From Shaman’s Rock
By Jim Poling Sr.
Baseball broadcaster Buck Martinez said the Toronto Blue Jays’ 2023 season would be a disaster if they could not advance past the first wild-card playoff round.
They didn’t. Their season ended. And yes, it was a disaster.
The Jays, a World Series prospect at the season’s start, were swept by the Minnesota Twins in the first playoff round. They scored only one run in two critical playoff games.
It’s the third time in four years the Jays made it to post regular season play. In those three playoff years they did not win one game.
The season ended much the way it had progressed: consistently inconsistent.
There is plenty to blame for the Jay’s disastrous season. Most of it rests with the club management, which needs a complete shakeup.
Despite denials, the club’s front office was behind the Game Two decision to pull pitcher Jose Berrios after a leadoff walk in the fourth inning. Berrios had thrown only 47 pitches and had struck out five batters in three innings. He was definitely on his game.
Things went downhill from there.
General Manager Ross Atkins says the decision to pull Berrios was manager John Schneider’s and not influenced by the front office. I don’t believe that for a minute. The Jays’ front office has been too involved in on-field play and must accept much of the blame for a disastrous season.
Atkins and others in upper management are not baseball people. They are moneyballers who stare into their laptops and make decisions based on statistics and math.
Their laptops told them the team needed more defence so they traded away dynamic hitters Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel, plus outstanding young catcher Gabriel Moreno, who had a 285 batting average and 50 runs batted in this season.
They needed that extra offence, plus they needed a manager who could inspire young hitters like Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero. Neither πlayer provided much in the abbreviated playoffs, except a couple of errors.
The redo of the Rogers Centre, the Jay’s home stadium, provides more insight into a fairly good ball team misdirected by a moneyball management. The renovations turned the place into a Party Palace focussed on gulping beer and chewing pizza, taking eyes off the real entertainment, which is supposed to be the game.
The Jays biggest problem on the field was their inability to move runners in scoring position (RISP). They ranked 24th in moving RISPs.
They ranked 16th in runs scored per game, a miserable drop from fourth in 2022 and third in 2021.
“We didn’t score runs,” Bichette said following the beating by Minnesota. “Can’t win without scoring runs.”
The Jays had an okay 2023 pitching staff, although not as good as the broadcasters and other homer commentators would have you believe. Some of the opposition pitchers they faced in late season were just as good, if not much better.
When they did get good pitching the Jays hitters simply did not provide the scoring support.
Bichette provided the only honest appraisal of what the club needs before next season. Much more honest than the public relations fog provided by management.
“So, I think there’s a lot of reflection needed, from players but from the organization from top to down,” Bichette was quoted by Sportsnet last week.
From top down is the key phrase here.
The reflection needs to result in a cleaning out of management, including on-field manager Schneider, who follows front office orders instead of playing his own game.
The Jays have some really good individual players but the moneyball management restricted them from playing together as a top-flight team. You could see the problem on the grim faces of frustrated players in many games throughout the season
Baseball is a game played by people, not computer algorithms. It is an art in which every move by any player has can have many outcomes.
If you want computer baseball, then replace the umpires with laptops that call balls, strikes and base running outs. Fans then don’t have to watch the game so closely, and can spend more time and money in the beer and pizza lounges.