him gone so bad that we can't wait long enough to have replace him with someone that's already on the 40-man roster, since none of them had the 10 days since they were sent to the minors.
Or Esmil Rogers, called up for one game and then put on waivers, to be picked up by our competition. The Yankees, for free, got a serviceable pitcher, because our management has no patience.
Shi sums it up with
Yes, the Blue Jays had some trust issues in 2014, but is that what kept the Blue Jays from the post-season? No, of course not, and hiding behind the empty jingoism of clubhouse chemistry and lack of leadership is weak. But to some degree, the human element matters, and people in all walks of life tend to be more productive in healthier environments when they trust their co-workers and their bosses.
I agree, you want players to do well? You want people to do well? Don't give them excuses. Don't make it so that they can say 'hey management screwed us'. Deal with them honestly. Communicate. Let them know the reasons for what you are doing. Get them to trust that you are trying your damnest to help them succeed. It is a pretty good way of running any business.
Players should play and the front office should manage and all, but it doesn't hurt to get everyone on the same page.
I guess it is easier to build trust if you put together a good roster to start with. The team should have known that Ryan Goins wasn't going to work. Going into the season with him as the second baseman was not the brightest move. They did get some bad luck when his obvious replacement, Maicer Izturis, went down with a season ending injury. But, then we cycled through a case of thousands, looking for a reasonable second baseman instead of making a choice and sticking with it.
I think Alex is a smart enough guy to learn from his mistakes. I hope that when they take a look back at what went wrong, they consider what Shi has said here, and learn from it.