An Open Letter to Ross Atkins, GM, Toronto Blue Jays

Hi Ross,

We don’t know each other, but given that my emotions have been at your whim since you became the GM for the Toronto Blue Jays in December 2015, I feel like we’re chummy enough to be honest.

I haven’t always liked your decisions, but I have always done my best to accept, if not understand, them. I was crushed when Bautista’s tenure ended unceremoniously, and then when Donaldson was traded. I’ve stood by while (mind you, with crossed arms and a some serious side-eye) you have made all the roster decisions that you thought necessary, because hey, WTF do I know about the business end of baseball? I mean, I’ve seen Moneyball so I could probably do it, but whatever; you’re the expert, right?

Except…on Tuesday you did something that made me want to kick you in the shins, really really hard.

You traded Kevin Pillar.

Kevin Pillar Bunting

I mean, again, I don’t know anything about the money side of baseball, and I like it that way. So, even though I was heartbroken, and still am, I still believed you had some kind of ridiculous (to me) reason for trading the (current) longest- tenured Blue Jay. He certainly wasn’t costing you the most, because you went on to hand Grichuk the keys to the Dome by way of $52M over 5 years.

Randal Grichuk (41402284421)

Not that Grichuk is not worth it; I definitely have your back on that one. It’s not even so much that you traded Pillar–I need to believe that you have a plan (yeah, yeah, rebuilding, blah blah) that didn’t include a place Kevin Pillar.

But here’s the thing, Ross: the fans don’t understand why we didn’t need Pillar. He wasn’t costing the most (4.93% of your total salary cost, and you freed up 22.46% on top of that by trading Morales and Martin). Maybe his bats were cracking but we’re only a week into the season. With all the new blood coming up from Buffalo and from other teams, the Blue Jays were in dire need of a seasoned veteran or two.

We don’t see the reasoning behind it. And when you were asked for the reason behind trading a star player and a fan favourite, you kicked us all in the gut again with this gem: “We’re not here to win a popularity contest.”

Talk about kicking a fan when she’s down, Ross.

We, as the fanbase (hell, the entire COUNTRY) that supports the team, buys your merchandise, and is very vocal about the love we have for the Blue Jays, were delivered a one-two punch that hurt. A Lot.

The arrogance that came across in that statement not only compounded the heartbreak for many fans, but showed us that perhaps we’re not as important to you as we think we are.

I just wanted to mention though, Ross, that it kind of *is* a popularity contest. Really. Look what happens to teams that slash and burn their rosters in the name of cost-cutting (think Montreal Expos), and effectively lost a huge majority of their attendance.

So, you really do need, us, and you need us to like you. That is kind of the essence of a popularity contest, no? I surely never won any, so I could be talking out of my ass here; but am I really, Ross?

Popularity is important to keep the wheels of commerce greased, Ross. Even in baseball.

It’s not for you, it’s for US. The “us” that you kicked in the teeth on Tuesday with your arrogant and glib comment.

I hope you can see where I am coming from, Ross. We’re trying hard to see your plan, but when the hammer-dropper drops said hammer on it’s fanbase, well…. I’ll just leave you with this, noting again that you joined the organization in December of 2015:

Maybe the players aren’t the problem, Ross.

27 comments

  1. Well put, and I might add, as a business owner, sometimes your bottom line isn’t just the player’s salary. It’s the cost of the fans not wanting to buy tickets to the games, not wanting to purchase the ridiculously priced merchandise. Yes, you are running a business, but you also have to think about your customers, us, and keep in mind that we do matter, not just from a game attending standpoint, but how we feel about the team we have loved for all these years. This isn’t just Toronto, it’s Canada and it’s like none of that was even considered in your decision.
    Susan C.

      1. I totally understand how everyone feels about the trades and the rebuild and how they love the Blue Jays and baseball. I’m disappointed in the fanbase for not being there when our so called management (Atkins) through Roberto Osuna under the bus instead a of standing behind him till the end. Just saying where was the fan base then 😢😢

        1. are you kidding??? No management team would do what the Jays did to Osuna without having clear evidence. Just because you don’t have it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Obviously they saw enough to know what happened, and took action appropriately. It’s incredible to me the amount of support Osuna gets from this fanbase, particularly the female fanbase. Absolutely shocking

    1. I am in agreement on nearly all your comments. A lot of thought went into this letter and it shows. Well written and spoken. The one thing l would like to say is that we “ peons” may be showing our disapproval by looking at the high prices and low fan turn out. There is hardly a player out there who is worth 100 to 500. thousand dollars their agents get them and we fans probably earn and unknown average but it sure far, far below those numbers. The zJays are still our team and it shows when there are on the road and you see all those Jays fan in the stands. Go Jays go.

