With a dozen games remaining and their record sitting at a dismal 59-91 heading into Tuesday night’s matchup with the Baltimore Orioles, there aren’t currently a lot of reasons to root for the Toronto Blue Jays.
The rebuilding squad shipped away most of the final remnants from its 2015 and 2016 playoff runs — including Kevin Pillar, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez — giving young players such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette the chance to spread their wings.
Despite the fact that the Blue Jays are nearing the end of their third straight losing season — and have seen attendance plummet again — president and CEO Mark Shapiro continues to preach patience.
“It’s really hard to have when you’re watching. It’s hard to have in our job. It’s harder to be a fan,” Shapiro said during an appearance on Sportsnet’s Tim and Sid on Tuesday, when asked how the club gets back to being a winner.
“I mean, the reason why I say patience is because in sport in general … if you have the ability to stay the course, you have the strength to do it and you have objective reasons for believing in a player and his ability and his character, you’re usually rewarded.”
Shapiro added that there are “really tough moments” when people will doubt a player’s talent and effort because they’re constantly under the microscope, but the key is to stay the course and back that up with proactive coaching and support.
“Baseball is every single day. It’s 162 times a year, and then we’re watching them another 30 days in spring training games and it’s really like 45 days,” said Shapiro.
“There doesn’t tend to be a lot of development in general at the major-league level — it tends to be, ‘OK, you got here. We’re here to work and help give you the work you need. But you got to take responsibility for your own development.’ We’ve been actively working to develop our players this year, which I think we needed to do because a lot of them, in a different setting with it, would have been in triple-A for a lot of the year. But we need to keep getting better. We obviously have gaps defensively, in particular.”
While the Blue Jays have struggled to put W’s on the board, Shapiro described the 2019 campaign as “great progress.”
“We’ve transitioned a lot of talent to the major-league level, and I think what we’ve seen shows us that there is real talent there. There are gaps, but there’s a lot of real talent there. We’ve established a standard and a culture that I think behind the scenes, demonstrates these guys care about each other. They want to get better. They believe in their ability, which is really important,” he said.
“Like, these guys think they’re going to win it next year, which is pretty cool to be around them, to feel that. And I think that there is an understanding and they’ve competed. Every single game. Even when we’ve gone through streaks where we’ve lost six in a row. We’ve been in every game — they competed.”
Shapiro, who was brought in by the Blue Jays following the 2015 season, said the club needs to continue to develop and plug gaps, but the focus after the season will shift toward how to “transition from competing to winning.”
“The goal is to initially be playing meaningful games in September, which would definitely be contending, then get into the playoffs and ultimately to win our division … so we want to play meaningful games. That’s the next step. Next April, they will be meaningful games because we’ll have a clean slate and we’ll be starting over again, but we want to play meaningful games now, you know, in September, leading into post-season, and then we want to play in post-season,” he said.
“There will be steps. Can we skip the steps? Yeah, a lot of the teams that are going to play in the playoffs this year have skipped those steps and have made major jumps, whether it’s Tampa, or whether it’s Minnesota, teams in the AL have done that. I think we’re capable of making a big jump. More importantly than me thinking that, our players think that.”