BOSTON - The Blue Jays arrived at Fenway Park on Friday knowing the division-rival Red Sox needed either a win, or a loss by Tampa Bay, to clinch the American League East.
Veteran Mark DeRosa sat down with TSN.ca on Friday afternoon to discuss when the Jays' season went awry and the changes in the clubhouse culture he envisions for next season.
Below is the transcript of the discussion.
TSN.ca: We've talked a lot about the how's and the why's of the season and where it went wrong. Let's talk about when. You look back at the final game of that June series here, Jose hit the ball off Uehara to tie the game and then there was the way the ninth inning ended and you guys lost and that turned a potential 3-4 road trip off the win streak into a 2-5 trip and it seemed to zap momentum. Is it possible that a game like that is kind of a trigger for where things went negative or is that an over-simplification?
DeROSA: Nah, I mean there are moments you can look to throughout the course of the year. I always go back to the first two weeks of the season. We got off so slow, just put ourselves in such a pessimistic-type attitude where we were expecting things to go wrong. It's just been the tale of many weeks for this team. It's had its moments of playing really great baseball and taking it to some of the best teams and best pitchers in the game and then we've had moments where we've rolled out there and done a lot of things fundamentally wrong and made mental errors that have cost us. I don't want to look back to that game because I think you're referring to the game with Josh Thole at first and there's a situation where I was jammed up with my neck. I think Adam Lind was out of the game with a tight back and Josh Thole's put in a position he's not accustomed to being in. A lot of things contributed to that one day but I just feel like it's been a six-month grind where we've seen flashes of doing things really well but not consistently enough to stay in the race.
TSN.ca: So based on that answer is it an excuse to say it's early? You refer back to early April when the tone was set. You can always recover from a bad two or three week start but looking ahead to next year it sounds like something that you would like to see tidied up?
DeROSA: I think not only Gibby, Alex (Anthopoulos), everyone involved would like to see a lot of things tidied up. Myself included. There's enough blame to go around, no doubt about that. I just think we came out of spring training with such a swagger and such expectations that our balloon got popped real early and we didn't have a stopper at the time to kind of put a tourniquet on the bleeding. (Mark) Buehrle was struggling at the time, (R.A.) Dickey was struggling at the time, we didn't have Ricky (Romero). I mean, there was a lot of things that kind of went into it. The one nice thing, even though it's negatively impacted my season because I was brought in at 38 to kind of be a sounding board and hopefully be a nice piece to a championship team, but if there is a silver lining there have been a lot of young guys come up and do some things that have really helped us. Also, there's been some great personal seasons. What Eddie (Edwin Encarnacion) did was magnificent and he did it for five months. Adam (Lind) got hot and was able to protect him but there were times where he had no protection. (He) had a great year. Colby (Rasmus) has had a great year so there have been some bright spots. Obviously the bullpen was fantastic but collectively I feel like if we want to get to where I feel this team wants to get to then there needs to be a different outlook in spring training.
TSN.ca: That sounds cultural, a culture change.
DeROSA: I think so. That's just my personal belief. I just feel like, and rightfully so, a lot of us, because of the big trades and the big names and bringing a lot of different guys together, I felt like it might have been detrimental if all of a sudden camp was just so regimented when everybody from different organizations is coming in with different ways of getting ready and preparing for the season. I felt Gibby did the right thing by giving us the leeway to prepare ourselves. I don't think we've earned the right to do that again next year so maybe they're a little more involved in spring training. You know what? (As a player,) shut up and do your job. That's kind of where I'm at. I've never been in this situation, trying to play spoiler or play out the string and I know from my point of view, I love being here, I love being in the big leagues, it's a great organization but this ain't what it's about, trying to stop Boston from celebrating on us. So hopefully these guys, I'm sure with their magic number being one, we'll get a chance to see it and maybe it'll digest and maybe it will trigger something.
TSN.ca: At spring training next year, does that mean longer hours on the field or is that mean somebody stepping up and saying, hey, there's a way we've got to go about doing this to get ready for March 31, 2014?
DeROSA: You can't leave anything to chance. I feel like you earn leeway based on performance and we haven't earned that this year. If anything, we've lost that in my eyes. That's how I was raised. If you do good, you get rewarded. If you do bad, you get punished. That being said, I don't see us getting punished in spring but I think an attention to detail will probably be a big priority.
TSN.ca: The Blue Jays and the Toronto Argonauts finalized a deal to extend the Argos' lease at Rogers Centre through 2017. They've got some opt-outs before that. Ultimately the aim here is for the Argonauts to find a new home and for natural grass to be put in the stadium. There are only two stadiums in the game, Toronto's and Tampa Bay's, that have artificial turf. Have you ever spoken to players quietly, or friends you've made around the league, who've kept Toronto at a distance in terms of free agent consideration because of the turf?
DeROSA: No. But, definitely, it's dated now. I think it does more damage. I don't know the scientific studies but I know for me, personally, it's done more damage to my body physically than playing on grass. I think, you know, the game's evolving to the point where there are some guys who can really murder the ball down your throat on that stuff. I just feel like the game was meant to be played on grass. I understand why it was turfed and I get that but I would like to eventually see, if they can maintain it in there, for it to go to grass.
TSN.ca: Being around this team, have you noticed guys have more bumps and bruises than may be typical? Because, Mark, perfect example: the turf has changed since the 80s but the Blue Jays' great outfield of Bell, Moseby and Barfield were all out of the game by 33.
DeROSA: What I notice, for me, is my lower back and knees. You go on the road for a 10-day stretch and you go back there and you give it two or three days of really pounding on it and you feel it. I mean, some guys might love it, I don't know. I certainly enjoy hitting there. I don't know if the numbers justify that. I don't think they do but I enjoy hitting there. I think it's a great ballpark to hit in. The fans have been great, to be honest with you. They really have been great for as much as I feel we've disappointed a lot of people.
I think that's the biggest thing for me, and that's what I'd like, I want the guys on the team and this is just me speaking freely because I don't know the inner makings of how everyone's head's working at a certain time but I would just like everyone to really want to be great, to want to win the AL East and do what it takes to get it done. The talent's here, we've got no one to blame but ourselves. Gibby's done a tremendous job not, I don't want to say not losing the team, but not losing himself because of expectations. I know he's taken the brunt of the fury from the fans and the media and I feel like that's been unfair but that being said, I expect there to be a different mindset next year.
TSN.ca: You're talking about being great as a team, not being individually great?
DeROSA: Not be satisfied to be in the big leagues. Try to go next level. There are a lot of people who care about what we do off the field. I've always tried to remember that. Even the days you don't feel like getting out there and grinding it out and doing all the things you need to do to get ready, you owe it to the people that come to the games and the city that supports you. You owe it to them to give it your best. I feel like we have done that but at the same time we've made a lot of juvenile mistakes that have cost us games.