John Schneider believes ‘uncomfortable’ off-season will help Blue Jays

Manager dishes on his ‘hardest’ off-season yet, moving on from gutting wild card loss

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DUNEDIN, Fla. — In the immediate aftermath of a playoff game that will stick with him for as long as he’s in baseball, Blue Jays manager John Schneider had a steady stream of players stop by for words.

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Some were understanding, joining in the lament that he was dealing with external pressures when he lifted Jose Berrios from a game he was dominating in the fourth inning. Others wondered pointedly what the bleep had just gone down.

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And still others on that October evening in Minneapolis were sharing a shoulder to commiserate with the most gutting of defeats after a game that mirrored much of what had gone wrong during the regular season.

“That will suck for my whole life, to be honest with you,” Schneider said during an interview with the Toronto Sun, rueing the loss and the decision that played a role in the fateful conclusion. “This is the only team I’ve ever been a part of and all I want to do is win a World Series here.

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“A lot of attention gets thrown at taking Jose out early and I wish I had pivoted differently. But having those guys come in (to talk about it), I think we’ve landed in such a good spot.

“It was my first (full) year and I was learning on the fly a little bit. But when they’re saying, ‘What’s up?’ it’s just important for them to understand that with all the information we’re privy to every decision is mine.”

On a recent quiet morning at the Jays player development complex, Schneider is relaxed during a half-hour chat, one that touches on many bases with a team that made the playoffs the previous two years, but still feels like an underachieving disappointment.

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In front of us on Field 2 of the vast Jays training grounds, batting practice is taking place and the 44-year-old manager is both reflective and brutally honest not just about the aftermath of Game 2 in Minnesota, but the pushes and pulls tied to being a manager in the big leagues.

George Springer of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts to a wild pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the seventh inning in Game 2 of their AL Wild Card Series at Target Field on Oct. 4, 2023, in Minneapolis.
George Springer of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts to a wild pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the seventh inning in Game 2 of their AL Wild Card Series at Target Field on Oct. 4, 2023, in Minneapolis. Photo by Adam Bettcher /Getty Images

Though he was not entirely to blame — remember, his players with bats in their hands scored just one run in the two games of that deflating series — Schneider wore it, part of the job description he learned the hard way in 2023.

“It took some uncomfortable conversations between me and everybody,” Schneider said. “The first month and a half of the off season before we get into what we did good, it was, ‘Let’s talk about the things we need to flush out. What do you guys need from me? Here’s what I need from you.’ That’s the only way you get better.

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“This job is hard. I respect the fact that I have it. I respect the fact that you can have open, awkward, tough conversations with the entire front office. And when you don’t have them, you’re going to repeat the s—ty things that do happen.”

That’s not to say that any of it was easy.

Schneider, remember, took the brunt of the blame from many irate fans, a sentiment that was exacerbated by the perception that general manager Ross Atkins threw him under the bus with his post-season comments.

“In this day and age, a lot of blame goes on me or the organization, which is the nature of the beast,” Schneider said. “I’m not by any means blaming the players. But we had to take a hard look in the mirror — up and down, from everyone involved with the team — and ask ourselves what we need to do (to get better.)”

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Moving forward was essential, however. Schneider’s reputation in the clubhouse — so critical during a 162-game season — depended on it. After just his first full season as a big-league manager, lessons were learned, but fences were in need of mending.


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“At the time, was it tough?” Schneider said. “Yeah, it was the hardest off-season for me just trying to make sure everyone was on board. You’re trying to sort things out with the way things are communicated because you care so much.

“It could have gone one of two ways. I tried my hardest to communicate with the guys in the off-season that this is how it’s going to be and you guys can trust me on this.”

Schneider is a perceptive dude who is also a straight shooter. His personality has its old-school baseball side, but he’s savvy and progressive in his approach to the new-age requirements of the job.

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“Having (players) come in(to spring training) with the mindset they’ve come in with is just so refreshing because they’re looking forward to this year,” he said.

“We’re still a really damn good team. I think having that approach is great. What we have fallen into, or at least we did last year, was kind of just waiting for it to turn or wait for it to happen. I think players are ahead of this year. It’s not going to be perfect every day, but when things don’t go well it’s going to be, ‘How are we going to get it back on track?’ and there’s going to need to be a sense of urgency.”

True to himself and his reputation he had as a manager moving up the ranks of the Jays’ farm system — where he guided many of the players on the current roster through their formative pro years — Schneider has their back, even if it means he gets a little bloodied in the process.

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“As a manager or a coach or a general manager, if you’re pointing fingers at the players … I’d much rather take the blame,” Schneider said. “It just sucks that it happened with this group. Yeah, they are performers and they’re athletes and they’re paid a ton of money to play, but I’m just as invested with this group as they are with each other.

“Getting dragged through the mud or going through some rough conversations to end up here where we are today, that’s why I’m excited to get the season going.

“The way the last two years ended sucked, but baseball starts again.”

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jose Berrios waits with shortstop Bo Bichette as manager John Schneider walks toward the mound.
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jose Berrios, right, waits with shortstop Bo Bichette as manager John Schneider (14) walks toward the mound to make a pitching change during the fourth inning of Game 2 of an AL wild card baseball playoff series against the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in Minneapolis. Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn /The Associated Press


“I love where the guys are,” Schneider said. “There’s absolutely no reason to sit here and think about last year.

“You get better the most when you’ve been through s—. That’s why I love that it’s a lot of the same guys (on the roster as last season.) I can say to them, ‘I’m still me, you’re still you. Expectations change, but at the end of the day it’s just still me trying to do what’s best for you guys.

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“Where I’ve arrived with the guys is you go into a year thinking you know everything you need to know but you get taught something new every day.”


The infamous season-ending press conference from GM Atkins became a flashpoint for the coming months didn’t bother Schneider. In fact, he didn’t feel Atkins placed an undue amount of blame on him.

“Ross and I talked before he even said anything and I know now much more than before I got this gig how things can sound,” Schneider said. “It didn’t bother me. I was more concerned about the players, giving them space and reeling them back in and saying ‘let’s not forget about the good things that we did and let’s get better in the things that didn’t.”

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