Article Written by Adam Corsair (@AdamCorsair)
It only took about 3 days of Spring Training activities for there to be chatter surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays.
And not the good kind, either. It’s a rather familiar narrative that has almost become episodic.
Like last year, Marcus Stroman was recently outspoken with the displeasure he feels towards the front office of his team and some of the decisions that they have made. Specifically, some of this displeasure centered around the status of his contract - or rather, the lack of an extension offered to him by the Jays.
“I want to play here. I’ve been wanting to play here for a long time. I’ve been waiting to sign a long-term deal. I’ve been offered nothing. There’s no one that embodies the city of Toronto more than me. And you’re not going to find guys who want to come in and embody the city of Toronto because it’s just not natural, and I’ve taken a liking to that myself, and that’s been organic and natural, it’s not something I had to do. That’s something I wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to be here.“
Unlike last year, however, the remainder of his outward displeasure was aimed at the front office for not doing enough to acquire more (or better?) pieces for the team to both lead and help them compete in the American League.
"I still think we just need to mix in some pieces, some moves just around the roster to kind of bolster our roster, whether it be in the ‘pen, whether it be another starter, some position players."
"I want to make sure everybody in this organization is doing everything in their power to put the best product out on the field."
Where to start?
I get that Stroman’s outward expressions and his ability to speak his mind are the type of things that a lot of Blue Jays fans find compelling. I understand the value of being able to verbally express yourself, as Stroman does. I understand that what makes him such an attractive player that some fans gravitate towards is his desire and will to win, his hard work, and his perseverance. Honestly, these are good character traits to have and I admire his drive to be successful and to win. These types of attributes are exactly what you want an athlete on your team to possess because it can be contagious and benefit the rest of the team.
But when it comes to the aforementioned verbal expressions, sometimes saying less is saying more. For me, there ought to be some sort of balance between being expressive and burying the organization that you play for to the media.
Call me crazy.
If there’s anything that Stroman should have learned from last year when he publicly called out the brass of the Blue Jays’ organization, it’s that certain laundry shouldn’t be publicly aired.
After losing his arbitration hearing with the Jays around this time last year, Stroman wasn’t shy about how he felt about the result of the process and some of the things the Jays used as evidence to support their case.
Now look - I am fully on board with the notion that any athlete should make as much money as he or she possibly can in their respective contracts. That’s not an exaggeration, either. The hard work, dedication, and countless hours of perfecting one’s craft is something that I highly admire and think, as a result, athletes should be rewarded. If a person spends the vast majority of their life perfecting his or her craft - no matter what it is - he or she should be compensated appropriately. Thus, I don’t fault Stroman for thinking he deserved more money at the time (and even now). He should have felt like he deserved more and he definitely should have fought for his case (as he did).
However, once the process ended and the dust settled, in no way was it appropriate for him to publicly call out the organization for making their case against the figure he thought he deserved. That is, after all, part of the process and the overall point of a hearing. This is not to be confused with me suggesting that Stroman shouldn’t have vocalized his displeasure - that’s his prerogative. I just don’t think it was appropriate for him to do it on such a public platform. If he was going to do it, he should have done so in private to the organization.
It wasn’t the first time Stroman took pop-shots at the organization, either. Recall when the Jays non-tendered Ryan Goins in December of 2017. Stroman went to Twitter to vocalize his displeasure that he wasn’t informed of the decision by the team in a more personal way, and instead found out on the social media platform.
The reason I bring up old news is not to twist the knife, but to simply point out a pattern of behavior. Like last year, there are certain things that I don’t think Stroman should be saying publicly and/or to the media regarding how the front office ought to do their respective jobs. Nothing good can come from it.
"I want to make sure everybody in this organization is doing everything in their power to put the best product out on the field." More from Stroman, and industry source refuting his mulity-year claim: https://t.co/5ldvFpNzKt #BlueJays https://t.co/2YjIocFimV— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) February 17, 2019
Neither Atkins and Shapiro have any obligation to run the Jays in a way that suits Marcus Stroman’s vision, exclusively. Marcus Stroman does write either of their paychecks and they do not have to answer to him regarding how they are performing in their jobs. I get that fans of the Blue Jays are frustrated with the lack of free agent signings that would really push them into contention. Instead, we are presumably set for another disappointing and lackluster season of baseball while the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox continue to excel around us. I get it. But every team at some point has down/rebuilding seasons. It’s the cycle of things. Unfortunately, we are in the midst of such a season.
I get that this frustration among fans is exacerbated due to the large amount of revenue Rogers - as an entity - generates. This isn’t unfamiliar to us as fans of the Jays. The presumption is that the team could afford better players and the team could mirror the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees if they just bought top-tier players to push them towards contention on a more consistent basis if Rogers wanted. However, this is sort of an antiquated argument that has become tired. I get the frustration, I do, but this isn’t anything new. As Stroman said when he lost his arbitration case - it “is what it is.”
