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Wednesday, July 08, 2009
The Death of Baseball in TorontoThe Blue Jays have released B.J. Ryan. He probably has about $14-15 million left on that $47 million deal they gave him. That's on top of the $99 million or so they owe Vernon Wells through 2014, the $61 million or so they owe Alex Rios through 2014, and the combined $26.5 million or so they owe Scott Rolen and Lyle Overbay through next year. As a result, the Jays have to trade Roy Halladay to save money. Those other dudes will still be hanging around.
As Pete mentioned in the comments yesterday, attendance in Toronto stinks. As he wrote last winter, the future of baseball in Toronto is rather ugly as well.
What a mess. Toronto is something like the fifth largest market in baseball, which probably makes them the second or third largest single-team market. They're certainly the only team that has a whole country to itself in many important respects. They used to outdraw everyone. They used to win all of the time. Yesterday Pete said that he "wouldn’t be surprised if there is no MLB in Toronto in a handful or several years." I don't know if I'm that pessimistic, but it's certainly beyond depressing.
What, or who, killed baseball in Toronto?
Posted by Craig Calcaterra at 4:36pm
Kevin S. said...
Given the Mets’ absolute dearth of minor-league talent, the best way for them to add a player would be to flex their financial might. If they offered Toronto a crappy non-prospect to take Vernon Wells’ contract off their hands, the Jays would have to do it, right?
Posted 07/08 at 04:49 PM
J.P Ricciardi and Gord Ash?
Posted 07/08 at 04:50 PM
Alex K said...
Matt Wieters killed baseball in Toronto. He decided he didn’t want to play in Canada, and Matt Wieters gets what Matt Wieters wants.
Posted 07/08 at 05:29 PM
Kevin: Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that Vernon Wells is basically lesser Carlos Beltran. I’d guess the Mets could put him in a corner, but he’d be below-average there (though still better than Daniel Murphy). It’s not the worst idea in the world, but I think someone like Adam Dunn would be better fit for the Mets.
Posted 07/08 at 05:31 PM
Brandon Heikoop said...
Point the fingers at the fans, or what is termed as “fans” in the great white north. When attendance was up it was because of a boom and a subsequent height in popularity (two world series championships and a playoff caliber team will do that to even the smallest market - see Cleveland). However, when things began to go a little north, the “fans” turned on the organization, from the players, to the ownership, to the front office. Keep in mind that over the last decade this has been one of the more successful teams in baseball (posting a winning percentage well south of .500).
So for me, it is the “fans” that have killed baseball in Toronto.
In response to Kevin, no, they would not. Again, this goes back to the fans who would suggest that a move of that size would signal the beginning of the end. Attendance would drop even further and the team moving (something I have predicted within the next decade or so, once the property the Jays are on becomes too valuable not to sell for condo development) would become inevitable.
Posted 07/08 at 05:43 PM
Dunn would certainly be a better fit but he would also require prospects, and good ones at that. Wells would seemingly require nothing to get in a trade, so if the Mets are willing to spend they can have themselves a better OF than they currently have. However, at this point with Beltran and Reyes still weeks maybe a month+ away, trading for Wells or anyone rather, may be a bad idea.
Posted 07/08 at 05:48 PM
While Vernon Wells was a very good player a few years ago, at this point, he is a lesser version of Carlos Beltran in the same way that Mike Jacobs is a lesser version of Mark Teixeira.
I’ve lived in the GTA for years now, and if you ask people around here, they’ll say what killed baseball here was the ‘94 strike.
Posted 07/08 at 06:13 PM
Connecticut Mike said...
JP has done a horrendous job, there is really no doubt about it. Instead of following the Rays’ model of building from within, they tried to spend with the Sox and the Yanks. They do seem to be coming up with some promising young players lately, so maybe they have learned their lesson.
I watch almost every Sox game, and I dislike watching them play in Toronto because the place is like a morgue. The only highlight used to be that they had attractive bartenders/servers working the expensive seats behind homeplate, but even that seems to be gone now.
Posted 07/08 at 06:17 PM
Jack Marshall said...
If the ‘94 strike killed baseball in Toronto, then baseball was never very alive there in the first place. All I can add is that I watched Expo and Jays games in their home stadiums. I always felt that the fans were waiting for a hockey game to break out, and were disappointed when it didn’t. Maybe getting to see games on real grass fields would have helped.
