Scott Stinson: Toronto Blue Jays' bosses promise better times ahead. Just don't ask when
TORONTO • The end of Year Four of the Ross Atkins-Mark Shapiro era would have been an odd time for the leaders of the Toronto Blue Jays to start giving straight answers. Instead, as the general manager and team president each met the media on Tuesday for a year-end session, they talked about the future of the franchise in much the same way that they have done since their arrival in town: vague expectations of good things to come, abundant hedging when asked for specific commitments, and promises that the Blue Jays will definitely look to spend significant money at some uncertain point in the future. By now, it would have been a shock if they had said anything else.
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Mark Shapiro, the president and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays, covered a variety of topics while speaking with Arden Zwelling and Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (audio link). Shapiro provides insight into the evolution within the game, the process of identifying talent and the breakdown of responsibility in front offices.
He also speaks in-depth about the process of player development as the best opportunity for gaining a competitive advantage.
He uses the Washington Nationals and their recent NL pennant to examine some of these team-building strategies in context. Shapiro starts by citing the all-important playoff axiom: “Just get in.” It’s interesting that Shapiro says this has been a point of contention for him throughout his career. Common baseball discourse stalls on this idea every trading season in divvying up baseball’s 30 organizations into buy/sell/hold buckets.
Former Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons wants new manager job
Former Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons is throwing his hat in the ring for the many managerial openings across Major League Baseball.Gibbons last managed a major league team in 2018 when he led the Toronto Blue Jays to a record of 73-89. It was the final season of a six-year stint in Toronto during which the Blue Jays went 488-484, winning the AL East with a 93-win season in 2015. Toronto came within two wins of reaching the World Series, falling in six games to the eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals in the ALCS.
Those in the “anything can happen once you’re in” camp haven taken a hit as recent postseasons have gone chalk. The last three World Series champions were hardly long shots: 103-win Cubs, 101-win Astros and 108-win Red Sox. The Nats, in fact, are the first wild-card team to make the World Series since the 2014 wild-card showdown that featured two second-place clubs playing on the game’s biggest stage. That season, the 88-win San Francisco Giants defeated the 89-win Kansas City Royals in seven games.
The “imperfect” Nationals check a couple of boxes on Shapiro’s postseason team wish list: Frontline starting pitching and players in a variety of career stages. Shapiro has “always been a big believer in looking at the different segments of the player population and feeling like when you’re ready to win you need representation from all three.” Young cores rising through farm systems together have been the en vogue team-building philosophy after the success of Chicago, Houston, and Boston, but to Shapiro’s point, the Nationals are succeeding with a mix of young, mid-prime and veteran players.
Gregor Chisholm: How the MLB free-agent market might appeal to Blue Jays this off-season
The Blue Jays missed the post-season for the third time in as many years but some of their former players have been taking centre stage this month. Daniel Hudson is closing games in Washington. Josh Donaldson has taken on a star role for Atlanta while J.A. Happ and Edwin Encarnacion have advanced to the American League Championship Series with the Yankees. Even Russell Martin got in on the action this week with a key home run and double for the Dodgers in what might become his farewell season.Some familiar names are competing for baseball’s biggest prize but in Toronto the focus has shifted to 2020 and beyond.
© Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
The Nats field not only the oldest player in baseball — reliever Fernando Rodney IS 42 — but the oldest roster in baseball with an average age of 31.1. Veterans like Max Scherzer, Howie Kendrick and Ryan Zimmerman have keyed the Nats' postseason success. True to Shapiro’s “need to have a balance,” however, the engine of this Nats roster is their young superstar duo of Juan Soto, 20, and Victor Robles, 22.
The steadiest production will usually come from those players in their prime — Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner and Stephen Strasburg are some of the players that qualify in this category. Shapiro sees all three brackets as vital to team success: Energy from the youth, reliability from those in their prime, and the strongest desire to win coming from those veteran players.
The full podcast is worth a listen as Shapiro speaks directly to rumors about different job opportunities. Notably, he listens to all inquiries, but has not been interviewing for outside opportunities. Given his comments here and before, Shapiro continues to be a good candidate for an extension this winter.
Gregor Chisholm: The Blue Jays are on the powerhouse Astros’ flight path — to a point
The blueprint for a successful rebuild can be found in Houston, where the Astros have gone from a perennial bottom feeder to a potential dynasty within a matter of several years. Houston went through a lot of pain before becoming a team that advanced to the American League Championship Series in three consecutive seasons. The organization tore apart its foundation and started over with a renewed emphasis on drafting, signing international players and hitting the open market when the time was right.The result has been three consecutive seasons of 100-plus wins and three division crowns.
