When you’ve been writing about the Blue Jays farm system for some time, you develop a network of contacts in various roles inside and outside of the organization. It’s immensely helpful when you can’t see more than a fraction of games across the system in person.
When it comes to the disappointing season the Blue Jays short season affiliate in Vancouver had, the sources have almost agreed on one thing: something needs to change after what was really a lost season for the Canadians.
C’s fans can’t help but be spoiled. The team has been very competitive, winning Northwest League titles 4 times in 5 trips to the final since joining the Toronto organization in 2011. And while Toronto and Vancouver have a Player Development Contract that won’t expire until 2022 (most are up after next year), in no way should the Blue Jays ever take their partnership with the Canadians for granted.
And this year kind of feels like they did.
Granted, given the vagaries of player development, it’s next to impossible to put a winning team on the field every year. Still, so much of what I’ve been told since the minor league season ended on Labour Day is that the C’s had a coaching staff that just did not seem up to the task of building a contender.
The C’s finished last in team batting, and seemed to have a lot of 1-2-3 innings this season. In late game situations, it seemed time and again that the C’s didn’t use any strategies appropriate for that point in the game – moving runners, or using pinch hitters. 5 times this season the C’s had a chance to go over .500, and lost every one of those games. Some of the players, from sources, were less than happy with the atmosphere. One source said that just about everyone seemed to be going through the motions at times.
The minors are all about development. Teams make noises about winning being great, and prospects learning to win together being important – look no further than Biggio, Guerrero, and Bichette, who were the heart of championship teams in 2017 and 2018. But the on-field education of their prospects is the organization’s priority. Still, for most minor league cities and franchises, there is an understanding: give us good players for the most part, and a chance to win or at least be competitive.
Vancouver fans support their team incredibly well, outdrawing teams several levels ahead of them, and even the odd MLB team on occasion. Set in a beautiful inner city park, venerable Nat Bailey Stadium has its quirks, but in the summer it’s a fabulous place to watch a game – one source called it “Vancouver’s largest outdoor patio.” The team regularly leads the NWL in attendance, and has been a great boost to the Blue Jays brand in Western Canada. The blue wave that invades Seattle every summer when the Blue Jays visit is a product of that.
Of course, Vancouver fans did get a look at three or four players this summer who look like big leaguers in the form of Alek Manoah, Phil Clarke, Adam Kloffenstein, and perhaps Luis Quinones. But the supporting cast the organization surrounded them with left something to be desired. And the team’s minor league admin staff and roving instructors were not highly visible, meeting the team on the road, in fact, in several instances. And neither Mark Shapiro or Ross Atkins has ever been to The Nat, from what we’ve been told. Granted, it’s hard for them to get away, but it would be a gesture that the team and its fans would greatly appreciate.
As a show of appreciation, the Blue Jays should make significant changes to their instructional personnel next season in Vancouver. Demonstrate to the city what that franchise means to the organization.