Posted 07/08 at 06:23 PM
Wooden U. Lykteneau said...
Interesting discussion as to why Detroit and Cleveland are somehow immune to the same problems that allegedly are dooming Toronto. Oh wait. That would require some critical thinking beyond the Sky(dome) is Falling!
Posted 07/08 at 06:46 PM
Tim Kelly said...
I am a Chicago Cubs fan and thus, I know what it is like to be the financial powerhouse in my division. Current ownership juggling aside, I know that my team has the best resources available to squash a Brewer/Cardinal/Astro uprising. Any credit given Jim Hendry for anything he’s ever done doesn’t belong to him, it belongs to $$$$$$. The Cubs have been a playoff team two years running for the first time in my life and it would never have happened if the Cubs didn’t have the wherewithal to overpay Soriano, Zambrano, Fukudome, Lee, etc. (Seriously, how many bad contracts are on the Cubs?)
As a result of being raised a Cubs fan, I will never know the despair that Orioles, Blue Jays, & Rays fans must feel (And yes, congrats to the Rays last year, they had a good run while it lasted). How depressing must it be on a daily/monthly/yearly basis to have to hear talk about the Red Sox & Yankees being the only two players in a free agent sweepstakes? How depressing must it be to know that for your team to have a sustained run of success, they must be able to beat Goliath & Goliath on a year-in/year-out basis?
If you’re a Blue Jay, Oriole, or Rays fan, how do you feel knowing that the deck is stacked against you in a way that makes it immensely difficult to compete for a playoff spot and that the system ain’t changing? You saw the Cardinals win the WS a few years back with just 83 wins, and you know a season like that will get you third place in the AL East every single time.
Posted 07/08 at 06:48 PM
I think it’s more accurate to say no that JP Riccardi killed baseball in Toronto - because it was probably dead or dying when he got there - but that he’s done nothing to revive it. Some of this is bad luck - who knew Wells would crater the way he has; before they signed him, Toronto was already being preemptively ripped for not signing him. Same with Rios - looked, at the time, like a really good player. Just didn’t work out and now they’re saddled.
Other contracts, like Ryan’s or Rolen’s, however, are JP’s fault.
Toronto used to draw huge. Then the strike happened and they didn’t. The strike is as good an answer as any.
Posted 07/08 at 06:49 PM
Brandon Heikoop said...
“JP has done a horrendous job, there is really no doubt about it.”
Horrendous? Because his team has been a .500 club for the last decade plus?
Let’s not get too excited about the Rays single season of success. Yes it happened, but a team that is currently 4.5 games out of the playoffs mid way through the season does not look to be on their way to revisiting the postseason this season.
Another point I don’t get is claiming that the Jays were big players in free agency. Over the last handful of years their big free agent signings have been Frank Thomas, AJ Burnett, and BJ Ryan. Aside from that trio, the Jays have been made up of home grown, or traded for players.
Posted 07/08 at 06:53 PM
It’s their stupid stupid uniforms. And I’m not just saying that, it’s a scientific fact.
Posted 07/08 at 06:59 PM
Brandon Heikoop said...
Rolen’s contract is JP’s fault? And that is being said as a bad thing? According to FanGraphs WAR Salary calculator Rolen was worth an additional $1.3M over what he would have been projected to make as a free agent in 2008. This season, in a more typical healthy Rolen season, he is poised to be in the $6-8M value gain range.
So if JP is to blame for Rolen’s contract, then he is to blame for doing a good thing.
It boils down to people not fairly evaluating the job JP does. People still harp about his failure to draft Tulowitzki, taking Romero instead, but with the configuration of the current Jays, Romero is the more valuable asset.
Posted 07/08 at 07:02 PM
Jack Marshall said...
I like the uniforms theory. But as for the AL East conspiracy—-I’m sorry, but if your appreciation of baseball rests on whether your team is going to make the post-season or not, then you don’t really like baseball all that much. Toronto has had good teams playing good baseball most of the time for close to 20 years now. If the fans won’t support that, I think it’s a stretch to blame the Red Sox and Yankees.
Posted 07/08 at 07:06 PM
Johnny Tuttle said...
