There’s an air of confidence around the 2021 Toronto Blue Jays and team president Mark Shapiro is excited to see what it amounts to.
“I’m not going to put any limitations on this group,” Shapiro told Lead Off on Sportsnet 590 Tuesday.
The Blue Jays finished third in the AL East and earned a wild-card spot in the playoffs in the shortened 2020 campaign and that momentum has seemingly carried into spring training. With off-season additions like George Springer and Marcus Semien, expectations for this season are even higher within the clubhouse.
“Our jobs (as team executives) are to worry about what could go wrong and be prepared for those things so that tends to be what enters my mind, but our players’ belief in their talent and their belief in each other is pretty incredible and palpable,” Shapiro explained. “You can feel it when you walk into our camp.
“It’s the one thing where I sat down with George Springer and said, ‘How’s it been?’ and ‘Do you feel comfortable?’ He said, ‘These guys are good and they know it.’ To think about how young they are and how confident they are and how wide they are is absolutely incredible.”
With rising stars like Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Nate Pearson and others serving as franchise cornerstones, the organization is set up for long-term success.
“They’re not normal 20-, 21-, 22-, 23-year-olds,” Shapiro said. “These guys are way ahead of the curve so they have championship expectations. I would say our expectations are to build a sustainable championship team so it’s not to place any emphasis on one moment in time or any one season.”
One challenge facing the team in 2021 – and it’s a good problem to have – is finding playing time for players at crowded positions, which is something Shapiro dealt with early in his career with the Cleveland Indians.
“I remember being farm director in the mid-90s, Cleveland, and just sending championship- after championship-calibre player that was ready for the major leagues back to triple-A.”
Cleveland was one of the top teams in baseball in the mid-to-late 1990s with five consecutive division titles and a pair of World Series appearances.
Shapiro is aiming for similar consistency with even better results for the Blue Jays in the coming years.
“All signs point to that we are moving into an era of championship baseball, not a season of championship baseball,” Shapiro added.
Toronto’s regular-season opener is scheduled for April 1 against the New York Yankees.