Boras blasts the Jays
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 Dave Hudgens, who will be new manager Charlie Montoyo’s righthand 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.
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.