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If it isn’t clear to the casual listener of the Fan 590 by now, then allow me to elucidate: the fan at the the fan 590 has become a object of derision to be admonished, humiliated, berated and insulted. This sports “news” station has vigorously defended one of the worst managed teams in baseball for close to two decades and now has the gall to mock and berate fans for their anger and cynicism towards not only the team but the media outlet principally responsible for reporting on it. Whether these fans are being reasonable or not is besides the point. The Fan 590 has this coming for practicing for years the worst kind of journalism, infomercialism — so much so that it’s quite common now to hear Jays fans call in and complain about the lack of objectivity of the talk show hosts and reporters.
Elliott Friedman defended the accused hosts by pointing out how hard it is to get and keep those jobs in radio and television (which may have been the most honest thing I’ve heard on that station). Bob McCown calls it homerism and claims that this is common in stations that carry the games. It’s not and in fact, most sports journalists will tell you they hate homers. In Boston last year, at the mere hint that the Red Sox owners were going to lower payroll, every baseball writer in the city went ape shit. Stephen Brunt, after being accused by Simon Houpt of the Globe and Mail of doing a puff piece about the Dominican players on the Jays that was aired on Sportsnet, responded to the accusation with an anecdote, in an apparent defense of his journalistic credibility, from his time working at the Globe during which an editor had forced him to change a story about a political figure he was writing a story on. So.. let me try to wrap my head around this: Brunt is defending his journalistic integrity by pointing out how he compromised his journalistic integrity at the Globe when asked to and apparently did and said nothing about it at the time? The defense rests.
The most laughable notion circulating of late is how talk show host Bob McCown at the Fan 590 is one of the few journalists who actually speaks his mind. Well, please, let’s go back and take a listen to his interviews of Paul Beeston the summer before last when the Jays fan base was in a lather about the payroll. If those interviews weren’t slow pitch with the Budweiser girls, I don’t know what is. But then they, the journalists, argue that you have to build relationships with people, people you might want to interview for an article or bring on a show. You can’t go around burning everyone you report on right? I get these arguments and you know what… fuck that. The fans don’t owe you a fucking career. You want to be a journalist be a fucking journalist. You want to be a cheerleader like the bearded lady freak show over at the Score buy some pompoms and a boob job. And stop telling the fans what they should think or feel about their team. It isn’t just 8 and 11… Its 20 years plus 8 and 11 and counting for the Jays. Jesus Christ, I could write an entire playbook of all the hackneyed excuses the hosts at the Fan use over the course of a Jays losing season. You want to act like a tough minded journalist, stop giving Beeston and Rogers management reach arounds every time they walk into your studio.
But more importantly, I implore you good people at the Fan 590, do us all a favor and stop trying to sell us baseball. If you want to sell something pick something useful like ginzu knives, lawn mowers or attachments at the end of the vacuum cleaner that cut your hair. Baseball like poetry accomplishes nothing. It can’t be sold. It’s supposed to be beautiful. Stop your tie-ins and your cross promotions. Stop embedding commercials in the middle of the play by play radio broadcasts of the games. Take your synergies and shove them up your collective asses. Don’t turn my game, this wonderful game of baseball, into an infomercial for the Rogers brand. Please…
You would think that the PR guys at Sportsnet would at least consider the potential pitfalls of a strategy which has seen the decimation of the Blue Jays much vaunted farm system but no… Its all hands on deck selling AA’s moves. I wrote earlier that this was coming albeit I thought it was going to be one signing of questionable significance. Wilner was at his public relations best the other night arguing that if this fails we’ll just rebuild the farm system like it was nothing to build in the first place. This after all the endless rhetoric about how its better to build through the farm like the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers. Anthopoulos is claiming he bought a 3 to 5 year window… Horseshit… He bought a 1 year window… Josh Johnson is gone next year… Dickey has a year left and so does Buehrle… Want to see how a franchise should be run look at the Rays. They sold in a sellers market and picked up Yunel Escobar for next to nothing… Brilliant. Rays will win East this year.
Has anyone ever built up and then gutted a farm system in this way in a single off season? He’s overpaid in every way possible but it’s a sellers market. If he succeeds, what he’s done here will go down in baseball history and he’ll cement himself as one of the game’s great general managers. It’ll be a paradigm shift in team development. If not, he’s going to come out of this looking like a complete fool and he’ll take down Beeston with him. More importantly, it’ll be another two decades in the wilderness for Blue Jays fans. This is as high stakes as it can get in baseball and completely unnecessary, but here we go… brace yourselves.
