Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Age aside, Bichette, Biggio providing leadership

@KeeganMatheson
February 18, 2020

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The value of clubhouse leadership is an unmeasurable metric in the great measured game of baseball. At times it's a buzzword, and other times it tips a team from defeat to victory, but rarely in quantifiable ways. The clearest example from the Blue Jays' 2019 season came

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The value of clubhouse leadership is an unmeasurable metric in the great measured game of baseball. At times it's a buzzword, and other times it tips a team from defeat to victory, but rarely in quantifiable ways.

The clearest example from the Blue Jays' 2019 season came in late September, when Bo Bichette took a pitch off the brim of his helmet in Baltimore and later left the game with a concussion. Veteran first baseman Justin Smoak cornered Bichette in the dugout and made it clear to the rookie that he wouldn't impress anyone by toughing it out if he didn't feel right.

"I'm thankful that Smoak came up and said that to me, especially as the veteran voice," Bichette said soon after in New York. "Telling me to go say something, that kind of gave me the OK, I guess."

Now, Smoak and so many other veterans are gone. This Blue Jays team belongs, in every way, to the kids. Signing veteran pitchers like Hyun-Jin Ryu and Tanner Roark was done with their competitive window in mind, and the depth moves around them have been made with the goal of supporting or empowering the young core in Year 2.

That "veteran voice" will come from other places now, with more experienced pitchers in the rotation and players like Travis Shaw and Joe Panik joining the infield picture, but it's also the kids' turn. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will lead quietly and by example, something that should expand as the year goes on, but Bichette and Cavan Biggio have a particular balance of leadership styles up the middle.

"Biggio is more outspoken than Bo is," said manager Charlie Montoyo. "They both play the game the right way, which is beautiful, that's part of being a leader. But Biggio, in the clubhouse, he speaks more than Bo does. They are a little bit different when it comes to that, but when it comes to how they play, they're the same."

Bichette's all-effort style sets the attitude for this Blue Jays team, much like Josh Donaldson did at his peak in Toronto. Bichette will be the player that Blue Jays fans love, and rival fans love to hate.

Biggio, like Montoyo says, has already been vocal when needed, whether it be in group settings or with individual teammates. Understanding these clubhouse dynamics so early in their career can be linked, fairly directly, to their MLB bloodlines. Sure, they were rookies in 2019, but they knew how this ecosystem operated.

The confidence required for these roles should show on the field, too, the organization expects. The biggest variable standing between the Blue Jays and a competitive season is the sophomore jump -- or slump -- of their young positional core.

This means different things for different players. For Guerrero, it means getting his body right and putting the ball in the air. For Bichette, it means adjusting to pitchers who now have a target on him as one of the game's best young offensive shortstops.

Biggio, on the other hand, had the line of the day when asked about how he'll avoid a sophomore slump. Just like Bichette, he doesn't think this is all about the Blue Jays adjusting to the league. It's also about the league adjusting to them and their talent.

"Have you heard of the Madden Curse, too?" Biggio asked. "I think Patrick Mahomes didn't really care too much about that. I don't worry about those type of things. I just look forward to dominating each day and try to get better every day, and when games start, going out there and playing the hardest."

Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.