The Death of Baseball in Toronto

The 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?

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Comments

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. Vin said...

    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.

  4. 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.

  5. bpasinko said...

    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.

  6. devil_fingers said...

    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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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. 

    I know Craig & guys like Keith Law like to cherry-pick stats to show that there’s as much competitive balance in baseball as anywhere else but seriously:  Is there any way you can say that the O’s, Jays, & Rays have it fair?  In the micro-cosm of that division, there is no competitive balance, THAT’S what’s killing baseball in Toronto.

  11. Ben2009 said...

    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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. Pete Toms said...

    Geez, look what happens when you’re away from the internet for 18 or 19 hours!  I’m surprised (pleasantly) that there is this much reaction to a post about pro ball in our “home and native land”.

    Without looking back on what I wrote this winter and in no particular order, the future of pro ball in Toronto is threatened by;

    1. Ownership.  Big media companies – Time Warner, FOX, Disney – did a 180 and decided pro sports franchises weren’t a good fit with their business model.  I suspect Rogers might reach the same conclusion (the Toronto papers were rife with rumors in the spring that Rogers wants out, no doubt Rogers was the source of the rumors).  If Rogers bails, what group or individual will step up?  MLSE is always mentioned and that is plausible but outside of them?….And this brings us around to Beeston, why is he involved?  Certainly he has better things to do than be the caretaker of a club with a mid (or perhaps looming low)level payroll competing in the AL East.  Does Beeston know something the rest of us don’t?

    2. The AL East.  Yes the Jays more often than not field a competitive team but that don’t cut it in the AL East.  I think it is unfair (I’m biased due to fandom) and I think a lot of Toronto sports fans think the same.  Note that the 27-14 start this season generated no boost at the gate, an indicator that fans didn’t believe this team was a contender (and they were correct).  (Side note, the crappy attendance in Toronto this year also has to be impacted by economic concerns and job losses in Southern Ontario)  Since the introduction of the Wild Card, only 4? (IIRC)franchises haven’t made the playoffs, KC, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Washington (TB and Milwaukee were part of this group prior to last season).  Making the playoffs once every 15 years or so would help boost the popularity of pro ball in Toronto but that is a whole lot more difficult when you have to best either Boston or New York.

    3. Rogers Centre.  Toronto just missed out on the “mallpark” phenomenon.  Mallparks are under construction in Minnesota and Miami, which will leave only Oakland, TB and Toronto playing in big multi purpose stadiums (technically I don’t know if the Trop is multi purpose but that isn’t the point).  Rogers Centre is ok, it sure is nice to have a roof in Toronto in April but it is not a place to “see and be seen”.  Look at the enormous success of FC at BMO Field, no doubt the intimate soccer only facility has to be a major contributor to the poplularity of that product.  Again, maybe Beeston know something the rest of us don’t.  I think the future of the NFL in Toronto is tied up with the future of baseball.  I can’t see the owners of the NFL in Toronto recouping a billion dollar investment playing out of the Rogers Centre, it ain’t up to snuff….so, if it ain’t suitable for the NFL and not so great for baseball…..what gives?

    I digress, but I’m sick of the 94 strike being blamed for the demise of baseball in Toronto, it is an excuse not a reason.  See the reaction in this country to the NHL lockout for evidence.  When the NHL returned TV rating went up significantly and attendance was boffo. The reason?  Simple, we missed hockey.  We didn’t miss baseball, it was an excuse for the trendy fans to jump off the bandwagon.

    Professional baseball is dead and dying in Canada.  The Expos died, the Jays are floundering at the gate.  AAA has left Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.  Lower level leagues abandoned London, St. Catherines and Medicine Hat.  Indy ball folded in Ottawa and is struggling in Edmonton and Calgary.  There just aren’t enough ball fans here….

  16. Ben2009 said...

    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.

  17. Tim Kelly said...

    Jack,

    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…

  18. Jack Marshall said...

    Oh please. “Bay not bought” is right. Manny’s free agent status—-8 years earlier!!—-doesn’t turn a trade into a purchase. Pittsburgh ended up with three players of various potential—-Moss, Laroche,and Hansen, in trade for Bay. How is that a purchase?

  19. Tim Kelly said...

    I would defer to Pete Toms as the expert on Toronto baseball so I have nothing to add there.  Two other things:

    1.  It should not be difficult for people to understand the very different financial realities faced by the Yankees/Red Sox vs. the other clubs in their division.  Arguing about Bay or Manny or AROD or anyone else is just a distraction.  The distinctions are obvious.