Maybe the Marlins trade wasn’t so bad after all.. Kansas just paid huge for 2 years of Shields… market is haywire…
I made the mistake in an earlier post in suggesting that David Shields could be had for Henderson Alvarez believing that there was only 1 year left of team control. Well I was mistaken, there’s 2. Now there are many who believe he’ll be traded. Let’s speculate for a moment what it would take to pry 2 years of Shields out of Tampa instead of the 1 year of Josh Johnson. I think Alvarez, Nicolino, and one of Marisnick, Hechevarria, or Escobar does the trick. Let’s assume it’s Escobar since they just traded for him. So now we have Shields, a bona fide number 1 American League East tested for 2 years and we have 176 million left to spend. That money can get you or most of the way towards Hamilton and Edwin Jackson. Edwin Jackson is a younger just as durable innings eater as Buehrle with more upside. Hamilton is a beast at the plate and together with Encarnacion and Bautista would compose the best middle three in the league. Hamilton was also a fantastic athlete not long ago who can still play center field if he had to. Putting Hechevarria at short gives you better defence there than Reyes and we still have Marisnick left to package in a trade. Reyes’ defense declined significantly last year, which is probably the most disturbing part of the trade. So 2 years of Shields instead of 1 Josh Johnson, 7 or so years of Hamilton (2 or 3 mvp caliber) instead of fake Gucci Cabrera, 3 or 4 of Jackson (I could be way off on Jackson) instead of Buehrle for about the same as what we got in the Marlin trade, gold glove in Hechevarria instead of future second baseman in Reyes. Still think it’s a good trade?
The Blue Jays franchise have gone from cheap to stupid. I suppose I really shouldn’t complain since I’ve been berating Rogers for their unwillingness to spend and take the kinds of risks this deal exemplifies, but the 12 player deal between the Blue Jays and the Marlins makes almost no sense on paper. After two decades of preaching and practicing middle class providence, the team has reinvented itself, in baseball’s version of Extreme Makeover, into a Gatsby-esque free spending flash merchant, buying up every cheap and gaudy trinket the market has to offer. And the fan base is positively gushing with optimism. I suppose it’s to be expected considering how we were for so long window shoppers mad at you New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. But what is it that we’ve bought and perhaps more importantly, what does this trade say about the state of the franchise?
One way to look at the trade would be to question the wisdom of trading for two players that just as well could have been had the year before by signing them as free agents. Now there’s no way to know whether the Blue Jays would have been able to sign Buehrle and Reyes as free agents or how much it would have cost them (they’d have had to outbid the Marlins just because of the tax implications) but if we assume hypothetically that we could have signed these two players last year, then we effectively traded Hechevarria, Escobar, Marisnick, Alvarez, Nicolino and D’Escalfino for one year of Josh Johnson. I think one year of David Shields could be had for Alvarez straight up maybe, Alvarez + Escobar absolutely.
And who did we get in Josh Johnson? It isn’t the Josh Johnson of 2010. Last year, his velocity was down, his whip was up, his strikeouts were down, his walks were up… you get the picture. He’s a also a pitcher who didn’t have his shoulder problems of 2011 surgically repaired.
Let’s look at it from the Marlins perspective. Sure Loria is a dickhead. But they’ve re-stocked their farm system and added to their roster with high upside guys: a top ten shortstop in Escobar; a defensive whiz in Hechevarria; a five tool uber athletic outfielder in Marisnick; a guy with a 95 mph sinker in Alvarez; and the best lefty in our system in Nicolino. And guess what, the Marlins could conceivably go out and spend the money they save on Reyes and Buehrle and sign comparable talent two years from now when the young players they added in this trade makes them competitive again.
We took on the riskiest long term contract out there in Jose Reyes. Here’s a guy who has the worst injury history of all the players that have signed $100 m + contracts perhaps ever. He’s also a player who generates much of his value from his legs and that can disappear with even a nagging injury. With all their talk about not wanting to be tied down to long terms contracts, what do they do? They go out and trade for the contract that is most likely to become that kind of contract.
Mark Buehrle is a solid durable pitcher who’s turning 34 years old next year. You can go out and get a Mark Buehrle in trade or free agency for much less than what we paid.