Related slideshow: Great MLB players who struggled in the postseason (Provided by Yardbarker)
Bagwell stands as one of the most decorated Astros of all time, winner of 1991 NL Rookie of the Year and 1994 NL MVP honors. He helped the Astros to the postseason six different times; however he often left his best performances behind by October. Bagwell hit .226 with a .685 OPS over 33 postseason games. In his lone World Series appearance, he went 1-for-8 over 10 plate appearances, only able to DH due to an elbow injury. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
Biggio spent his entire 20-year career with the Astros, becoming the club’s career leader in seven different categories, including hits, runs scored and games played. Alongside Jeff Bagwell as one of the famed “Killer B’s” of Houston, he played in nine postseason series in his career. But like his Hall of Fame teammate, Biggio struggled in October, hitting only .234 overall for his career and failing to drive in a run or steal a base over his first 14 postseason games. Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
The most decorated player to never capture a championship in his career, Bonds lived on the brink of postseason greatness throughout his career. He reached the National League Championship Series on four different occasions but hit only .203 (16-for-79) once there. He did thrive once finally breaking through to the World Series, hitting .471 with four home runs in 2002, but subpar overall play caused his teams to come up short too many times. JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images
Campy was a three-time MVP and helped the Brooklyn Dodgers reach the World Series five times between 1949 and 1956. But after owning a career split of .276/.360/.500 in regular-season play, the Dodger catcher’s performance tailed off in the Fall Classic. Campanella hit .237 with four home runs in 32 World Series games. However, two of those homers came in the 1955 Series, which the Dodgers won. Photo by The Stanley Weston Archive/Getty Images
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Cano reached the postseason in seven of his nine seasons with the Yankees and even assisted on the final out of the 2009 World Series. Otherwise, his postseason career has featured some craterous performances, including a .133 mark in 2006 and .136 in the 2009 Series. In his most recent postseason appearances to date, Cano hit a combined .075 (3-for-40) over two rounds in 2012 playoff action. Photo by Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images
Fielder was one of the premier sluggers of his era, averaging 35 homers a season between 2006 and 2015. Yet during that same time span, he suffered some significant power outages by the fall. Fielder hit just five homers over 185 postseason at-bats while hitting just .189. This was lowlighted by three series of averages of .150 or worst. Photo by Brad Mangin/MLB via Getty Images
At his best, Glavine produced one of the dominant postseason performances of all time, allowing one hit over eight shutout innings to close out the 1995 World Series. His excellent World Series career — a 2.16 ERA, 4-3 record over eight starts — masks some significant struggles in others. In 1992, he allowed 13 hits and 10 runs over seven innings in two NLCS starts. In four other series, Glavine had an ERA of over 5.00. Overall, his 87 career walks are the most in postseason history. Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images
The "Doctor" was out by the time October rolled around. Over 12 appearances and 59 innings, Gooden went winless in his postseason career, going 0-4. He posted an 8.22 ERA over three ALDS appearances, which came later in his bumpy career, but he didn’t fare much better before his problems with substance abuse derailed his career. At his peak form in 1986, Gooden went 0-2 with a 8.00 ERA against the Red Sox in World Series play, allowing 17 hits and walking four. Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images
Kershaw has played an irreplaceable role in the Dodgers’ run of success over the decade but has often been at the center of their postseason letdowns as well. He owns a sub-.500 (9-10) postseason record despite owning the third-best winning percentage in regular-season history. He has allowed five or more runs eight times in his playoff career, the most in history, and is also one of two players ever to allow seven runs in consecutive postseason starts (2013-2014). Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
Mays made five trips to the postseason during his dazzling career and left without a memorable moment to his credit. He hit just one home run during 99 plate appearances and contributed just six extra-base hits. In 1951, he hit into a record three double plays in Game 4 of the World Series while hitting just .182 in a losing effort against the Yankees. Bettmann / Contributor
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McGwire staked his reputation by hitting tape measure homers for the A’s and Cardinals. However, he didn’t test the dimensions of many ballparks in October, hitting just five postseason homers in 42 games. After hitting .389 in the 1989 ALCS, McGwire hit just .189 over his next seven playoff series (79 at-bats). Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images
Morgan was a central part of Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” of the 1970s, helping the club to consecutive World Series wins in 1975 and ’76. However, he was often missing in action by the time the playoffs had come around. The two-time MVP hit just .182 over 50 postseason games. In the Cincinnati’s World Series loss in 1972, Morgan hit .125 (3-for-24) and hit underneath .200 in six of his 11 career playoff series. Photo by MLB via Getty Images
The 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner stands as one of the most horrid postseason hurlers of all time. Over nine playoff starts, Peavy was owned to the tone of a 7.98 ERA and 1-5 record. He worked to a 1.82 WHIP, letting up 53 hits over 38 innings and walking 17 in the process. Over three World Series starts, Peavy had a 9.58 ERA, including a 12.79 showing amid two losses in the 2014 Series with the Giants. Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images
