One of the biggest questions among Toronto Blue Jays fans is whether the team should move forward with its current roster in search of contention or hit the reset button.
It’s a question Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro has asked, too, and he addressed the topic Wednesday on The Jeff Blair Show.
“I’ve said all along, if we were just running our team without fans and it was an intellectual exercise, we probably would’ve hit a reset over a year ago,” he said. “I’m not denying where we are and what the strategic alternatives are, but the reality is that a very, very, very high price was paid to put a team on the field that our fans responded to in just an incredible way across an entire country.”
The Blue Jays grabbed ahold of the nation with back-to-back playoff runs in 2015 and 2016, but stumbled out of the gates and fell out of contention early on in the 2017 season causing many to strongly question the direction of the club. For Shapiro, that includes thinking about the fans.
“As we deliberate on the different strategies and the different directions to go, we feel an obligation to try to field a contending, competitive team and at such a time we feel that is not possible, we will pivot,” Shapiro said. “Proactively pivoting, based upon the price paid and the way our fans have responded, that’s why we’re not doing that. That’s why we’re trying to remain competitive.”
Shapiro also shared his thoughts on top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is garnering a lot of excitement around the baseball world, and discussed the status of renovations to both the team’s training facility as well as the Rogers Centre.
Here are a few excerpts from the conversation:
“Vladdy is one of those special guys where you don’t need to be that good a scout to recognize just how talented he is. It’s a different sound off his bat, it’s a different quality of at-bat, it’s a different presence at the plate, it’s right-handed patience and power. The only question with him will be where he aligns defensively. I think that’s still very much up in the air, very much open…
“A lot of that will be how determined he is to stay at third base.”
On the Blue Jays’ ongoing talks with Pinellas County to build an all-in-one training and development facility in Dunedin:
“Obsessively committing to acquiring talent and developing talent … with the best resources possible is a big part of all of our energies in baseball operations, it’s just not a part that gets reported on or looked at by fans because they ultimately just look at the tip of the sword, which is our major league team. If the tip of the sword is as sharp as it can possibly be and as strong as it can be, your foundation — your player development system — is great, and a big part of that is the shifting mindset from just a Spring Training facility, which is only where you prepare for seven weeks, to a state-of-the-art, year-round training, development, and rehabilitation facility. We cannot currently do that with Dunedin as it exists, it is strictly a training facility, and that it’s it, for seven weeks — and barely that.
“We’re very close to putting together all the pieces and parts that will allow us to shift our facility there from one that helps us build a culture and build players that are championship-calibre players. City, county, state, team — four-way partnership, very complex …
“I am optimistic and we are very close and feel like just after the new year at some point, certainly prior to or in the early parts of Spring Training, we’ll have complete certainty that we’re moving forward.”