We bought same fake Gucci in Melky Cabrera at factory Gucci prices.
I’ve been clamouring for a deal like this but this is not the deal I imagined. We didn’t get value in this trade and there’s a good possibility—I would even say probability—that this deal turns into an epic fail by mid-season next year.
If Reyes is such a prize that we’re willing to give up half the farm for, why didn’t we go after him in free agency last year. This only makes sense when you look at it from the perspective that Rogers put pressure on Blue Jays management to try to build on gains made this year with an emerging fan base in Toronto and pushed him to make a splash to show fans that they’re willing to invest in the team. What’s wrong with this? You simply can’t run a professional baseball team this way. You can’t tell a team you have x budget and run the team one way and then turn around the next year and force them to spend y regardless of what the market is because you’re worried that you’re going to lose fans. If the Blue Jays franchise received market value for their rights fees like every other team in the league, management could implement a long term plan developing players while also finding value in the market, not shying away from long term investments.
This seems like a desperate move, a last ditch effort on Beeston’s part to make good on his promises and push back the growing voices of discontent. The franchise is listing and it’ll be a merciful turn of events when they have to bring on new management to steer this ship.
Based on this trade, here are my predictions for next year (I should warn you. I’m psychic):
Let’s start with the Marlins.
1. Yunel Escobar plays shortstop for the National League all-star team. The douche bags at Sportsnet basically burned this asset for us because they wanted to go to war with the Latin American idiom. We basically got nothing in this trade for an affordable top 10 shortstop.
2. Henderson Alvarez: 15-12, 200 + innings, 3.10 era, whip 1.2
3. Marisnick: Triple AAA! Up for a look the year after.
4. Justin Nicolino: Double AA baby! Starting rotation of playoff Marlins in 4 years.
5. D’Escalfino: I don’t even know if I’m spelling this name correctly and I’m too lazy to check!
6. Adeiny Hechevarria: Who’s playing second for the Marlins? Gold Glove the year after.
7. I have no idea what the Marlins have on the farm and who’ll be replacing Johnson, Sanchez and Buehrle on the rotation but it’s safe to assume this team will be young and bad. But they’ve been through this before and they just received a motherload in prospects in what was essentially a salary dump.
1. Jose Reyes: .270 BA, .330 OBP, 10 HRs, 15 SBs, 110 games played
2. Josh Johnson: Blows out elbow and then starts barbershop quartet with Drew Hutchinson, Kyle Drabek, and Luis Rivera called the Four Tendons.
3. Mark Buehrle: 150 innings of ho hum… Sits out 10 starts because he injures his hand punching Brett Lawrie in the face after Lawrie tries to steal first base to lead off a game. Afterward, Greg Brady will proclaim Buehrle is the greatest veteran presence in the clubhouse ever in any sport of any era and of course, use the opportunity to stick it to Omar Vizquel one last time!
4. Alex Anthopoulos will be relieved of his duties by year’s end. In 2014, he’ll either own a Greek restaurant on the Danforth called Homer’s or work as a scout for his good friend Billy Bean, or perhaps he’ll do both.
5. After he relieves Alex of his duties, Beeston will start the search for his own replacement. We’ll honour his service to the city and the franchise, as we well should. I would hope he would get it in his head to write a biography and explain what really went on over his second tenure. None of it makes much sense to be honest.
6. Greg Zaun will be charged for assaulting a young sabermetrician in a bar fight. As part of his plea agreement, the judge will insist that Zaun not use the words “old school” and the phrase “playing the game the right way” in his radio analysis for a period of 2 years.
7. The Blue Jays will be better than the Marlins… but not by much.
In recent shows, both Greg Brady and Bob McCown have come out and blamed the lockout on the players. McCown went so far as to suggest that the owners should break the union. Brady and his guest, Doug McLean, called the players stupid basically and depicted the players as dupes of Donal Fehr. Demonizing Donald Fehr is the basis of the strategy to sway public opinion against the players. Now if I was hockey player, I would make a note a mental black book listing all the journalists and talk show hosts that sell out the players during this lockout. Brady apparently doesn’t think that all those players that came on his show over the last couple of years to break the dull drone of his commentary with some content worth listening to was worth paying back. Can’t see his show lasting too long without any hockey players coming on.