    2.  I think it’s wonderful that Jack grew up in a time where winning didn’t matter, it was just about the love of sport and the purity of it all.  That all sounds great but if any team went a # of years without winning or feeling as though they had a chance, you’d certainly start to see some empty seats.  Hell, Wrigley is packed every single day and I could not give away (let alone sell) tickets for a Labor Day weekend game in the bleachers in ‘06 because the team was awful.  Having a chance to win matters in any city.

  20. Jack Marshall said...

    Tim: I never said there weren’t empty seats. There are always fans who only care about winning teams, and the presence or absence of those fans affect the bottom line, often critically. These are the people who will jeer at team icons in their waning years. I just find it amazing, coming from an era in which every single team in the American League realized annually that the chances of anyone but the Yankees winning the pennant were slim and none, that people can seriously offer the argument that the strength of Boston and New York depress the enjoyment of genuine baseball fans in watching their home team play baseball.

  21. Jack Marshall said...

    You guys talk like the Jays are the Nationals. The Jays have been spectacularly unlucky with injuries the past two years. It happens. If Wells and Rios had not declined, if the young pitchers not come down lame, if all that pitching depth could have been converted into depth elsewhere, I don’t think it’s at all certain that the Jays wouldn’t have a play-off team. And what stopped the Jays from trading for Jason Bay (who was not “bought”)?  The Pirates gave him up for some minor leaguers. The Jays have the resources to compete in the East, and so do the Orioles. It just hasn’t worked out. I would not be shocked if the Jays ended up finishing ahead of the Yankees this season. Then what will the argument be?

    Yes, of course a team’s attendance swells after a post-season bid. But you’re talking about losing a franchise while a team is generally above 500. I’m saying a winning team’s core support should be sufficient to keep it healthy in years when it doesn’t get to the post-season.

  22. Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

    I took Jack’s point to mean that if winning is the end-all, be-all for a fan, then (s)he’s not a true fan of the game, but of the bandwagon. That may sting, but that’s only because the truth hurts.

    The knee-jerk reaction that winning is required to attract these “fans” is also correct; it simply downplays, if not ignores, the fair-weather nature thereof.

    The fact of the matter is that there are more reasons to go to a baseball game than just to see the hometown team win. Stan Kasten may have been a little over the top in welcoming the Philly fans to DC, but he’s cognizant of the reality that his neighbors to north draw 38,000 per when the Sox and Yankees are playing the O’s, and 19,000 per when they’re not.

    That’s not an indictment of the Nationals front office, but of the “fans” themselves. Lost in that story is the economic reality that IT’S HIS JOB to put butts in the seat. If the “fans” don’t like it, all they have to do is show up.

  23. Kevin S. said...

    I’m sorry, this Yankees/Red Sox whining is quite annoying.  This decade, the Yankees and Red Sox have both made the playoffs in four of nine years.  In those other five years, they could have beaten out another AL team for a WC berth (in 2006, in fact, they DID finish ahead of the Sox, though not the Tigers), and they failed to.

    Rule 76: No excuses, play like a champion.

  24. Jason B said...

    As a Blue Jays fan in Braves/Cards/Reds country (Tennessee), I can only chime in that yes, it is maddening how little margin for error the team has.  Things have broken badly for the Jays over the last couple of years, as Jack rightly points out; while every team deals with injury issues, some are able to bob along and remain in contention in a thoroughly mediocre divison (witness the Mets).  Some are able to buy and trade their way out of their injury woes.  Injuries pile up in Toronto, and you can barely make out the Yankees and Red Sox zooming past you in the distance.  There’s so little room for error, because they’re saddled with a number of monstrous contracts that just didn’t pan out.  Season effectively over, 60 games in, thanks for coming out, try again next year.  With the Jays, everything has to break right, for a whole season, much as it did for the Rays last year. 

    The hardcore fans still pay attention, still care, but the casual fan has no interest in watching a team around .500 that’s 20 games out come September.  Which is a shame, because even though this team won’t sniff the postseason there are wonderful stories to watch unfold – Halladay, Hill, Lind, the young pitchers developing, etc.

  25. Jack Marshall said...

    I wonder how much of that feeling is tied to hockey and basketball cultures, in which the regular season is just a warm-up for play-offs. I became a baseball fan in a city where you knew the team had no shot at all, and that the goal would be to finish a place higher than the previous year. 3 games out of 4th in September is what mattered, not the 24 out of first. First? Are you kidding me? But the games were exciting and it was our team. I saw great plays. I saw great players. I saw games I remember 30 years later. I saw a no-hitter, a bunch of close calls, three cycles and lots of other amazing things. The real baseball cities still are like that, aren’t they?

