Ross Atkins addressed the media earlier this week and talked about the future of the Blue Jays, including his tempered expectations for the 2019 season.
It’s going to be an interesting offseason for the Blue Jays front office, as they look to begin a rebuild of their veteran roster after two consecutive losing seasons. For Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins, it’s the opportunity to shape the roster in their own way and bring in their own personnel to start really building something with their stamp on it.
Atkins mentioned last offseason that he would have started the rebuild after the 2017 campaign, but the Blue Jays front office felt they owed it to a supportive fanbase to try and put a competitive product on the field for 2018, and would hope that a healthier year would make a difference. At the time I thought it was an odd comment from the young GM, but I understood where he was coming from, even if I didn’t fully understand the transparency.
As you’re more than likely well aware, the season went just as Atkins had feared it might, and the Blue Jays are now beginning their rebuild a year later than he had wanted to. The disappointing end to the season brought Ross Atkins back to the same place he was a year ago, answering questions about the future of the Blue Jays and trying to paint a positive picture for the media in attendance, and the fans listening home.
Oddly enough though, Atkins more or less did the opposite, as he openly admitted that, “I don’t expect us, next year, to be jumping up and down on mounds”.
Even if you totally believe that statement to be true (and most of us should accept that reality), why say it now? The fans are aware and most understand that the young core is going to get a chance to play and develop in 2019, and with that will come a learning curve that goes with utilizing relatively inexperienced players.
However, that doesn’t mean the Blue Jays are going to be throwing up a white towel on Opening Day, as we’ve already heard veterans like Russell Martin talk about hoping to compete and surprise people next year in Toronto, and Kevin Pillar talking about winning with a “dirtbag” approach. The reality is, it’s going to be difficult for the Blue Jays to compete next year, but it’s not exactly impossible.
Again, I understand the realistic perspective that Atkins has here, but in my mind it would have been better off if he had been a little more optimistic with his statement. I’ll also admit that I’ve scoffed at some statements he’s made that I don’t buy at all (ie. Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s promotion, for example), and wished he would be more transparent.
However, in this case I wish he would have taken the question and used it as a chance to talk about the potential for big surprises from a talented young team next year. You don’t have to be unrealistic, but pointing to a team like the 90 win Rays this year, or the Atlanta Braves who arrived a year or two earlier than expected, and you could honestly give fans a reason to believe without feeling like you’re full of it.
Instead, he chose to be bluntly honest about his realistic expectations, and while that’s admirable it won’t endear him to the fanbase any further. It’s not a great quote to use to sell tickets either, but perhaps the Blue Jays have accepted that it’ll take winning to pack the Rogers Centre, rather than anything said by the front office. Still though, it seems like a case of some things are better left unsaid.