Blue Jays hold players' meeting after 2-8 stretch vs. AL East opponents

May 25th, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Blue Jays hope May 25 at Tropicana Field is the pivot point, the date they look back on four months from now and say, “That’s when it all turned around.”

Thursday’s 6-3 loss to the Rays was uglier than the numbers suggest, with Opening Day starter  struggling yet again and the team behind him doing little to help. By the time it ended, the players had seen enough, calling a clubhouse meeting amongst themselves.

With four months to go, the Blue Jays know that a 26-25 record is miles below their own expectations, especially with the rest of the American League East pulling away from them already.

“We got punched right in the face the last 10 days or so,” said manager John Schneider. “You have to understand that, make adjustments and have the right attitude. You have to have the right focus going forward and in talking to the guys and hearing them, it has to happen tomorrow. Yes, it’s a tough division. Yes, it’s a tough team. We’re a good team, too.”

Between Schneider referencing the post-game conversations and the fact that the clubhouse doors, usually flung open soon after the game, were kept shut for longer than usual, it was easy enough to put two and two together.

Team meetings are a regular thing in baseball, especially coming off a 2-8 run through the AL East like the Blue Jays just did. They haven’t just lost games, they’ve strayed far from the brand of clean, fundamentally sound baseball they preached all spring. That new identity has abandoned Toronto, and the players know it’s up to them to find it again.

met with the media soon after Schneider spoke, and he chose to keep the details between he and his teammates, saying that he was not sure how the media knew the meeting had happened. Chapman is a professional, though, and he’s one of the most respected players in that clubhouse for a reason. Like Schneider, the third baseman believes in the importance of players holding one another accountable.

“We’re all grown men here,” Chapman said. “It’s up to us. We’re the ones on the field. Our coaches can’t hold our hands. We have to go out there and find ways to win games. We have to communicate with each other and help try to make each other better. We are a team and we want to win. If we want to win a division or play in the playoffs, it’s up to us to find ways to get back on track. It’s up to nobody else but us.”

Manoah also kept most of the details inside the clubhouse, saying that the Blue Jays simply need to play better and stick together.

Schneider, who was the first out of the clubhouse to meet with the media following the game, also took some of the responsibility upon himself and his fellow coaches.

“When it comes down to us as a staff -- Pete [Walker] as a pitching coach, Guillermo [Martinez] as a hitting coach, me as a manager -- the expectations are put right in front of you,” Schneider said. “There is an urgency that needs to be had in order to meet those expectations. Wins and losses out the window, the last 10 days haven’t been great, and I think the urgency with which those expectations are trying to be achieved is not right there.”

“Expectations” is an important word here. The backdrop of the AL East is important, too. The Blue Jays have a winning record at 26-25, but they sit last in the division as they take off for Minneapolis. This is not a team built to compete for a Wild Card spot, where a bad bounce can quickly flip a series. The expectations are, and should be, to win the division. These past 10 days have turned that into a mountain climb.

“Yes, that’s on me and the players, but ultimately on me,” Schneider continued. “The players are recognizing that, and when the players are calling attention to that, it’s going to hold a lot more weight than any one of our staff members trying to get mad or get in their face. When players recognize it and they see it needs to get better, it will get better.”

It’s time for that to happen, and Thursday’s meeting was the players’ acknowledgement that there’s no time to keep waiting for tomorrow.