Title: Toronto Blue Jays: Devoid of Action, Optimism, Message
Date: February 10, 2009
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: It had been a quiet and event-less offseason so far for the Toronto Blue Jays, and it had me lacking optimism for the 2009 season.
Imagine Barack Obama had campaigned on the premise of, “The country is messed up. But if you elect me now, I’ll be ready to make promises for the 2012 campaign.” Would he have received a single vote?
Well…the Toronto Blue Jays want you to spend your money watching and supporting the team, having used that same premise as a franchise tagline: “2008 is over, we were bad, and we’ll continue to be bad. But keep supporting us, and we’ll be ready to vie for 3rd place once again in 2010.”
I’m not upset with the Blue Jays for regressing this year. It was an economic fact that they would have to cut spending – they spent $98M USD last season when the Canadian dollar was near par. With the dollar now hovering around 75 cents, one could expect the team to cut spending to about $75M based on the Canadian disadvantage alone (they have only scaled it back to roughly $83M). Additionally, a poor global economy (though we in Canada haven’t felt it nearly as bad as the U.S.) is reason enoguh for a team to cut spending, especially on the free agent market where the spending is almost universally long-term and guaranteed. Add in the death of Rogers’ owner Ted Rogers, the reason Rogers the company invested in the Jays in the first place, and spending of any kind this winter would have been unreasonable from a business standpoint.
It’s a very Ricciardian strategy, to focus all of your offseason spending on low-risk medium-reward players. Matt Clement, Mike Maroth, Michael Barrett, and a bevy of MLB cast-off pitchers will be vying for spots with the team, none with a major league cotnract, and none with much in the way of guaranteed money. It is a smart strategy for a small market club (though Ricciardi has failed miserably at it thus far in his tenure), and Clement especially was a savvy pick up. Being the only Major League team to not sign a player to a Major League contract for an entire offseason, though, is a bit excessive.
I still don’t have a problem with the team’s offseason moves (blame the Business background, I guess), but I do take quarrel with the way the franchise has handled this offseason. As early as December, Cito Gaston was providing quotes for Toronto newspapers urging fans to wait for 2010. J.P. Ricciardi has echoed those sentiments several times, with the following quote summating the 2009 Jays season succinctly:
“I don’t know if it’s a rebuilding year. We’ve got guys in place that are proven players. I wouldn’t say that we’re rebuilding, I just think they have to be what they are. I think we could surprise some people…I think we’re going to be better offensively. From the start of Spring Training, we’ll address some of the things that maybe we haven’t done in the past. I’m hoping we’re a better club offensively.”
Despite the apparent optimism, there is a poorly veiled message there. “Could surprise,” “better,” “address some things,” and “hoping,” are all phrases used in that short statement. The usually bold and over-confident Ricciardi is evidently not sold on his own squad, and that message has been conveyed loudly and clearly to the fan base. Confidence and optimism are way down, and I can only assume we’ll soon see attendance numbers far below 2008’s 58.6% of capacity (22nd in the league already).
I’m a long time flex pack purchaser, and as such the Jays have bombarded me with e-mail and mail urging me to renew, and offering many extra benefits. Unfortunately, I’m no longer willing to spend money and drive an hour to watch a losing team that accepts that identity. The lure of “first rights to playoff tickets” simply isn’t there – after all, I love the Jays as much as anybody, but if the franchise doesn’t have confidence in what they’re doing, why should I?