The Fan's Mike Wilner has stirred the pot quite a bit in the past few days with his revelations that Scott Rolen was particularly unhappy in Toronto and quite vocal about his displeasure.
Considering the fan love the Greatest Blue Jay of All Time had engendered this year, it's a bit of a shock to hear the degree to which Rolen was miserable and the extent to which he shared his feelings amongst his teammates.
Since you asked, here's what we think: If Rolen was unhappy in Toronto for a multitude of reasons (the turf, the city, the country, the organization, the occasional day off, what have you), then it didn't particularly show in his play. Rolen didn't sulk or pout on the field, and went all out in the field and on the basepaths in pretty much every game where he pulled on a Blue Jays jersey.
He dove for balls. He ran out ground balls. He gave up his body on take-out slides. He took the extra base and he kept his head in the game. On that level, we as Jays fans don't have much to complain about.
It's possible that Rolen's grumblings were off-putting in the clubhouse, and players felt as though his complaining led to an erosion of the esprit de corps. We've worked in an office where there are persistent malingerers, and it sucks to have to be around those sorts of people. But given the fact that the team has taken a nose dive since Rolen left, we can't help but feel like his bitching and/or whining wasn't the thing that led to the team's demise.
Rolen carries a reputation as a malcontent, and it shouldn't surprise us that he brought that attitude north of the border. At least we got some players in return (we hope) and freed up some salary.
What's this say about Toronto?
There is something unsettling about the idea that players are looking to get out of Toronto, or avoiding it as a destination.
Long gone are the days when Toronto was the marquee franchise in the league, able to attract the cream of the free agent crop. Because of the lack of profile that the team and the city have south of the 49th parallel, Toronto has slipped backwards into a middle-tier of baseball cities, like Minneapolis, Cleveland, Detroit or Milwaukee. Not places to avoid, but not high on your list of places to be.
Toronto should be up with L.A., Chicago, New York and Boston as one of the most attractive cities, but its diversity and its wealth of cultural offerings are probably somewhat lost on your average American ballplayer with little more than a high school diploma and a sense of entitlement.
Of course, every player who had a list of teams to whom he couldn't be traded over the past decade always included Toronto and Montreal, so this sort of thing isn't new.