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Atkins, Shapiro must turn doubters into believers

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TSN Baseball Insider


The relationship between a team’s fan base and front office is a complicated one. Outsiders need to earn respect and first impressions matter.

Winning creates a level of trust and acceptance that can endure during challenging times. Fans aren’t very patient to begin with, and they have even less patience for those they don’t trust. How executives treat the most beloved players matters to the fans. Like I said, it’s complicated.

It has become very clear to me is that the perception of the Blue Jays’ front office is starkly different in Toronto than it is around baseball. It seems Jays’ fans are dubious when it comes to general manager Ross Atkins and team president Mark Shapiro. It is not a surprise as they came in as outsiders and their predecessors, Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston, were very well-liked.

Plus, when Shapiro took over as president of the Jays, the club had just come off of a dramatic playoff run, losing in the ALCS to the eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals in six games.

Anthopoulos, the very popular general manager, decided to leave the organization rather than work under Shapiro in a different structure than he had operated under Beeston. Reports surfaced that Anthopoulos had been scolded by Shapiro for trading away prospects to acquire starting pitcher David Price and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki at the trade deadline in 2015. These were very popular trades in the eyes of Jays’ fans as they helped the club return to the playoffs for the first time in 22 years.

To be fair, Shapiro denied that he “scolded” Anthopoulos, but the fans believed that the new guys had somehow mistreated Anthopoulos, which caused him to leave.

Perception becomes reality.

The Jays returned to the playoffs in 2016 but came up short again, losing to the Cleveland Indians in five games in the ALCS. After the 2016 season, Atkins and Shapiro started the methodical transition to the rebuilding process by dismantling the veteran roster.

First, Edwin Encarnacion left for Cleveland. Then Jose Bautista wasn’t signed back after the 2017 season. Josh Donaldson was injured most of 2018 and was finally traded to Cleveland last August. The three key cogs of the Blue Jays’ playoff runs were gone and Atkins and Shapiro were the guys in charge when it happened. So, fans blame them. It’s what happens to club executives.

The majority of fans don’t like rebuilding because it is synonymous with losing. Trades get made where household names leave and a bunch of no-name kids are brought back. The fans lose that emotional connection they formed when the team was winning and there is no one to blame but the front office. The teams that trade away major-league players for minor-league players always seem like they lose the deals, but it takes time to grade out trades when prospects are the return.

Fans don’t always understand what a fair expectation is in a trade. If a club trades a star, it’s fair to expect a blue-chip prospect in return, along........