This offseason will be one of the most lively in the history of this franchise and if nothing else, should prove to be entertaining. What we are witnessing presently is jockeying on both sides of a debate as the season comes to a close. So what are the sides? On one extreme is Wilner’s prozac and lithium fueled commentary and prognostications that describes the current roster as being poised to take the next step towards contention while viewing the miseries of the current season as the product of injuries primarily. Though not as extreme but firmly in the same camp would be Andrew Stoeten (Drunk Jays Fan) and a handful of other blogger types. Stoeten qualifies his arguments so as to avoid the appearance of obscene bias but for the most part he’s singing Carmen Ohio like he’s got records to sell. I’d throw Jeff Blair and Bob McCown (the Fan 590) in there as well, whose softball interviews of Paul Beeston belong in the Pap Hall of Fame alongside Monika Deol’s Much Music sidewalk teeny bopper interview segments, Milli Vanilli and non-alcoholic beer substitutes. On the other side are the “independent” newspaper writers that have largely been critical of management since the offseason. The latest writer to voice his displeasure, Steve Buffery, was the target recently of a drunken bordering on crackhead without his crack rant by Stoeten. These two groups mark the divide in a debate that will invariably erupt this offseason beginning with the Winter meetings.
Now I know this is somewhat off topic but I should the opportunity here to define what “independence” means in the media. It doesn’t necessarily mean free of any perceived influence or bias arising from the association, sponsorship or employment by an institution. Writing of your own volition, like myself, on the Web does not make you independent necessarily. The newspaper baseball writers are “independent” because they have the security of being employed by a large, well financed publication that upholds certain journalistic and broader cultural values and principles, and provide a degree of professional security, much like tenure does in the universities. This has become even more important as Rogers and Bell now own a stranglehold over both the sports content in this city and its distribution. It is going to be ever more difficult for sports journalists to speak against ownership and management of the professional teams in this city. You might want to take note of how Sportsnet and TSN frame the coverage of the NHL lockout especially as it grows increasingly more acrimonious and the PR war heats up between the owners and the players.
“I’d throw Blair and McCown in there as well, whose softball interviews of Paul Beeston belong in the Pap Hall of Fame alongside Monika Deol’s Much Music sidewalk teeny bopper interview segments, Milli Vanilli and non-alcoholic beer substitutes.”
Their independence also rests on the fact that newspapers convey their ideas using the written word to a largely literate (and educated) audience, the last bastion of newspaper readers really. The Fan590 by comparison and Sportsnet generally are moving their marketing towards a younger demographic segment, which would explain the insertion and heavy marketing behind Tim and Sid in the afternoon slot behind Bob McCown. It is this younger segment that has largely accounted for the increase in attendance this year at the Sky Dome and the considerable bump in television ratings. Rogers’ acquisition of the Score has expedited this strategy and marks a significant step towards the papification or Tim and Sidification of sports journalism. Why? The main reason is that this generation’s younger demographic, to whom Tim and Sid overwhelmingly appeal to, is the latest casualty of a public education system that has failed to develop literate minds capable of critical thinking, an oversimplification perhaps but largely true. This group responds to tactile, mindlessly repeated “buzz” words, which was in the case of the Blue Jays marketing push this season the word “buzz,” modeled after advertising campaigns and pop culture programming. The buzz motif was clearly intended for a younger audience. The odd thing about it was that they had these septuagenarian baby boomers like Bob McCown and Stepehen Brunt delivering it, attempting awkwardly to add intellectual credibility to what was little more than a mindless slogan.
The overarching strategy then is to move the focus away from cantankerous baby boomer baseball fans who won’t sit idly by while the “media” feed them asinine arguments about why they aren’t spending money on free agents, to a younger generation that hasn’t been jaded by 19 years of futility and who really don’t read enough of the newspapers to understand an argument that can cut through the cognitive opacity of a word like “buzz.” If you’re seeing a conflicting signals from the fan base, this is reason. It isn’t the rational and against paranoid, the cynical vs. the hopeful, or the informed vs. the uninformed as Mike Wilner (Fan 590), among others, have tried to frame it. It’s young vs. old, a generational conflict largely playing itself out on the one issue of payroll. You’ll note the generational composition of the management team, Beeston for the Boomers and Anthopoulos for the younger emerging audience segment.
If you’re seeing a conflicting signals from the fan base, this is reason. It isn’t the rational and against paranoid, the cynical vs. the hopeful, or the informed vs. the uninformed as Mike Wilner, among others, have tried to frame it. It’s young vs. old, a generational conflict largely playing itself out on the one issue of payroll.
