Steve Simmons Claims Scott Moore Sent Pro-Shapiro / Atkins Memo to Sportsnet Staff

In Steve Simmons' Sunday Notes, which was posted last night, he dropped a rather startling nugget about Sportsnet president Scott Moore. Here's a copy and paste job from the Toronto Sun column.

The next time you hear or read a Rogers media employee making a strong case regarding the job Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins have done, ask yourself this question: Is that their opinion, or are they adhering to company policy? Recently, Sportsnet president Scott Moore sent out a memo to staff which included an ardent defence of the work Shapiro and Atkins have done, all but saying to give the guys a break. Which is basically an insult of sorts to the many professionals who work for him …

This claim is a doozy, so I sought corroboration. I'm friendly with a number of on-air Sportsnet peeps, many of whom have visited my home for episodes of Toronto Mike'd. Here's my tweet.

Almost immediately, Sportsnet employee Damien Cox chimed in to say he received no such memo from Scott Moore.

And early this morning, longtime Fan 590 Program Director Nelson Millman shared his experience with such interference from management.

Simmons' claim is quite serious, but I'll need to see or hear further evidence before I'm convinced. If you have further insight, let me know in the comments, or contact me. I'm more than happy to protect sources.

Update:

I've been in contact with Scott Moore. He's provided a copy of the email in question. He wrote this last Friday in his regular weekly note to all Sportsnet staff. His weekly note is a roundup of what is happening around the network.

The hockey season is literally a couple of weeks away and baseball is finishing up the dog days and heading into the real pennant races.

For the Jays, we always seem to have a dramatic story to tell, and this year is no different. With the Josh Donaldson story playing out in a bizarre way, we once again have an intriguing soap opera to follow. Of course, we are all over every part of this story.

Yesterday, Stephen Brunt was on The Starting Lineup and put much of the current Jays story into perspective (as he often does well). Fans are ready to blame management as they did with the Bautista story. In hindsight, most fans would have to admit management was right on that one.

What's interesting is that the Jays will continue to be a fascinating story over the next 24 months as we get a chance to see how management's strategy plays out. It's not dis-similar to what happened down the street with the Leafs. You have to go through some pain to get to the next chapter. Look at the similarities between having Austin (sic) Matthews and having Vladdy Guerrero Jr. Both may be franchise players to build around. For us, telling all sides of the story is going to be a fun challenge. But it's rarely boring in Jays Land!

Update 2

In this Sunday's column, Steve Simmons has apologized to Scott Moore. Here's what he wrote.

JUMPING THE GUN ON ROGERS MEMO

If I’ve learned anything from all the years doing this, it’s that no matter how clearly you write something, how clearly you express an idea, no matter how obvious it may to be you, someone misinterprets the message or the tone of it. And so it was when Rogers Sportsnet president Scott Moore sent a memo to staff recently, as he regularly does.

The memo was seemingly harmless, if not a little on the cheerleader side. But that’s not what I was told about it from various Rogers staff members, some of whom were concerned that Moore was coaching them to treat the Blue Jays front office with kid gloves. Taking their view of the memo and asking some of the most credible people I know at Sportsnet about it, I wrote an item in last week’s column questioning why Moore would do that and wondering about the editorial freedom of those who report on the Jays at Sportsnet.

Then I saw the memo. And I saw nothing it in at all that drove coverage or opinion in any one direction.

While I may quibble with Moore comparing Auston Matthews and the current state of the Maple Leafs to the rebuild the Blue Jays are beginning with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. there was nothing in the note to staff that I thought, in any way, influenced the direction of coverage.

Apologies to the good people at Rogers — many of whom are friends and colleagues — and to the president Moore, whose words were misinterpreted here.


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Comments (24 - click here to join in!)

Rob J

"All but saying give the guys a break" gives way too much leeway. Unless we know the exact directive (if any), this is yet another Rorschach Test on Simmons, Sportsnet, the Jays' front office, and the ghost of AA. Why doesn't Simmons use an exact quote if he's seen the alleged memo? (Disclaimer: I don't really care but do find this story of interest).