  2. A you are right on Jennifer, I was in tears, I love these kids like family, it was very hard. But you know it comes a day when you have to let your kids go also, I have been aJsy fan from day one and always will be one, we have to give these new kids a chance, we have done it before, if we stay a way it only hurting them as well, head office do not care I mis them all Jose , Happ Martenall the rest who have gone, we just have to believe

  3. Very well put, I think you have let down a Country not a city?? I understand its a re-build, but there is nothing left, the Kevin Pillar trade was senseless?? He was our Superman, and now the fan base will be less and less, you can give away hotdogs and price beer at 5.00, no one really cares, the prices of the tickets are the same, so in the long run we are the ones getting the short end of the stick. I hope I”m wrong but it will take at least 5 years to even be close to the team we had?? hopefully it is sooner,

    Very disappointed on the last move and I’m sure Smoak will be next??
    I have been a fan since 1977 , I was there in the snow opening day to watch the Blue Jays, I was so lucky to see back to back World series team, I don’t think that will every happen again

    Love my Jays

  4. I was criticized when as a Cuban saw Morales leaving the Club house and complained about it but as a Canadian it hurt to see Pillar going. I guess that makes people who back fire at me for my comments to understand my point For me two of the old guys that could keep these kids working together and gaining experience to make the team grow quickly. It was not necessary to move them now. It could wait at least one more year. Unless the Club house is experiencing deep financial difficulties, maybe they are in deficit. Maybe they
    need to wait couple of years saving to acquire big names again who knows. expecting 3 to 4 years to see the Blue Jays in World Series again. Now I’m looking to 5 to 6 years. Smoak and Grichuck is all in your shoulders now.

  5. Well said Jennifer! It’s sad to sad our Canadian baseball team depleted. I know that the Jays are going through a rebuild but your rebuilding methodology Is destroyed the team Canadians love. I, as a consultant having been involved with many organizational rebuilds. You build from the bottom to the top. Which means senior ball players stay until the rookie ball players are ready to for fill the senior role. In the case of the Jays, most senior players are gone the rookies are not up to par in talent as senior players who were traded. You, yourself never made the Major leagues and yet you are rebuilding a major league team. I think it’s time for Edward S Rogers to become involved and question your integrity. Knowing Edward S Rogers is a business man who like to make revenue not lose it.

  6. I agree with all of the above, young children coming up as your fan base love the idea of superman a hero for the younger group. There something to be said for keeping a loyal player who has done so much for the Jays and the city of Toronto. He deserved loyalty back, as fans we need to be heard and respected our opinion counts. So good luck this season because I think attendance is going to be way down and you only have yourself to blame.

  7. There was nothing arrogant or glib about his comment, he was stating a fact. And posting a chart with no context doesn’t prove anything except for the fact that you really don’t understand the idea of shedding salary during a rebuild (something which you forgot to include in that hilariously ill conceived chart). Pillar was traded because he simply isn’t good enough anymore and was a waste of roster space. Time to look ahead to the future and stop living in the past.

  8. Well. What can I say. Everyone is in love with this letter. You clearly put work into it.

    Do I agree?

    Hell no.

    This isn’t a popularity contest, this is the steps needed to build a sustainable and consistent contender. Pillar and all the others that have been moved don’t fit into this teams plans, and keeping them would only be holding back guys that are in the plans. 2016’s attendance numbers only spiked because we contended. The bandwagon fans showed up. We also barely made the playoffs that season. And to compare to the expos? Lol funny. Real fans still go and support the product. Still go and learn the team. Are they going to be WS contenders this season? Not likely. But they have had worse years. Stop acting like this is the end of the world.

    This management team built a perennial contender in Cleveland. They’re taking the steps to achieve that in Toronto.

  9. Although saddened to see pillar leave also very excited!! Pillar is what 34 and all the diving around he has done has taken a toll on him!! His bat is not even close to where it needs to be ethier!!! Its an exciting time to be a blue jays fan!!! We have the best prospect in baseball about to come up in may!!! And some of his friends coming up to help as well gonna be fantastic!!! And oh wait cause you all are gonna be pissed real soon when he trades Storman and Sanchez!!! Great job Ross doing a fantastic job these tools here might realize that in like two years when all these young guys are up and playing awesome!!!!

  10. Anthony Alford is coming up. He’s a top 100 prospect and projected to be better than Kevin Pillar in every single which way. You can’t let your heart make your team worse

  11. I agree with Dereck on this completely. Since when is Kevin Pillar a “star player”. Don’t get me wrong I can handle him defensively. He had a major regression last year but I don’t think he was as bad as the DRS stats say he was and will rebound again defensively. However, his bat is atrocious. He can’t hit and doesn’t get on base near enough to label him a star player. A sub .300 OBP is complete garbage. Why does this fanbase idolize players who really aren’t that good (see Ryan Goins).

    I don’t agree with this article in any way. The players that have been moved so far were either past their prime or to be honest not very good and overvalued by this fanbase.