The implications of this conflict for the future of this franchise cannot be overstated. The strategy that we have been witness to since Beeston took over is not a baseball strategy but a business one, come down from Rogers, devised by marketing experts, accountants and business consultants largely. The authors of this strategy, in other words, is not Paul Beeston nor is it Alex Anthopoulos. Rogers hired Beeston and his good name in this city to effectively entrench a low payroll regime and sell it to the fan base. Anthopoulos himself has been heavily marketed as a young sabermetrics weilding, “prodigy” general manager who can build winning teams without money. This strategy is top-down, highly coordinated, driven by marketing and public relations. The last priority in Rogers’ strategy for this franchise is winning, not because they don’t want to win necessarily but because winning is merely one factor among many that will determine the profitability of what is for them nothing more than another revenue stream.
“Rogers hired Beeston and his good name in this city to effectively entrench a low payroll regime and sell it to the fan base.”
Central to this overarching strategy is risk aversion, which comes in the form management’s public refusal to sign players to contracts longer than 5 years. If you have the money, and the Blue Jays generate more than enough revenue for the parent company to justify long term contracts, this rule makes absolutely no rational sense whatsoever in baseball terms. (It makes even less sense to keep speaking about it publicly.) Of course, those defending current management for not signing certain free agents have consistently argued that these players did not want to sign here. Did it ever occur to them that these players might not want to sing here because the president of the franchise repeatedly comes out publicly to inform the baseball world that the team won’t sign players to long term contracts, which is tantamount to saying that your franchise is unwilling to sign the most talented, the most proven and productive players who are typically entering their prime years? If you’re a player interested in winning, why would you want to come play here? And why precisely is Beeston against long term contracts? Beeston was himself instrumental in innovating the long term contract in professional baseball when in 1985 the Toronto Blue Jays signed Dave Stieb to a ten year contract, the richest in league history, that by its conclusion was viewed by most as being a bargain considering the production the team got out of Stieb over its length. It was considered such a bargain, in fact, the team renegotiated the last few years to reward Stieb for his years of service.
The Trained Seals, the Seal Trainers and the Future of Professional Sports in Toronto
The opinions of baseball writers will become increasing marginalized in the face of more pop fizz discourse on radio talk shows and other media outlets. I assure you a very similar marketing campaign for the Maple Leafs will be rolled out in the not too distant future as Rogers tries to claim a younger segment for this property as well. (Raptors are already there.) Blog writing, which is really just bad, undisciplined writing most of the time, will increasingly substitute the reasoned discourse of newspaper articles and editorials through sheer bluster and provocation. Steve Buffery complained of the “trained seals” in his recent article, who follow the Blue Jays despite an ownership that has consistently refused to make the necessary investments to put a winning product on the field, a team that has a legitimate chance of winning a World Series. I would argue that lamenting an apathetic fan base is misguided as the fans in this city have long rejected what Rogers has been trying to sell them ever since they purchased the franchised, evidenced by the mostly empty stadiums we’ve seen over the course of Rogers’ tenure. The trained seals is the younger demographic, the fans you see downtown everywhere wearing Blue Jays paraphernalia.
The dynamics of this market has changed and Rogers is capitalizing on an emerging fan base more taken by Brett Lawrie’s tattoos than they are the cogitations of baseball writers. Will the Blue Jays spend? Sure but only to field a team that can “compete” for a wild card spot, which is really to say little more than a .500 team, while constantly replenishing the roster with younger, cheaper and less predictable talent, or building depth through second tier free agents. This will be the formula for the foreseeable future, and really that’s been the formula ever since they took the team over. Rogers will take some of their new TV money from the league, money they can’t spend on the draft and international signing because of the new rules and the revenues from increased attendance this past year to push payroll up to $90m, but they won’t come anywhere close to the $120-130 m they should be operating this team at. I thought it was interesting last off season, while the debate about Rogers’ spending was at its pitch in this market, that Michael Wiener came out publicly to praise Tampa Bay’s announcement that they would be increasing payroll in an effort to build on their recent on field success. I’ve never seen a PA head do that in my life. I thought at the time that Wiener’s unusual public endorsement was in effect a shot across the bow of Blue Jays ownership. Wiener of course could never publicly criticize a team for their spending decisions but I suspect Wiener and the PA are chomping at the bit to make light of the Blue Jays situation. I thought it was interesting that no one picked it up on that story in this market, especially when it spoke directly to the payroll debate at the time.
