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Some unsolicited thoughts for Mark Shapiro

Why aren’t you taking advantage of an opportunity to showcase the future?

Milwaukee Brewers v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Dear Mark:

You’ve had quite the busy couple of weeks making the rounds through the media, presumably in response the anger from the fanbase that really bubbled over in wake of the moves at the trade deadline (it’s pretty damning when you’re taking heavy incoming fire on the airwaves of your corporate cousins).

I sympathize that you’re in a bit of a tough spot, at the nadir (hopefully anyway) of a teardown and rebuild with little recourse but to ask for patience until there are hard results that will speak for themselves one way or the other. That being the case, and given tenuous credibility the front office you lead currently has, it is imperative to “control the controllables” to take advantage of opportunities and avoid own-goals.

That is, things like sitting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on Victoria Day, with one your bigger crowds of the year and likely TV audiences as well. But you’ve already been deservedly raked over the coals for that, and this isn’t about piling on. Instead, my grievance in this department is something a little more obscure, but similarly a botched opportunity to promote the future of the Blue Jays.

Last October it was announced that six Vancouver Canadians games were going to be broadcast on Sportsnet Pacific, which despite the name is distributed nationally. The dates were officially released in early May, though were tentatively established even earlier having made it into the public domain beforehand. In any event, with the short season only starting in mid-June, plenty of time to take them into consideration.

By this I mean, to take advantage of these broadcasts to showcase the future that the front office is touting and hyping and asking the fanbase to believe in and patiently wait for. In particular, one Adam Kloffenstein to whom you gave a $2.45-million signing bonus last June as a cornerstone of the 2018 draft class.

The first televised broadcast was the second game of the season on June 15th, so it was a little disappointing as a non-Vancouverite when Kloffenstein was given the opening day assignment rather than being showcased a day later. But opening day is a pretty big deal, and it allowed him a second start on the last game of that homestand in front of home fans at Nat Bailey, so that’s defensible. Not optimal for me, but understandable.

Especially since with Kloffenstein pitching every sixth day/game, that meant after pitching June 14th, he pitched June 20th and 26th, then July 2nd and 8th, lining him up to pitch July 14th and then 20th...the third televised game! With a six-man rotation/six-day cycle and 35 days in between those two broadcasts, logically they’re mutually exclusive and it’s one or the other anyway. And as long as you get him for one of them, all is well.

Except the first off-day of the season came on July 10th, and everyone was just bumped everyone back a day so Kloffenstein instead pitched the 15th and 21st, missing the televised broadcast. And this is where I lay fault. Certainly, development is paramount and to be prioritized over marketing. But it would have been pretty simple to keep him on the six-day schedule with minor shuffling, and then showcase him to a national audience. It really should have been a no-brainer.

But that’s not even the worst of it. 2019 first rounder Alek Manoah — your $4.5 million investment — was assigned to Vancouver in late July, giving them two premium pitching prospects. The fourth televised game was this past Saturday, the last game of a three-game homestand coming out of the three-day All-Star break. Surely they could ensure one of them was pitching that game?

Nope. Manoah pitched August 8th, keeping his every sixth day schedule. Kloffenstein pitched the next day on the 9th, staying every 6th day through these off-days—despite throwing an inning in the All-Star game in between. He couldn’t have been bumped back a day instead? He’s twice gone on a seventh day, clearly it’s not that big a problem?

So to summarize — four national broadcasts, and with due respect to those who did pitch, they’ve showcased a 2018 34th rounder (twice), a non-drafted free agent (twice including a long relief outing) and a 2019 28th rounder (with another five innings in one of them coming from a soft-tossing effective org guy). When at least two of those could easily have been some of the most promising arms in the organization.

The next televised game is this coming Saturday, and neither will pitch in that one having gone yesterday and today respectively, though it appears Kloffenstein lines up for the final one on August 28th at least. Had they really bent over to line thing up. With a couple of extra days of rest coming out of the break, it would have theoretically been possible to have Manoah on the 10th and Kloffenstein on the 17th (and then Manoah could line up for the 28th too). That’s perhaps a bridge too far, maybe that would have too disruptive to routines.

Thus far, Manoah and Kloffenstein have started 14 of Vancouver’s 58 games, almost 25%. Eugene and Hillsboro teams have broadcasts at home, including those seven games that’s 11 games that one could watch. They’ve started none of them. It’s almost enough to make wonder if the the Jays are trying to hide their top arms.

At the end of the day, this is all (very) small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. It’s not going to affect whether the Blue Jays return to contention soon or more broadly whether the front office is plotting a strong course. But conversely, these little opportunities should be the slam dunk conversions. And dammit, if you can’t get the small things right, why should we trust you to get the big things right?