Tim Kelly’s hit the nail on the head: the Blue Jays had a phenomenal run prevention year last year and were judged by Baseball Prospectus to have been a top 5-7 team overall for all of MLB. In virtually any other division, their record would have skyrocketed on strength of schedule, and culminated in a trip to the playoffs (at least potentially) with the concurrent revenue & attendance spikes that could have fueled more player aquisition and development.
But instead they played in the same division with three of the only 5-6 better teams in the game and barely sniffed a playoff run.
People slag all over JP, and that’s fine to some extent. Slavishly drafting college hitters didn’t work out. Neither did signing/trading for depth above all. But he’s really grown on the job: their best hitting prospect is a high school pick, and they’ve had the internal talent to ward off 1,700 (+or-) pitching injuries this year. And again this year, they look as dangerous as any NL team save the Dodgers and any AL team save the Rays, Sox, and Yankees.
The strike was coincidence. The Jays went from perennial playoff studs to also rans that year when Ward went down and trading the farm finally caught up with them: that was a team for whom the success cycle rang true.
Problem is, the success cycle’s been “repudiated”. Why? With the Sox and Yanks buying up CC, Bay, Teix, Burnett, and all others, plus having good management teams, where’s their down cycle?
The Jays were born and flourished during times during which collusion and mismanagement kept the big spending Sox and Yanks in the tank. They tanked when those two teams got it together. Unless something changes, I fear for MLB overall. As the game’s currently constructed, those two teams can buy their way into the postseason year in year out for a heckuva long time, and only runs as phenomenal as the Rays from last year can stop one.
And on this great site of John Brattain (whose name I fear sincerely I’ve misspelled), I won’t let anyone blame the fans for what MLB and the team’s own ownership did to the Montreal Expos. To say it was the fan’s fault is ignorance to an extreme. I’m sorry for being harsh and rude on this, but I’m used to hearing that on lesser sites. I’m shocked to hear it here.
Posted 07/08 at 08:41 PM
Johnny Tuttle said...
Jack, any team has a hard core fan base, including for the Blue Jays, me. Also true is that any team reaps huge benefits from even one playoff appearance, something institutional denied from the Blue Jays. To overcome the unbalanced schedule even one year would be remarkable. (And kudos to the Rays for doing it and for the Orioles for lurking for 2011/12).
B Pro documented the $ effects of even one playoff appearance, and they were substantial.
In every other professional league or division of MLB, we have something approximating parity. We don’t in the AL East. It’s financially driven. Don’t push that back on the 25,000 to 45,000th fans in Toronto, who are almost uniquely in NA sports supposed to accept never, ever making the playoffs again.
Posted 07/08 at 08:45 PM
Jack said: “I’m sorry, but if your appreciation of baseball rests on whether your team is going to make the post-season or not, then you don’t really like baseball all that much. Toronto has had good teams playing good baseball most of the time for close to 20 years now. If the fans won’t support that, I think it’s a stretch to blame the Red Sox and Yankees.”
Is it really too much for fans to ask for their team to make the playoffs every once in a while? Or how about just being a serious contender in September every now and then? I really don’t think that’s too much to ask. Sure, anyone has an inherent disadvantage when compared to NYY and BOS. But, as discussed, Toronto is a huge market, and the team is owned by a hugely successful international corportation. Money shouldn’t be an issue - and, given the contracts actually given out, hasn’t been one. The issue has been to whom those contracts were given.
But I digress. To say that fans should be happy with a periennially .500 teams is to say that winning doesn’t really mean that much. Winning - that is, winning divisions and/or playoffs games - isn’t everything, and Toronto certainly isn’t Baltimore or Texas or Washington. But winning is a big part of keeping fans happy, and teams that don’t win don’t draw.
Posted 07/08 at 09:20 PM
Tim Kelly said...
I never said that my appreciation, or anyone else’s appreciation, of baseball is predicated on my team making the post-season. I am a 32 year-old Cubs fan who has seen his team make the playoffs just 6 times in my lifetime, please don’t mischaracterize my comments like that.
For me, it’s not necessarily that the team needs to make the playoffs or win the World Series, it’s the HOPE that they might (we Cubs fans are known for our reckless optimism after all).
It’s my guess that the hope dies quicker for fans of the Orioles, Jays, & Rays due to the very plain-to-see disadvantages that these teams are up against each and every season. It seems reasonable to me anyway…
Posted 07/08 at 09:28 PM