Bo­ras blasts the Blue Jays

Agent blames re­build­ing teams for league’s de­clin­ing at­ten­dance

Kingston Whig-Standard - - SPORTS - STEVE BUF­FERY SBuffery@post­media.com Twit­ter @Beez­er­sun

CARLS­BAD, Calif. — The most pow­er­ful player agent in base­ball, Scott Bo­ras, went all bird-hunter mode dur­ing his an­nual me­dia ses­sion at the MLB GM Meet­ings on Wed­nes­day, plac­ing the Blue Jays squarely in his cross hairs, harshly crit­i­ciz­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion for the way they’ve done busi­ness.

As he has done of­ten in the past, Bo­ras ham­mered those MLB teams he be­lieves don’t do enough (in his eyes) to win — i.e. spend loads of money on “at­trac­tive” play­ers — and sharply crit­i­cized teams he feels have wrongly em­barked on a re­build/tank­ing mode, which he says has driven away fans. The Jays had the sharpest drop in at­ten­dance of all teams this past sea­son.

“The fans of base­ball have clearly re­jected this vol­un­tary ap­proach that own­ers have made to where they’re non-com­pet­i­tive,” said Bo­ras. “We have 17 teams in base­ball where the at­ten­dance has de­clined — 17 out of 30. We have six sta­di­ums where they had the low­est at­ten­dance of their sta­dium his­tory. We’ve had a to­tal drop in at­ten­dance of roughly 4 per cent. Now, some of the things we heard about this was it was due to weather. How­ever, the two largest drops in at­ten­dance, of over 800,000 fans, have been in domed sta­di­ums — Toronto and Mi­ami.”

Bo­ras de­scribed the way some teams fail to com­pete at the high­est level on a con­sis­tent ba­sis as “the com­pet­i­tive can­cer that dom­i­nated our game.” And, again, he aimed his wrath at the Blue Jays or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Toronto’s a won­der­ful city, it’s been a great fran­chise, they’ve drawn over 3 mil­lion fans, (but) they’ve lost nearly a third of their fan base due to the ‘blue flu’ of not bring­ing at­trac­tive play­ers that fans find in­ter­est­ing to their mar­ket,” he said.

Blue Jays gen­eral man­ager Ross Atkins took Bo­ras’ com­ments in stride.

“What we fo­cus on is mak­ing good base­ball de­ci­sions and we’ve been ag­gres­sive in free agency the last sev­eral years, we’ve made trades as well,” said Atkins, point­ing out that the Jays open­ing day pay­roll in 2018 was the ninth-most in base­ball. “But that’s an in­ter­est­ing take and I cer­tainly re­spect Scott Bo­ras and where he is in the game.

“I en­joy my in­ter­ac­tions with Scott,” Atkins con­tin­ued. “He has a great deal of ex­pe­ri­ence in the game, he rep­re­sents a cou­ple of our play­ers (Aaron Sanchez and Billy McK­in­ney). Our in­ter­ac­tions are al­ways pro­duc­tive. Whether it’s un­fair (he took a shot at the Jays), you guys can de­cide that. We fo­cus on what we can con­trol and mak­ing good base­ball de­ci­sions, and I’m ex­cited about what’s com­ing.”

The Jays drew 3,203,886 fans to the Rogers Cen­tre in 2017 af­ter two con­sec­u­tive sea­sons of mak­ing the play­offs and drew 2,325,281 fans this past sea­son, about 11,000 less per game. Bo­ras said some fran­chises have to stop jus­ti­fy­ing los­ing (even in a re­build sea­son) and MLB has to be­gin re­ward­ing teams that win through draft picks and other de­vel­op­men­tal in­cen­tives.

“The vol­un­tary meth­ods that are cur­rently in place and that own­ers are ap­ply­ing and that the game is op­er­at­ing un­der, the fans are clearly re­ject­ing,” he said.

