If there's one phrase that's been uttered this offseason more than any other surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays, it's been "clubhouse culture".
It's a fairly common narrative that's been written about ad nauseam this winter, and continues to be written about in relation to Spring Training camp. I'll fully admit, I'm guilty of writing about it as well (especially the stories surrounding trouble in the Blue Jays' clubhouse.)
In addition to improving the roster, the Blue Jays gave the impression like they were out to improve the team chemistry by bringing in notarized leaders with playoff experience like Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson.
The two are revered for their leadership qualities, as well as their on-field abilities. And if the Blue Jays were certainly on a mission to improve the overall morale of this team, Martin and Donaldson were certainly two great guys to bring in.
But even after the Blue Jays' widely praised offseason acquisitions, will that really change the clubhouse culture? If you ask Adam Lind, he says no.
Bob Elliott spoke with Adam Lind in the Toronto Sun, and among many other things, Lind was rather frank with the assessment of his former team and specifically whether he thought the Blue Jays had improved their clubhouse chemistry.
“They haven’t changed the culture of the clubhouse. They’re my friends, but the guys who still run it are still there. Jose Bautista is the voice among position players and Mark Buehrle runs the starting pitchers."Lind provided some candid insight as to who are the top dogs in the Blue Jays clubhouse, and the key thing he said was "the guys who still run it (the clubhouse) are still there".
This winter, the Toronto Blue Jays went to work on removing the so-called "bad apples" off the roster. No one really knows to which degree these guys were supposed bad influences, but the fact remains none of them are on the roster any more.
Colby Rasmus, Anthony Gose, Brett Lawrie, Melky Cabrera, Juan Francisco, Casey Janssen and Adam Lind. These are all players which were either reported to be malcontents, came with baggage, were part of rumoured cliques in the clubhouse, or openly criticized the organization the past season ... and coincidentally they're all gone.
I think it's convenient to label them all as the trouble-makers on the team. But isn't it a little presumptuous to assume that all the Blue Jays' clubhouse issues walked out the door when those guys did as well?
It's easy to throw them all under the bus and blame that nucleus of players the bad vibe that may have affected others on the team. Add Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson to the mix and it's easy to think the Jays have exorcised whatever negative demons plagued the team in the past.
But Adam Lind himself even alluded to the fact that the guys who run the clubhouse are still there. We can only theorize as to who that might be, but it's a pretty safe bet to say that Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes and Edwin Encarnacion could be at the centre of it.
If as Adam Lind suggested, the same culprits remain in control of the clubhouse dynamic, how are things supposed to be any different this year? If there's still turmoil behind the scenes even with the addition of Martin and Donaldson, then what happens?
Speaking of Jose Bautista, he had some rather interesting comments to say last week about some of his former teammates. Most notably, this was completely unsolicited and unprompted, as if Bautista was just waiting for an opportunity to speak his mind.
"You walk around after a loss in a crucial game or a bad beating that you took, and sometimes you see people and you don’t know what they’re thinking. I’d rather at least know.There's no question that Jose Bautista is a competitive and emotional player. Whether he's upset or elated, he isn't one to hide his emotions; perhaps Bautista may have resented some of his former teammates for not being the same way.
I can’t say that I can read minds and I can’t say that I thought that guy didn’t care. But if I don’t know, it makes me think.
And if that was the case, it's easy to see why there may have been a clear divide in the Blue Jays clubhouse. If Bautista didn't think his teammates were giving their all, that's one way to very quickly alienate other guys in the locker room.
As the reports began to pile up this offseason, it seemed like there were more negative influences in the Jays clubhouse than positive ones.Of course, these are the sorts of things that only become amplified once a team starts losing.
So long as the team is performing well, anyone outside the locker room could probably care less about what morale is like inside the clubhouse.
But any underlying issues tend to be put under the microscope once a team like the Toronto Blue Jays fails to deliver and it begins to apparently affect their on-field product.
Challenging the "improved clubhouse chemistry" narrative might not be a popular stance, but at the very least it's something to consider given how outspoken Adam Lind was about the entire situation.
Although Adam Lind was one of those aforementioned players that was rumoured to fall out of favour with the club, he usually isn't one to mince words in interviews and is usually very forthcoming with answers. In the Blue Jays' case, sometimes a little too forthcoming.
Lind also spent portions of nine seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, so he's seen many players come and go, many cliques form in the locker room, and many variations of clubhouse dynamics. So he's surely experienced a lot during his time in Major League Baseball.
Right now, it's still the honeymoon phase for the Blue Jays. Barring something like a clubhouse mutiny a la the 2009 Blue Jays, the two times you'll likely only hear things and see articles about clubhouse culture is at the beginning of the season, and the end of the season.
In due time, the focus will shift to the quantifiable results rather than the intangibles that guys like Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson bring to the Blue Jays.
Eventually, we may discover whether Adam Lind was right about the Blue Jays not really changing the clubhouse culture this offseason.
If the team just wins, that will certainly be enough to mask any underlying issues the Blue Jays might have. And if they lose, we'll surely hear about them again.