It has been rough lately for the Toronto Blue Jays, whose every move – from the trade of Josh Donaldson to the promotion of their top minor-league prospect – draws criticism.
The heat was enough that Mark Shapiro, the Blue Jays president and chief executive, addressed the issues Friday in an effort to assure everyone that the retractable roof is not about to cave in on the American League club.
Despite a losing 2018 season, and plummeting attendance, Shapiro is confident the Rogers Communications-owned franchise has a solid plan to restore the team.
And despite reports out of New York that Shapiro is being coveted by the New York Mets for their vacant general manager’s position, Shapiro said he is happy where he is.
Shapiro would not address the Mets rumours specifically, but said he is as excited with his current job as when he joined the club.
“Mainly I guess at the very top of the list, the city and the country and what that’s meant to me personally and my family being here,” he said. “It’s been an exceptional place to be.
“And then for the potential of the franchise. If anything, living it for the past 2½ years, I feel even more bullish on what incredible opportunity there is here to build something, over multiple years, that captures an entire nation and achieves levels that we dream about.”
Shapiro disputed an August radio report that he was at odds with some of his bosses at Rogers Communications.
“I don’t know where those reports come from,” Shapiro said. “I’ve received nothing but strong support. I probably have a level of operational day-to-day trust and empowerment that, if not unparalleled, is among the best in major-league baseball.
“So I feel a strong sense of support and alignment with the people I report to.”
Last Friday’s messy divorce from Donaldson, one of the team’s best players, who was traded to the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named later, has also caused consternation among fans.
Shapiro suggested that with the Blue Jays not contending, the trade got blown out of proportion, despite the calibre of Donaldson and what he had meant to the franchise.
“But we’re moving forward and have nothing but respect for Josh,” Shapiro said.
And then there is the club’s handling of Valdimir Guerrero Jr., considered the game’s top prospect, who on Friday was chosen as Baseball America’s minor-league player of the year. The 19-year-old hit .381 in 95 games across four levels of the minors this season.
Many fans were puzzled that the Blue Jays did not promote Guerrero to the majors for the final month of the season, along with a slew of other youngsters, electing instead to send him to the Arizona Fall League.
Shapiro stressed that Guerrero, who will likely be in a Toronto uniform next season, still needs to develop several aspects of his game. The fall league offers him that final opportunity.
“And so we are trying to look at every one of those days [in Arizona] as a pearl and not throw any of those out,” Shapiro said. “We are grasping at every one of those days that we can possibly grasp at.”
After two consecutive playoff runs, the last in 2016 when a new management team led by Shapiro took control, the team has sputtered toward mediocrity in the AL East. Heading into Friday night’s games against the Cleveland Indians, in a season in which the team thought it could contend for the playoffs, the Blue Jays sported a record of 63-75. They have been out of contention for weeks.