September 9, 2018 @ 12:35 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Rob J

I just added the exact quote from the memo in question to the entry above.

September 9, 2018 @ 12:58 PM

Horn

Scott. Important to spell franchise players’ names correctly. “Auston” Matthews.

September 9, 2018 @ 1:01 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

Here's a statement from Scott Moore. Once again, I'm just copying and pasting from his email to me earlier today.

Telling “all sides of the story” is always our goal. We have a number of different opinions on our platforms that do just that. From Bob McCown to Stephen Brunt to Shi Davidi to Ben Nicholson Smith to Arden Zwelling to Kevin Barker to Joe Siddall to Buck Martinez.

We have the largest baseball editorial staff in the country, representing all points of view. All of them have full editorial freedom.

September 9, 2018 @ 1:28 PM

Kudos

Great reporting, Mike!

September 9, 2018 @ 1:39 PM

Steve

Simmons is such a joke. How he got that from this email is Bonkers. Shame people still read him. This is Marty York level bad.

September 9, 2018 @ 2:10 PM

Rob J

Thanks for adding the Moore quote! Simmons definitely seemed to read more into it than I would have.

September 9, 2018 @ 2:57 PM

Rob J

The craziest sports-media story in MLB this year, though, has to be the Detroit Tigers' TV duo getting into a scrap (the words 'choked from behind' were in the report) leading to both being sent home for the remainder of the season.

September 9, 2018 @ 3:29 PM

Anonymous

Does Simmons still appear on TSN 1050? I have notice over the years when he make a comment on Sportsnet I don't recall him ever mentioning that that he appears on TSN radio for which I assume that he was / is paid for.

Rob J. comment sums it up best "Simmons definitely seemed to read more into it than I would have.".

September 9, 2018 @ 4:26 PM

Kevin W

Simmons also claimed that Shapiro was writing articles for The Athletic as Andrew Stoeten, which is still incredibly funny.

September 9, 2018 @ 4:35 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Kevin W

In Steve's defense, that was a joke. He was suggesting Stoeten's articles were so favourable to Shapiro, it's as if Shapiro himself were writing him.

Stoeten's coming over soon, so it'll be fun to get his take on that one.

@Anonymous

Yes, Steve has worked for and continues to works for TSN. So, his reporting on Sportsnet is not unbiased. And yes, that's a double negative.

September 9, 2018 @ 4:43 PM

But is it

re: Steve: "Simmons is such a joke. How he got that from this email is Bonkers. Shame people still read him. This is Marty York level bad."

But is it Howard "Auston Matthews is easily replaceable" Burger bad?

September 9, 2018 @ 4:50 PM

Anonymous

Hey Mike, has Steve Simmons responded yet? Just wondering if he's still defending his take on this. Thanks for getting to the bottom of it so quickly.

September 9, 2018 @ 7:15 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

I wrote Steve early this morning but haven't received a reply yet.

September 9, 2018 @ 7:47 PM

Rob J

His Sunday-notes column is still a weekly must-read (and I get it the old-fashioned way by paying for it). I wonder if that format gives him extra leeway to go beyond strict reporting/analysis standards to indulge in commentary that might not be supported by an entire column. Surely he knew his 'observation' would stir up a hornet's nest on a lazy Sunday, and based on his recent past (the hot dog scandal, flippantly writing "and hey, whatever happened to" plane crash victim Alexander Karpovtsev, wishing 'happy birthday' to the late Mike Sharperson, getting trades mixed up with free agent signings), I doubt he cares about the reaction. Either that, the Sun's editors may or not be on the ball...or even exist at this point.

September 9, 2018 @ 8:07 PM

John

Yes, Steve Simmons would be wise to have an editor (or at least a better one!).

September 9, 2018 @ 9:38 PM

Jonathan J Giggs

I don't see "ardent defence" in the Scott Moore memo, or the "all but give the guys a break" either. Glad that Mike was provided with the actual memo so that we are not relying on Simmons' uncorroborated version.

