Ah, this was just exactly what the Toronto Blue Jays needed, with the 2012 season just a week away from being finally, mercifully over. Isn’t it, Omar Vizquel?
No, it really wasn’t.
The veteran shortstop made some head-turning news on Thursday, with comments made to Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun suggesting that there is not only a veteran leadership void in the Blue Jays clubhouse, but that the team’s coaching staff was not doing enough in terms of providing enough communication with the players.
“If you make mistakes and nobody says anything about it — they just let it go — we’re going to keep making the same mistakes over and over again,” said Vizquel, who suggested that the coaching staff was being too lenient with a young Blue Jays club this season. Not that Vizquel is without a point here. The 2012 Blue Jays were an inexperienced ball club with pointed issues at the heart of its clubhouse culture – Yunel Escobar‘s brush with controversy being the latest example; still, the retiring veteran and aspiring manager deftly dodges the most obvious irony of his comments – which was that he was brought in by the club to provide some of that veteran leadership, more specifically to work with latino players like…Escobar. “I tried to do my best, a little helping here and there. But I think the coaching staff have a big responsibility to kind of get in there and tie things up a little, have a bit more communication with their players and try to make this thing happen the right way.”
To push the point about leniency home, Vizquel also says “I think a lot of mistakes were let go because its young guys. You expect mistakes from young guys. It needs to be talked about.” Which, again, is a point with good merit, but the timing of it – and with Vizquel having openly discussed his aspirations to manage a ball club in his post-playing career, makes this particular bout of advice-giving /clubhouse revelation reek of oh, I don’t know, self-serving purposes? He’s painted himself as a veteran guy who “expecting much more from [himself],” and who tried his best to help out in a clubhouse he was new to, despite of mistakes from players being overlooked by manager John Farrell and the coaching staff. After all, it’s not Vizquel’s job to coach – the Blue Jays signed a .548 OPS retiring player solely to compete, right?
Whatever the reasons are, there doesn’t seem to be any purpose served to Vizquel disclosing his criticism of the team’s coaching staff to the media now, when there are still games to be played. Why not do it earlier in the season? Or why not wait until the season is over, when Vizquel is retired and the Blue Jays management have at least had a chance to address the season themselves? It’s not secret that this season has been a disappointment for a number of reasons, and that players have under-performed, but having one of its veteran players come out and say that’s a lack of veteran leadership strikes me as the last thing the Blue Jays clubhouse needs at this point of the season.
Nevertheless, that it happened now forced Farrell to deal with the issue swiftly – and the Blue Jays manager did so by holding a half-hour players meeting before last night’s game against the New York Yankees. Farrell suggested that ”the comments [from Vizquel] were a little bit of a tipping point” to some of the things that needed to be discussed “internally”, but that “having not been there” for early game work and individual meetings, Vizquel “might of not been aware of all the messages and the examples [the Blue Jays coaching staff] continue to address,” and that “he’s not privy to those” meetings set up to address the types of mistakes that he thought were being let go.” Farrell also suggested that while the team obvious has needs and things to work on, veteran presence was not a particularly pressing thing, saying that “leadership has no age,” and that it’s not simply about the number of veterans that are on the club.
For his part, Vizquel apologized to Farrell and the rest of the clubhouse for what could have been misconstrued as a guy on his way out putting the blame on others. Vizquel stuck to his guns, though, saying that it was a “constructive comment” to help improve the Blue Jays.
The team then responded on the field by being at the wrong end of an 11-4 rout at the hands of the Yankees, in a game that featured a number of mental mistakes. Go figure.