“Rogers will take some of their new TV money from the league, money they can’t spend on the draft and international signing because of the new rules, and revenues from increased attendance this past year to push payroll up to $90m, but they won’t come anywhere close to the $120-130 m they should be operating this team at.”
Our only hope really is to train our eye not on the trained seals but the seal trainers, to undermine their rhetorical positions and to expose the conflicts of interest that inform the commentary, the shaping of the debate and the exclusion of language and issues. You’ll note that the term “Rogers ownership” rarely comes up even when they discuss issues pertaining to their management of the Blue Jays. But here’s the rub. Buffery can’t talk about the seal trainers. He alludes to them coyly I think in the article but he certainly can’t come out and attack them because it would be professional suicide for him. You would think then that maybe the bloggers would take up the slack but these guys are banging on doors trying to get into Sportsnet and TSN or trying to get access to the team for their blogs, which the Blue Jays’ management went to lengths to establish this season recognizing how important they are in shaping the discourse.
I would add that this is not just about baseball fans or even baseball. The players, of all three professional sports, are stakeholders too that will be affected, to one extent or another, by how this dynamic created by the vertical integration of sports content, its distribution and sports journalism will play itself out in this market. I would note that on the Brady and Lang show on the Fan 590 that the hosts took a clear position siding with ownership and making some very critical statements about the player’s position in the lockout. John Shannon did the same arguing that the revenue division should be 50/50, which is really just another arbitrary number. It is impossible, on reasonable grounds, to lay blame with the players for this lockout. The league is financially healthy. Revenues are robust and growing. The player’s portion of these revenues remains consistent at 57%. In the last CBA, the players gave back the most any professional players union has ever given back in sports history through collective bargaining and ended up with the most owner friendly agreement among the three professional sports leagues in North America. It’s the league that is locking out the players and most importantly, the league refuses to accept more revenue sharing as a means of addressing the financial difficulties that the small market teams have in this league. (Well in the latest proposal they shrewdly offered a more substantial revenue sharing mechanism but effectively asked the players to pay for it.) If you want to know who it is that’s holding up an agreement, it’s not Bettman really and certainly not the players, it’s the Leafs—well the rich teams of which the Leafs are far and away the richest. Instead of using revenue sharing to help the poorer teams, Bettman wants to use the “plight” of the poor teams as a pretext to take more from the players. This is what it boils down to. But nowhere have you heard the “experts” on Sportsnet or TSN make light of the importance of revenue sharing in the debate or MLSE’s (Rogers and Bell) complicity in preventing a fair resolution to the lock out.
So here I am. A rank amateur writing about what by professional convention is unspeakable, while getting five hits a day wondering whether or not it’s worth the money to pay Tumblr the $5 dollars to “pin” my blog whatever this means. But make no mistake about it, if you care about sports and you want to see another championship team among the three Rogers owned franchises in Toronto before you die, understanding how Rogers Sportsnet and its extensive media properties frame and shape the discourse — how the seal trainers train the seals — is the single most important issue before us.
How this franchise could be selling the narrative that this teams is on the verge of taking the next step with what’s transpired this year is nothing short of a farce. If it wasn’t for the complete gift from the baseball gods in the form of Edwin Encarnacion this year, this team would have precisely two players that they could reasonably bank on to perform better than the average major leaguer at their positions. The one, Brandon Morrow, has all of one partial season under his belt, the other, Jose Bautista, is coming off of major wrist surgery. Edwin Encarnacion was headed towards baseball obscurity and a minor league contract somewhere before pulling a season for the ages out his hat. He might as well walk around with catheter bag strung to his thigh this off-season cause he’s going to get tested more than a lab rat at Pfizer. If Encarnacion tests positive for PEDs this offseason, you can put a fork in this franchise cause it’s done. And you really have to wonder why Encarnacion signed the extension he did when he did, more than halfway through an elite offensive season with big power numbers, especially with the dearth of power in this league. He either has the worst agent since Inspector Clouseau or he’s very worried about his future prospects. If Encarnacion was a Boras client, he’d be cleaning out his locker for good as we speak.