But I digress…
Marcus Stroman on lack of FA signings: "I think its pretty sad that the game is losing the ability to put these veteran presences in the clubhouse. I don't think people understand how valuable those guys in the game are."— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) February 17, 2019
I’m not suggesting that what Stroman said about the lack of veteran leadership doesn’t hold any validity. I’m sure the presence of veterans players to sort of balance out the amount of inexperience the team currently has would be beneficial. It’s not what he is saying that’s the issue. The issue is the setting in which he is saying it.
I have absolutely no issue with Stroman questioning the decisions that the front office has made for this season to them and behind closed doors. I do have an issue with Stroman calling them out through the media. That type of behavior is simply unacceptable and shows a lack of maturity. Say what you will about the unwritten rules of baseball and how the game is changing, but there is something to be said of keeping things behind the curtain. By doing so, things are far less likely to be misconstrued or misinterpreted.
If Stroman doesn’t like how the organization is running the team and/or the product that they are putting on the field, then by all means - let them know! Vocalize that displeasure with the same passion that fans are familiar with while he’s pitching on the mound. But do so privately.
What Stroman should understand by now is that calling the brass out via media scrums will not improve the relationship that they have. It will not make the organization reflect on the decisions that they have made this off-season and, therefore, change course on their plans for the team and its future. It will not make them reflect on how they are navigating the speed in which they offer Stroman a contract extension (if at all). It will not make them reflect on how they are performing their duties in their respective positions and, therefore, adjust.
The only thing it will do is (further) drive a wedge between the two parties.
It didn’t take long for GM Ross Atkins to respond to Stroman’s displeasure regarding a contract extension. When asked about the status of an extension, Atkins respond -
"Any negotiation, any discussion, I'm not going to comment on. We've had lengthy discussions with Marcus' representation. ... I'm excited to have Marcus Stroman as a Toronto Blue Jay, extremely excited about his health, the way he has performed thus far, the way he looks, his energy has been awesome in the clubhouse."
And that’s just the thing. Things such as contract negotiations and/or the status of such negotiations should be handled privately. No good can come when these things are aired out publicly and to the media. Contract negotiations, if there are even any at this point (which, by now, I don’t think there are), are typically a give-and-take type of deal for both parties involved. Given the lack of consistent success from players that are currently under long-term deals - especially on the tail-end of them - it doesn’t surprise me that organizations are becoming more reluctant to offer them.
Yes, signing a player like Bryce Harper would be absolutely amazing for the trajectory of the team. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about having a Harper/Guerrero Jr. pairing at the three/four spots of a lineup. It would undoubtedly be incredible to see. But having said that, I understand why the Jays don’t see the sense in signing any player to what is rumored to be Harper’s asking price. Even though I personally think the Jays should do it, I certainly understand why they won’t. The track record just isn’t in the favor of the club. This is, after all, a business.
Again, you can think that part of what makes the game entertaining is the hot stove aspect in the off-season, and I don’t disagree. I’m simply stating that such blockbuster contracts are becoming more infrequent with the rise of sabermetrics. Front offices are becoming more reluctant to put the future of their teams in financial jeopardy for the sake of a big splash signing, even if it would solidify the club’s near-term outlook for a playoff run. Simply put, teams are becoming more frugal.
So for Stroman to sort of take the mantel and express his displeasure in how the front office of the Blue Jays is and ought to be running the team in a public setting is not only ill-advised, but also a bit out of his depth. If he thinks that the team needs more veteran leadership, then be that veteran leadership! Take the mantle and show the youth of this team how to conduct themselves as professionals. Demonstrate that there is an appropriate time and place to air your grievances to those that run the team and that by doing so via the media will only land you either a) in hot water or b) on the trade block (or both!). If he loves the city of Toronto and embodies it, then he shouldn’t put his tenure as a Blue Jay on the line by publicly bashing the organization and how they are operated.
Either way, I don’t see the relationship between the Jays and Stroman lasting much longer.
Again, the issue isn’t the accuracy of what Stroman said about the Jays. He isn’t incorrect in his suggestions; in fact, I agree with most of it. The issue is the setting in which the statements were made. The distinction is extremely important and something that I hope doesn’t become a trend for him.
When healthy, Stroman has the ability to be a phenomenal pitcher. His personality is gripping and has a unique opportunity to lead this core of young players by example, both on and off the diamond. Thus, it would be a shame if he got labeled with the “attitude problem” sticker, if he hasn’t already, thereby hindering potential opportunities at such an early stage in his career.
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