  12. You’re 100% correct Dereck. The only thing this article ignored was STATS. The most important thing in baseball when evaluating talent. If you learn about the advanced stats, you’d see that Pillar was a negative offensive player and his defense wasn’t NEARLY as good as people seem to think. Sure it’s fun to watch his incredible diving catches 4-5 times/year, but some of those catches were only necessary because of bad jumps, or bad routes to the ball. Meaning that other OFs would have caught those without diving. Sure it wouldn’t have looked so flashy or made the highlight reels, but they get the job done much more often. I love Pillar and I completely respect how well he did considering where he started, but the fact is, he was trending downwards and on the wrong side of 30, so he didn’t fit into the long term plans (rebuild) of the Jays. With 6 OFs in their top 30 prospects, it’s time to see what we’ve got there and give the kids a chance to play so that in 2-3 years from now, when this rebuild is looking very promising, we have a better idea of what we need to build around. Love Pillar and miss him all you want, but writing an open letter to Atkins and ignoring the EXACT things that matter is a bit silly. Stats and trend weren’t in Pillars favour, so it was time to let him go.

  13. Thank you for your post, Jennifer. It was very thoughtful.
    The team needs a couple of veteran players to help with the development of the rookies. The Pillar trade was a bad trade, at this time. Unless the team brings up Guerrero , Bichette, and a couple of the young guns to replace the veterans, and who the fans will support, they are destined for smaller and smaller crowds. This doesn’t make sense, with the loss in seat revenue, food and beverages at the games, merchandise sales, advertising revenue due to the loss of people watching the games on TV, loss sales of Rogers cellular and other products. Atkins does not understand the market. It is nit Toronto, but Canada. We are the third or fourth largest market in baseball. We should spend acc Ording to the markets potential, and will then reap the financial rewards along with the on field success.

    1. Jays have had one of the highest payrolls in the league for years. Last year’s budget was higher than what the Yankees spent.

    2. Why does everyone think they need veterans? Let’s see exactly who they have. Smoak, Shoemaker, Buchholz, Grichuk, Giles all on the active roster, as well as ex MLB players in Charlie Montoya, Shelley Duncan and Pete Walker on the coaching staff. There’s PLENTY of veterans in that dugout.

  14. The only thing worse than this sob-story of an article is watching a Pillar at-bat.

    Pillar never posted a wRC+ above 94 (league average for wRC+ is 100) and his wRC+ of 89 in 2018 was a three-season high. Pillar’s infield fly ball rate of 17.7% was fifth highest among qualified hitters and his 3.3% walk rate was the third lowest. His career OBP is just .298.

    Keeping Pillar around only prevented the kids like Alford from getting playing time, much like keeping Morales (who made 22M over the last two seasons despite contributing nothing) blocked Tellez. Keeping declining and aging “fan favourites” around like Pillar doesn’t make this team better; now or in the long-term.

  15. Jennifer, I completely understand and applaud your right to choose a specific player to enjoy watching. I too enjoyed last seasons in which Pillar would appear to be too far away, only to make a last minute lunge and snag a ball.

    However, you posted a few things that I think is where you’re missing the point, from a baseball sense. Pillar is not, and never has been, a “star” player, as you put. When in his prime he was a very very good defensive centre fielder; there were only 2-3 centre fielders better defensively over 2015-2018. However, his hitting has always remained at a below league average, and he never made a single all star game or won a single award.

    Was pillar a very good role player on a team of stars for a couple seasons? Yes. But he’s the wrong side of 30, and this is not a good team anymore. He doesn’t really play a position that would require any sort of veteran leadership. (Besides, you’ll recall him being suspended for a homophobic slur and demoted to the minors for a temper tantrum. Not exactly the kind of leader/role model that you’d expect from your veteran leadership, from a fan point of view at least) There isn’t any real sense of keeping him.

    Finally, you mention attendance as a proof to your point. However, attendance, especially in a hockey town like Toronto, has always been based on the quality of the team on the field. The previous general manager mortgaged the future in order to give us a couple glorious seasons, but this downturn was uinevitable. The attendance will rise again when the team is good again. That’s what this ownership team is trying to accomplish.

    The team as it stood was not good enough, so they are attempting to dismantle it and rebuild. Does this mean there might be a season (or 4) in which they’re bad? Absolutely. But keeping players just because they were once good is not a wise business move, and I actually don’t think it’s even a good move for the fans.

    My two cents, anyway. Thanks for posting.

  16. This is the culture of the organization established when they dumped Jimmy Key
    to Baltimore for some used bats and a roll of tape. He was the best lefty in the Majors for the next 3 years and the Jays drew fly’s at the box office…….Jimmy had only ever been a Blue Jay……..just like “Superman “……… vote with your feet!!!!

  17. Maybe that’s the whole point … maybe the plan is for the fans to stop coming so MLB can say “Toronto cannot financially support a MLB team” in the hopes of the Jays bro g sold to an American conglomerate and moved out of Canada back onto US soil … because GAWD forbid the World Series is EVER brought back to CANADA!

  18. I am behind you on This Jennifer for sure … Kevin Pillar was ONE OF Our Best Center, Also Yes it Wasn’t just Gibbons It’s Ross I’ve been a Jays Fan Since 1977 Day One … Was a Jays Flex Pack Member for 3 Consecutive Years. My Boyfriend Even Caught the Ball From Adam Linds Home Run Sept 30, 2007 Which I Still Possess. So Yes ROSS. YOU MADE A MISTAKE TRADING The BEST Jays Center in Awhile. The Seats Are Getting Emptier Faster It’s NOT THE VET PLAYERS ITS THE OWNERS

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