So now management and Sportsnet is trying to sell us on what? The young core is ready and we have to add some veterans to put us over the top? This is the scenario that Paul Beeston envisioned when he said we had to be absolutely sure before we started to spend? Man they must be putting Prozac in the water coolers at Blue Jays head office if they think this roster has the makings of a championship core. There’s an idea - instead of a bobblehead nights, they should have Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitor nights so that we can watch a game without feeling an overwhelming and abject sense of futility and despair.
So what’s the real reason they’re spending? For one thing, I suspect the players union is pissed off and made it known through back channels that the current payroll is unacceptable. The second reason is that they can’t sell the story that developing through the farm system and bringing young controllable talent with high upside narrative this year is the proper way to do things anymore. Why? For one thing, the talent on the farm isn’t ready or isn’t that good, probably the former but who knows. And the high upside controllable talent Anthopoulos acquired from other teams sucked this year, with the exception of Morrow, and often acted like drunken kleptomaniacs on the base paths. So now they’re going to spend just enough on some veteran stop gaps so that they can play .500 again next year and make it seem like they’re in the race for the second wild card. Effectively, they’re panicking to maintain what they refer to as “goodwill” in the market.
Now I’ve been clamouring for this organization to spend some money and really that was the main reason why I began this blog, but the question now becomes how much is this franchise prepared to invest. Damien Cox has suggested a number close to $100 m and if they reach that number, I’d be floored to tell you the truth. My number is in the low 90’s, which effectively represents a marginal increase in absolute terms over this season’s $75m. If you take into consideration the reduction in spending on the draft and international signings as a result of the CBA, and you calculate in payroll inflation, about 7%, $90m would not represent a increase in payroll in absolute terms. Even if the payroll goes up to 100m, which again I doubt, the additional $10m or so will be paid for by the new League television contract. So, in effect, all Rogers has to do to “increase” payroll is not pocket the new television money coming in, which is a fraction of what they make with this team anyways, and they can “increase” payroll. If the payroll is anything less than $100m, that would be an obscenity, but then again what obscenity has Rogers demurred from since it took over this team. It is highly likely that the value of this property even without the increase in attendance, which is actually quite irrelevant to the overall revenue picture, increases at a clip of close to or in excess of 20% (using my gorilla math) if you factor in how the property is exploited through all of Rogers’ media properties and the all content it generates or helps to generate. Even with a bump up to $100m in payroll, Rogers is still increasing its revenues and profits considerably from the operation of this team next year.
Stephen Brunt said something interesting today with respect to payroll. He referred to those with “short memories” who had forgotten when this team had spent on players and free agents recently. Is he referring to the signing of Frank Thomas at the twilight of the twilight of his career? Is it the career .500 pitcher in A.J. Burnett, perhaps it’s B.J. Ryan who had all of 42 total saves in 6 major league seasons when we signed him? If this is what we have to look forward to this off-season in the form of “spending” then tell me now so I can rip out my radio from my car, cancel my cable subscription and commit ritualistic seppuku. Ahh… those halcyon days of reckless spending… I remember them well now.
The sad thing is that what we have to look forward to in terms of “spending” on veterans is more Corey Koskies, Ted Lillys, Viktor Zambranos and Miguel Batistas. The trajectory of this regime is looking a lot like the trajectory of Anthopoulos’ predecessor J.P. Ricciardi, who too had come in talking about going young and cheap and then progressed to spending on a handful of aging, middling free agents to scrap together something resembling a competitive team. I would much prefer if this team sold off its assets and really developed from the farm for a team projected to compete in 2015 at a minimum. This isn’t going to happen because currently, this team is being managed by marketing experts and advertising sales figures, not by a visionary general manager. The Blue Jays are a nanny operation and until Beeston can get Rogers to commit to a fair market transfer payment, this team is heading nowhere. You simply cannot run a franchise… you can’t run any business this way. We’ve all been sold on the idea that Beeston hired Anthopoulos because he part of a new breed of young, analytical general managers. The truth, it would seem to me, is that Beeston hired a young, eager general manager who wouldn’t raise a stink about the way the franchise’s business was being handled. What established general manager would work under these conditions? If you want to be like Oakland, you have to make strong moves in the market and make astute calls on major league ready prospects. And to be honest, I don’t see Anthopoulos as the general manager to do this.
And at the end of the day, somewhere in the not too distant future, Anthopoulos, just like his predecessor before him, is going to be the made the fall guy, in much the same way Ricciardi was sacrificed at the altar of Rogers’ mismanagement and financial exploitation of this franchise.
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