Bo­ras com­pared re­build­ing teams that don’t at­tempt to sign high-pro­file free agents to a hit­ter de­cid­ing that he was not go­ing to play very much the first three months of the sea­son be­cause he wants to “con­di­tion” him­self for the rest of the year. The mes­sage be­ing: Play­ers al­ways go all out, some fran­chises don’t.

“That doesn’t go over well in the locker room,” Bo­ras said. “Play­ers have an obli­ga­tion to per­form ev­ery year and per­form at the high­est level, and so do teams. And we need a sys­tem that ex­actly ad­dresses that is­sue.

“We have to cre­ate a per­for­mance model that is equiv­a­lent of what we re­quire of a play­ers,” Bo­ras con­tin­ued. “We have to do it with own­ers in the sense of re­ward for win­ning. If there is a re­ward for win­ning, I guar­an­tee you they will do things dif­fer­ently.”

Atkins said most teams have to be strate­gic on how they use their re­sources, in­clud­ing build­ing from within and “dou­bling down” on free agency and trades when the time is right. As for the drop in at­ten­dance, the Jays GM said: “It’s about win­ning and we didn’t win.”

When asked about Sanchez fol­low­ing the pitcher’s fin­ger surgery in Septem­ber, Bo­ras said: “I think he got the right doc­tor and the swelling in the knuckle’s all gone and he re­ally has the sen­sa­tion back in his fin­gers. He’s re­ally got a chance to get back to form.”

Mean­while, Atkins hinted that the Jays are close to mak­ing a deal.

“We’ve had sev­eral dis­cus­sions ... things are teed up in a fash­ion that a de­ci­sion could be made in a week or in days,” he said.

Atkins has main­tained that ac­quir­ing pitch­ing his pri­or­ity this off-sea­son.

Jays hire new bench coach

The Blue Jays have re­placed their bench coach DeMarlo Hale with DaveHudg ens, who will be new man­ager Char­lie Mon­toyo’s right-hand man. Hud­gens, 61, served as the hit­ting coach with the Hous­ton Astros when they won the World Se­ries in 2017. Prior to that, he served as hit­ting coach for the New York Mets (2011 to 2014) and the Oak­land Ath­let­ics (1999, 2003 to 2005).

“Dave Hud­gens brings an ex­cep­tional coach­ing back­ground to our or­ga­ni­za­tion, in­clud­ing a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence and the abil­ity to com­bine his base­ball knowl­edge with a for­ward-think­ing ap­proach to help our team.” said Atkins. “He’s a con­sum­mate learner and teacher at heart and he comes highly rec­om­mended by his peers.”

In­ter­est­ingly, Hale is still with the Jays.

“I’ve talked to DeMarlo, I would love to keep him in the or­ga­ni­za­tion. He’s go­ing to con­sider what his al­ter­na­tives are and we’ve had on-go­ing dis­cus­sions about that,” said Atkins.

Hud­gens, a na­tive of Oroville, Calif., be­gan his coach­ing ca­reer in 1985 when he man­aged Rookie Level Po­catello in the Pi­o­neer League. He then man­aged within Oak­land’s sys­tem un­til 1988 be­fore join­ing Hous­ton as a rov­ing hit­ting in­struc­tor from 1989 to 1995. Hud­gens re­turned to Oak­land for the next 10 sea­sons, where in ad­di­tion to coach­ing, he held the role of Di­rec­tor of Player Devel­op­ment from 1996 to 1998 and 2000 to 2002. Af­ter his 10 years with Oak­land, he joined the Cleve­land In­di­ans as the field co­or­di­na­tor from 2006 to 2010. He was drafted as a first base­man by the New York Mets in the first round in 1975 and was also se­lected in the 18th round by the Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers in 1977.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

The most pow­er­ful player agent in base­ball, Scott Bo­ras, crit­i­cized the Toronto Blue Jays late Wed­nes­day at the MLB gen­eral man­agers’ meet­ings, blam­ing the team’s ros­ter con­struc­tion for its sig­nif­i­cant dip in at­ten­dance this sea­son.

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