One of the most feared run producers in history, Perez surprisingly contributed little to the scoreboard in postseason play. Over 47 career playoff games, he drove in 25 runs, most of which came during a three home run, seven RBI effort during 1975 series (in which he still hit just .179). Take away that ’75 showing, and Perez never homered in 26 other World Series games and hit underneath .100 in two separate NLCS appearances. Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images
Baseball’s first $30 million per year pitcher, Price has performed well south of that in postseason value. Although he won a pair of games in relief, it took Price 10 years to win his first postseason start, which came in the 2018 ALCS. Up to that point, Price had routinely been shellacked in October, owning a 5.44 ERA between 2010 and 2017, offset by a 1-8 record and 11 home runs over 12 games. Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty Images
Posada played in a whopping 125 postseason games in his career, the second most in history. While he played in six World Series and won five, Posada’s playoff performances weren’t particularly memorable on an individual level. Over 492 trips to the plate, he hit just .248 and contributed a -2.33 win probability added. Posada’s average in ALCS play sat at .224 before lowering to .219 lifetime in the World Series. Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images
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The Dodgers reached the World Series in six of Robinson’s 10 years with the club, an outcome that was far from happenstance. But while Jackie’s dynamic play regularly launched Brooklyn to the top of the National League, his playoff struggles often were an Achilles' heel between more titles coming to Ebbets Field. Robinson hit under .200 in three of his six Series appearances and managed just six stolen bases in the process. Bettmann / Contributor
Carrying all of the substantial expectations that come with being $250 million superstar with the New York Yankees, the spotlight was especially bright on A-Rod by October. However more often than not, it was for the wrong reasons. Rodriguez hit under .200 in eight separate Series with the Yankees, tallying 33 strikeouts against just five RBI in those series. Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
The eight-time NL home run champ and two-time MVP was the hammer behind a pair of World Series teams for the Phillies. In 1980, he hit .381 and won World Series MVP honors. But besides that effort, Schmidt’s postseason resume is largely lackluster, lowlighted by a 1-for-20 showing in the 1983 World Series. Schmidt opened the series 0-for-13 before singling in the fourth inning of Game 4. Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images
Soriano did a lot of things well on the diamond, including a 40 homer/40 steal season, 412 career homers and over 2,000 hits. But the praise comes to a screeching halt for Soriano when it comes to his postseason body of work, which is an uninspiring lot. For his career he hit .213 with 53 strikeouts of 44 games. This includes going 11-for-47 (.234) over two World Series trips with the Yankees and posting three hits over 28 at-bats (.107) over consecutive NLDS with the Cubs. Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Teixeira was brought to New York as a part of the club’s successful spending spree ahead of its 2009 World Series win. Teixeira was MIA during that October run, hitting just .180 with two home runs over three rounds of postseason play. As a whole Tex struggled with stunning regularity in October, including going 0-for-17 in the 2010 ALCS and hitting .167 during an ALDS exit in 2011. Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images
Thome reached the postseason with five different clubs in his 22-year career, playing in 17 postseason series. For his postseason career of 71 games and 267 at-bats, Thome managed to hit 17 home runs but offset it with a dismal .211 average and 73 strikeouts. Between 2000 and 2012, he never managed more than three hits in a single series. Photo by John Williamson/MLB via Getty Images
Wagner worked only 11 postseason innings in his career, but as one of the premier closers in history (422 saves), his appearances came when the stakes were highest. More often than not, things went from bad to worse with Wagner on the mound. Wagner owns a hefty 10.03 career postseason ERA, including allowing 21 hits, 13 earned runs and a blown save while allowing runners to score in all but four of his 14 career appearances. Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The winningest pitcher in Red Sox history had a different type of luck with his signature knuckleball in October. Over 18 postseason appearances, Wakefield was hit hard to the tune of 54 earned runs over 72 innings (a 6.75 ERA). This included allowing 13 home runs and owning series ERAs of 11.81, 33.75, 13.50, 12.27 and 16.88. Of course in one of his better postseason showings in 2003, he let up the infamous Aaron Boone walk-off to end the ALCS. Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Winfield’s postseason struggles were well-chronicled, as his own team’s owner, the notoriously cantankerous George Steinbrenner, tagged him as “Mr. May” for his late-season shortcomings. Winfield hit just .208 over 116 plate appearances, including a 1-for-22 World Series in 1981. This followed an equally disastrous ALCS the same year, when he hit .154 over three games. His crowning postseason moment served as a bit of redemption, as he connected for a Series-clinching double in the 11th inning of the 1992 World Series for the Toronto Blue Jays. Bettmann / Contributor
Head trainer Nikki Huffman leaving Blue Jays, opening up key medical role .
Head athletic trainer Nikki Huffman is leaving the Toronto Blue Jays to start her own business, the most significant of several changes made to the club’s high-performance department since the season’s end, according to multiple industry sources. The post Danielle Kang takes one-stroke lead into third round in Busan appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.Huffman, the second woman to ever serve as head athletic trainer by a team in one of North America’s four major sports leagues, spent two seasons in the role after joining the club in December 2015 as its first ever physical therapist and rehab co-ordinator.