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The Curious Case of the Toronto Blue Jays

December 8, 2011

The Toronto Blue Jays are a major league baseball team that has failed to make the playoffs for nearly twenty years. In that time, the Blue Jays have been sputtering around the middle of the league.

The current ownership of the team is Rogers Communications, one of the largest telecom and media corporations in North America. Certainly, one of the most profitable. The current management of the team is Paul Beeston, president and Alex Anthopolous, general manager. Rogers hired those two men following the departure of Rogers’ previous hires, Paul Godfrey and JP Riccardi.

The two management teams operated quite differently. Godfrey and Riccardi sauntered through Toronto acting like big-shots, irked a lot of influential people in the sports media around town and spent a lot of Rogers’ money. Then they started offering lower priced tickets to the games.

The current management has been much friendlier to the media. They’ve been parading around town in the metaphorical hair shirt. They’ve also cut the team’s payroll by eliminating as much of the Riccardi over-spending as they could. Godfrey’s low-price ticket promotion was also removed and replaced with regular priced tickets. When asked if they would increase spending on player salaries, the current management has always replied with that Rogers will open the purse strings when the time is right.

From listening to sports talk here in Toronto, I got the impression that everybody believed Beeston and Anthopolous would one day stop the payroll cutting and actually start increasing spending. With the sole exception of paying Jose Batista a large sum of money, spending on salary has plummeted to new lows. The team is currently in the bottom third of the league in salary spending.

The team has no interest in increasing player salaries at the moment. The team has no interest in seriously going after big name free agents. Big name free agents cost big dollars.

I would like to know whose decision was it to keep spending on player salary low. Is it the current management’s decision to keep a small budget or it is ownership?

I will not criticize Rogers for wanting to keep costs low in one of their divisions. Rogers is a huge corporation that makes a lot of money. The company has shareholders to appease. The company did not get to be so big by throwing good money after bad. Wise business decisions have made Rogers a leader in many industries. If Rogers hired the current management with the stipulation that costs are kept low, that’s their choice. When a multi-billion dollar corporation does something anything, you have to assume that it’s being done to increase profit.

If the decision to keep costs low was that of management, then, as a fan, I would harshly criticize Beeston and Anthopolous. Beeston was significantly involved with the Blue Jays’ management during the late 1980s and early 1990s when the team won the World Series twice and had the league’s highest player payroll. At that time, the team was also breaking league-wide attendance records. So, Paul Beeston is no stranger to spending large sums of money, but he only did so when the team was generating a lot of opportunities for financial success. The general manager Alex Anthopolous is very young man for his position. His meek yet charming personality quickly won over the Toronto sports media as he appeared to be a polar opposite to his cocky and abrasive predecessor. All he has managed to do so far in the couple of years he’s been on the job is reduce player salary with assurances that one the day the spending will rise again.

The team on the field has holes. Anthopolous is trying to fill those holes through shrewd trades. Although trading is a good way to acquire talent, it can only take a team so far. Signing big name free agents is required to bolster the team’s talent and image amongst other players. Toronto has a poor image amongst players throughout the league. This is a team that has not acquired a big name free agent since a thought-to-be washed-up Roger Clemens resurrected his career here in Toronto.

The Toronto Blue Jays need to start spending money right now. The strength of the Canadian dollar and the Canadian economy is high against the current state of affairs in the United States. Now is the time to take advantage of the situation. Spend the money. Get the big name free agents here, right now! Get them before the Florida Marlins buy a third World Series.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 8, 2011 8:46 am

    This is curious, indeed. I’m neither a follower nor fan of baseball, but the same principles you’ve outlined here apply to any sports organization, I would think, regardless of sport. One of the worst cases of this mentality — keep spending to a minimum at all costs — is the Chicago Bears. For many, many years they succeeded in being the lowest payroll in the NFL, and couldn’t figure out why they didn’t retain talent and couldn’t duplicate success year to year. Any good players they had sought trades with better paying teams. Any available talent of significant caliber would laugh in their faces when offers from the Bears came their way. The McCaskey family simply didn’t pay enough.

    By accident, they managed to accumulate enough talent to win a Super Bowl, and haven’t managed to do so again for 25 years. Now they’re starting to spend on talent (Jay Cutler, Roy Williams, Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, et. al), but not really in keeping with the rest of the big-name, big-win teams.

    In the modern, player-negotiated salary sports entertainment field, you have to spend money to make money. And those teams who won’t or can’t aren’t going to win, and eventually will start losing revenue from ticket sales and TV deals. It’s a spiral.

    These principles apply to all major pro sports. Yes, definitely. Except that in the NFL, all teams are owned by individuals, not corporations. When Rogers bought the Jays, it wasn’t Mr. Ted Rogers buying the team, it was the company Ted controlled that bought the team. The team simply became a division of a huge corporation to provide content for Rogers’ media services like television and internet and whatever. The team is must be beholden to shareholders. The Bears and other NFL teams don’t have that issue.

  2. December 8, 2011 8:49 am

    You think you’ve got problems? We don’t even have an owner.

    McCourt is sticking around to own the parking lots and real estate around the stadium. The stadium and the team itself are being sold off pretty soon I hear. Maybe Magic Johnson is going to buy them.

  3. Bob permalink
    December 8, 2011 11:33 am

    They have been spending money, they just haven’t been spending it on major league players salaries. THey have given out big signing bonuses to lots of drafted players.

    Including that, still in the bottom third.

    Meanwhile, a lot of the biggest free agents aren’t worth close to the money they are paid. I would rather he trade for a guy who gets paid 10 mil then sign a free agent to 10 mil. A good example is a player like Paul Konerko or Andre Ethier

    They’re worth more than they’re paid. Players don’t want to play in Toronto. Have to bring some in to make the team more attractive to other players.

  4. December 8, 2011 4:02 pm

    Gotta SPEND money to MAKE money….that’s ALWAYS the rule.

    Like the way Auburn paid Cam Newton.

  5. December 21, 2011 12:32 pm

    Hey ! Just hit me in the BALLS next time, LMAO !!!

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