Here's how Blue Jays are cultivating a winning mindset

February 13th, 2023

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Being talented enough to compete for a World Series championship and being ready for that moment exist on two entirely different timelines. The Blue Jays have learned this the hard way.

Toronto’s roster is stacked with stars of today and tomorrow, but its 2022 postseason run crumbled in a sudden, shocking way. It’s possible the Blue Jays enter ’23 with even more talent, with this past offseason focused on balancing a roster in need of it, but something else needed to change.

spoke Monday, fresh off his three-year, $33.6 million extension, with the wisdom beyond his 24 years that he’s always had but is expressing more of now.

“We have to learn from our mistakes and learn from our failures,” Bichette said. “As a young team, coming off two full seasons now, we’ve been through a lot. There have been a lot of ups and downs individually and as a team. You have to learn to lose together before you can learn to win, so we need to go out there and learn from what we didn’t do right. Me included, it’s a little bit of maturing as a professional and a person.”

Maturity is a tricky word. When Bichette says he and the Blue Jays are maturing, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was lacking. To win the games Toronto hasn’t won yet, though, this is the secret sauce.

The baseball schedule is unlike any other in North American professional sports. This group will spend nearly every day together between now and November. If all goes well, there could be over 200 total baseball games in front of them.

“That’s what's tough about baseball. It’s tough to not only be a consistent baseball player every day, but it’s tough to be a consistent human every day too,” Bichette said. “We have to show up ready to perform every day. That’s something I think we will all be striving to get better at for as long as our careers go.”

This all aligns with the Blue Jays’ offseason. A roster can always improve, of course, but Toronto has more than enough raw talent to make this work. Instead of clearly raising the ceiling, the Blue Jays have rebranded themselves, trading out some offense for defense while improving their pitching.

Gone are Teoscar Hernández and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., two core players who were faces of this club’s young, boisterous personality. In are and , both of whom have the talent to win a Gold Glove Award in the outfield and slide George Springer over to right, which has to be music to the ears of each pitcher in that clubhouse.

It’s a new approach to the old problem, but after two disappointing ends to seasons with 90-plus wins, it’s what the Blue Jays need.

Manager John Schneider sees this young core and the veteran additions entering the “sweet spot” of maturity. That’s why, on the unofficial “Day One” of camp, he wasn’t particularly concerned with how the players were looking or moving around.

“It’s more what they’re talking about at this point,” Schneider said. “We know what they do on the field, but the conversations and how that’s shifted to a very singular focus on winning -- even early, when guys were here last month -- that’s been cool.”

This is all something that needs to be shown, not told, but the Blue Jays have clearly shifted their focus on the matter. At several points this offseason, with moves like the Brandon Belt signing, Toronto was clearly prioritizing adding a clubhouse presence who had been there and done that. That was part of the allure of Springer years ago.

There are miles to go between here and where the Blue Jays want to be, and with how quickly that 8-1 lead to the Mariners turned into a 10-9 Wild Card loss, it’s understandable if progress is viewed hesitantly. It has to start somewhere, though, and when the next opportunity knocks, the Blue Jays believe they’ll be ready.

“Baseball is always going to continue,” Schneider said. “There’s going to be more crazy games this year, whether it’s Spring Training, regular season or postseason. That’s what keeps you going.”