Interpreting 10 key quotes from Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins

This story was excerpted from Keegan Matheson’s Blue Jays Beat newsletter. To read the entire newsletter, click here. And sign up to receive them regularly in your inbox.

The days following a postseason loss allow you to breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to next spring, but that didn’t happen in Toronto. Instead, fan frustration – and questions – have only increased.

The Blue Jays’ loss to the Twins in Game 2 is an event we’ll talk about for years, right up there with their home loss to the Mariners in 2022. Ten years from now, “José Berríos for Yusei Kikuchi” may still give you chills. After last week’s heartbreak, the return to Season 24 will be long, slow and controversial.

1. “When this decision was made, I found out about it when you did.” “John Schneider made the decision to implement this solution, and he did.”
These were early bombs. For an organization that had been calling for collaboration for years, it was shocking when Atkins pointed out the decision to transfer Berríos directly back to manager John Schneider and his staff, setting the stage for everything that followed.

2. “I was surprised it was coming out.”
Going a step further, Atkins insisted that headquarters did not pressure Schneider and his employees to make such a move. Asked about precedent for such a rare and controversial move, Atkins replied: “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like that.”

3. “Yes.” John Schneider will return.
This was a natural next question, given the way this press conference began. Schneider deserves to be part of the solution for the Blue Jays and should be given the opportunity to grow in the job. Here, we’ll be talking about Schneider’s reaction to losing his wild card and the unexpected drama that followed.

4. “This is the hardest moment in my career that I have ever experienced.”
As for Atkins’ emotions, he was honest. Frustration is high in this organization, everyone understands that repeated exits lead to certain decisions.

5. “I expressed confidence in this return based on history, based on the quality of contact that we have seen. Now I can no longer rely on this belief. Now I have to find a solution.”
If you’re looking for something refreshing to grab, this is it. Blue Jays fans have been frustrated throughout the season – and rightfully so – as the offensive numbers have remained largely the same despite the organization’s belief that it will improve. The best example of this is Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Significant work needs to be done and another rebranding of this squad may be necessary.

6. “That got us into a situation where we allowed two runs in a playoff game. From a run prevention standpoint, we see this as a solid result and a good chance to win the game.”
There were some issues on offense, but the Blue Jays pitching staff performed admirably throughout the season. Blue Jays fans won’t want to hear about a double-header in Game 2 because of the way it happened, but in doing so, Atkins put the spotlight back on the bats. It’s not an either-or situation. Berríos’ decision will hang over this team for months, but the second, separate issue is that this team has scored one run in two games.

7. “When a pitcher of his success is selected, it is very difficult to take and he did not agree with the decision. This caused some frustration.”
Finally, some public comments that shed light on Alek Manoah’s situation. It seemed like a wasted season for Manoah, and while the Blue Jays are optimistic that he can return to the rotation in 2024, there are clearly some relationships that need repairing.

8. “No, he did not ask for a trade and we are focusing on solutions together with him.”
Well, that’s a start. Manoah has the opportunity to write an amazing comeback story if everything turns around, but what will happen if turbulence strikes again? This story is not over yet.

9. “These guys are the alternative. I mentioned them as alternatives to fill those empty spaces.
At the beginning of his press conference, Atkins mentioned Kevin Kiermaier, Matt Chapman and Brandon Belt in the past tense. He later amended his comments to add this context, but it’s clear the Blue Jays have several positions to fill this offseason.

10. “… [Alan] Roden was extraordinary in Double-A.”
Atkins added this line to the end of a long list of internal candidates, and that matters. No. 7 prospect Alan Roden is hitting .317 this season with an on-base percentage of .430 between High-A and Double-A. Expect him to start in Triple-A, but the Blue Jays have become excited about what Roden could potentially offer. If the first few months go well, this is a very viable option.

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