stats Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels


  This site         Tips

  The Web Google


  Where to Find It

Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business



Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store

Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business




  Arts & Entertainment



   Headline Index

 Other Sections

  Births & Deaths






  Facts & Arguments




  Real Estate









  Food & Dining




  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...


   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site



  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us



 Web Site

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


Would the Next Big Thing choose the Jays?
From the silence on Donaldson's future to the treatment of Halladay's passing, Toronto is failing to put its best foot forward

Email this article Print this article
Saturday, November 18, 2017 – Page S2

TORONTO -- This week at Major League Baseball's general managers' meetings, the Toronto Blue Jays talked up their chances of hitting the offseason's biggest jackpot - Japan's Shohei Otani.

If you buy the hype, Otani is the most complete ballplayer to emerge in nearly a century. He both hits and pitches at an elite level. In the coming weeks, his current team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, will sell him to an MLB club of Otani's choosing.

Right now, anything's possible.

Maybe Otani's the new Babe Ruth.

Maybe he's better than that. It's a mystery.

A much greater mystery is why he would choose to start that journey in Toronto, in the wrong country on a fourth-place team teetering on the edge of a full rebuild. Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins tried to clear it up.

"Our emphasis on recovery, our emphasis on preparation, our emphasis on what it takes to realize all of your potential and understanding what that means is at the forefront [of the Otani sales job]," Atkins told Sportsnet.

So, that's it - a well-equipped training room and someone yelling "Be the best you you can be!" while you're on the treadmill? It's the sort of pitch you might give for a highschool swim team, and it might not work then. But it's definitely not going to turn heads at the professional level.

"I can't imagine a better fit, quite frankly," Atkins said.

If I'm Otani's agent, I certainly can. I can imagine a whole bunch.

How about the New York Yankees? Or the L.A. Dodgers? Or any other team in a major U.S. media market that has a recognizable international brand and is also a winner?

All of those would be better choices for a young player who must secretly believe that his real competition is not other baseball players, but Lionel Messi and LeBron James.

Of course the Jays want Otani.

Every team does. Why they are talking out loud about Otani, as though they have a genuine shot at him, is another matter.

It speaks to what has become a serious problem for the Toronto Blue Jays - prioritizing.

While they moon in public about a kid who has never stepped onto a major-league mound, we haven't heard much lately about Josh Donaldson.

I know he can't pitch, but he has won an MVP award and also happens to be on the roster already.

This saves the Jays the trouble of having to convince Donaldson that Toronto's ice baths are colder and more spacious than anyone else's in baseball.

Would it not make sense to at least be seen trying to re-sign Donaldson, who can walk after this season? Because there isn't much point to getting the Next Big Thing if you're letting the Current Big Thing walk out the door at the same time. That's not a win. It's a wash.

There's been a lot of this muddled thinking since the season finished. The Jays are doing what few teams manage - continue their losing streak beyond 162 games.

They fired a bunch of long-serving back-office people for no particularly good reason other than that they could do it. Or maybe it's got something to do with "culture" - a word that gets thrown around so often in sports these days to explain away bad decisions that it's beginning to sound like a Bolshevik term.

Bullpen didn't nail it down?

Clutch hitting not what you'd hoped? Obviously, it's the culture.

Eliminate those wreckers in group sales.

The employees they sacked were largely business people and the Jays are, if nothing else, a thriving business. What was the point?

If it is to get better - if that's the main priority - it's hard to see how painting yourself as petty and capricious achieves it.

Then there's Roy Halladay's death. That was a blow, but also an opportunity for the organization to demonstrate the best part of sports - its ability to rally disparate communities together and give tragedies, both large and small, a greater meaning.

The Jays were wrong-footed on that one as well. They issued a boilerplate statement. No one came out to speak on the club's behalf. A few hours after Halladay's passing was announced, pitcher Marcus Stroman was on social media woohooing about winning a Gold Glove.

Try to imagine the Yankees handling it the same way if a peer of Halladay's stature on that team had died. Say, a Derek Jeter or a Mariano Rivera. It is not possible. Up in the Bronx, they'd have draped the stadium in black velvet. They'd be running people up to podiums day and night to accommodate all the tributes.

While it's true that every person handles tragedy differently, there is a clear playbook for organizations.

It is to be present and respectful and, above all, to say something genuine about the person. The Jays couldn't manage it.

When an emotional reaction was required, their response was to be very still and wait for more information.

It was the wrong decision, and one I suspect this management group will be quietly wearing for a long time.

Running a professional sports organization is a bigger job than simply winning and profit margins.

If it was only about the numbers, we'd all get together over beers on Friday afternoons to watch the stock market close.

It's also about projecting an aura of competence and decency. Despite the obvious to-and-fro of the marketplace, people want to believe that their team is a family. Because there can't be a Them without an Us.

That's why fans choose to invest themselves in people. For human reasons, as well as cynical business ones, people should be the top priority of any team.

Right now, the Jays are having trouble figuring out where those values fit on the corporate org chart.

Associated Graphic

The question of why Japan's Shohei Otani would choose to launch his MLB career in Canada, on a fourth-place team teetering on the edge of a rebuild, is one the Jays have failed to answer convincingly.


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Paul_Knox Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.


7-Day Site Search

Breaking News

Today's Weather


Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes

Where Manley is going with his first budget



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
Margaret Wente arrow
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game

Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
Mathew Ingram arrow
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
Andrew Willis arrow

Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
Eric Duhatschek arrow
Allan Maki arrow
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
 The Arts

John Doyle arrow
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
Johanna Schneller arrow

Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
Paul Knox arrow
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
William Thorsell arrow

Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page