September 9, 2018 @ 10:36 PM

Joey Wasaga

Simmons use to be a must Sunday read...in the past few years he has become a 'must I read ?'

September 10, 2018 @ 5:23 AM

Patrick

I'm sure despite the claims saying there has never been any specific orders that everyone within the Rogers empire knows there are certain limits as to how far those working there can go.

That said, I have no clue where Simmons is getting the idea of orders in said memo unless he's got a special decoder ring or tinfoil hat that is giving up those messages the rest of us don't see.

September 10, 2018 @ 10:19 AM

Urooj Islam

Simmons is party right, that is a pretty favourable portrayal of the Shapiro/Atkins tenure so far and moving forward. They did not sign Vlad Guerrero Jr. or have anything to do with him being in the organization, Alex Anthopoulos did.

Plus, if you're going to give them the benefit of the doubt for a rebuild over the next couple of years then you should be able to ask questions about if a rebuild is being implemented correctly. The Leafs spent years remaking their roster before they were even in a position to land Matthews, the Blue Jays on the other hand actually expected to contend a few months ago, then let all their assets diminish in value (Donaldson, Happ, Osuna, etc.) then started a half assed rebuild when they had no choice.

Moore's obvious implication that his employees basically have to root on the rebuild like they are fans instead of asking questions about it is alarming.

September 10, 2018 @ 12:50 PM

Rob J

@Urooj Islam

Gotta say how much I appreciate your well-thought-out perspective on the Toronto sports scene!

September 10, 2018 @ 8:42 PM

Bob Canuck

@ Urooj Islam,

The Leafs did not spend years remaking their roster before landing Matthews. After Shanahan was hired in 2014, the Leafs played out the 2014-2015 season with few significant roster moves. Before the 2015-2016 season started, Kessel was traded; Phaneuf was traded before the end of that season. Matthews was drafted in 2016. The sunstantial remaking of the roster occurred just one season before Matthews was drafted.

I agree that the Blue Jays did not maximize the trade value of Donaldson, Happ, and Osuna. However, the Jays have been in a largely, under-the-radar rebuild since Shapiro and Atkins have been on the Toronto scene. They have not traded mid-tier or better prospects; Shapiro-Atkins have acquired prospects (e.g., Teoscar Hernández) and younger players (e.g., Randal Grichuk); they have ventured into the international market (Lourdes Guriel Jr., Eric Pardinho, Orelvis Martinez, et al); they have not added any significant long-term contracts; and, according to independent agencies, under Shapiro-Atkins the team’s farm system has improved from a mid-tier ranking to at least a Top-5 rating. All these moves are consistent with a team in a rebuild and is strong evidence that a rebuild has been underway since the 2015 season.

With respect to your comment, “Moore's obvious implication that his employees basically have to root on the rebuild like they are fans instead of asking questions” is not a reasonable interpretation of Moore’s email. He specifically said in the memo, which was provided by Toronto Mike, “For us, telling all sides of the story is going to be a fun challenge”. I don’t think it is remotely reasonable to interpret “telling all sides of the story” as rooting on the rebuild.

September 12, 2018 @ 2:23 PM

Rob J

I'm sure others saw this too, but Steve today admits in his notes column that the memo "was seemingly harmless" and shot off his mouth about it before even reading it. He apologized to Moore and "the good people at Rogers"

September 16, 2018 @ 12:39 PM

Former Employee

Mike Wilner got in trouble for appropriately questioning moves made by Cito Gaston. Similar moves made by Gibbons have not been questioned in a similar manner, by anyone under the Rogers umbrella.

Jerry Howarth was suddenly taking time off after being critical of Jose Reyes. This is before Reyes' off-field troubles.

Bottom line is post-Millman Fan 590 has been under the controls of Moore (and Pelley while he was there). Simmons probably had contact with a longtime employee and embellished the note. Make no mistake; Rogers is all about protecting their brand and everyone is on the same team.

September 17, 2018 @ 7:58 AM

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