  26. MatthewA said...

    @Johnny Tuttle: Amen. I remember reading Jack Todd in the Montreal Gazette shortly after the Expos’ last game (yes, I’m aware Todd is a grouchier, more-Canadian Mike Lupica).

    But he argued the point that what happened in Montreal didn’t have to happen. It took a concerted effort by MLB to ignore what was happening rather than do something legitimate to fix the mess. They drew over 3 million fans a season in the late ‘70s – so the interest was definitely there. Once the Expos became wards of MLB, it was over.

    So you’re absolutely right. If the fans stayed away from the Expos too long, it was only due to the combination of MLB and Jeffrey Loria (how Loria was ever allowed to buy another baseball team, I’ll never know).

  27. Jack Marshall said...

    Now, the Expos are another story. It would take quite a fan to keep going to that mint green horror the Expos had to play in. And if my team was finally looking like it was going to make a Series run after 25 years and baseball picked that season to shut down the season and the Series…well, let’s put it this way: if there had been a strike in 1967 just as the Red Sox were in their first pennant race since 1950, I wouldn’t bet that the team would still be in Boston today. Blaming the strike is usually unconvincing, but in the case of the Expos, I believe. Do Toronto fans identify that closely with Montreal? I wouldn’t think so.

  28. Tim Kelly said...

    Having a chance to win matters, and it matters for nearly everyone.  You don’t need to win, but you need to demonstrate the capacity for winning at a minimum to keep a large % of your fanbase interested, and more importantly, willing to spend their money to support you.  The original question was about what killed baseball in Toronto and I stand by my original argument:  Fans in Toronto have the deck stacked against them. 

    No one is arguing about how genuine the fans are in Toronto, or whether they have hard-core fans, or the nature of bandwagons.  Go read DJF and you’ll easily see that there are passionate, knowledgeable fans of Toronto baseball and that’s not in question. 

    The question is:  Why is support for the Jays flagging in Toronto?  There have been many good reasons given and among them is that the Jays are in a position (the AL East) where the chance at winning is substantially smaller than nearly anywhere else. 

    As the fans in Philadelphia, or St. Louis, or here in Chicago whether they’d like to switch divisions with the Jays and I guarantee you that you’d have a not-insignificant % of fatalists that would throw their arms up in despair. 

    Incidentally, you’d also re-invigorate that fan base up in Toronto…

  29. Jack Marshall said...

    And yet, ironically, Red Sox and Yankee games, of which the Blue Jays have significantly more than teams in the other AL divisions—-22% of their home games—-, are by far their most lucrative.

  30. Johnny Tuttle said...

    Again, Tim Kelley’s got a nice post on the second page.

    Sure, they make money in the short term off of the Sox and Yanks. Someone before said that we should consider it a strength for MLB that these two teams are strong, and here’s a reason why that’s true.

    That can’t, doesn’t, or will never change that the Sox and Yanks and their budgets consign the Rays/Orioles/Jays to the second division barring the exceptional. The Blue Jays did get a cheap skate owner in the late 90s and early 00s, but generally have been a fairly large spender. For their troubles in the past 15 years, they’ve been consigned to the same fate as KC or Pittsburgh, despite having better teams than that on the field (well, I suppose the team’s never really tanked beyond all belief save for that injury filled year 5 or 6 years ago).

    Seriously, with the post of the day and the comment here that spurred it……Has Brittain’s work on Loria/Expos just been forgotten? I wish he were here to join in.

    Best regards.

  31. J. McCann said...

    There is parity in the National League, and all those teams have a chance to build a team and make the playoffs.  Good luck to Toronto and Baltimore though.  And in about 5 years after all their monster prospects become free agents and final arbitration year players, then Tampa Bay is done.

    Here is an idea:  Why not have the AL go back to 2 divisons of 7 teams with 2 wild cards.  This way there is room for another good team after the Yankees and Red Sox, plus the Jays get to still play the Yankees and Red Sox a lot, plus they get their rivals Detroit back in their division.

    As far as the minor league teams, I think the hassle of having to cross the border and clear customs for all their equipment and foreign players is a contributing factor.  To MLB this cost is a drop in the bucket, but for a small minor league, they are better off operating only in one country.  I think a short season rookie league completely based in Western Canada would do well.

  32. MatthewA said...

    @Jack: Excellent point.

    You can’t truly judge a fan base until a team reaches the playoffs. And judging by the Blue Jays attendance records in the early ‘90s, they showed up. One can argue that the ‘94 baseball strike short-circuited Toronto’s attendance momentum, and maybe derailed any chance at prolonged success by the Jays (even though they were 16 GB when the strike commenced). I’ll listen to that.

    But there’s something to be said about all that successful baseball not leading to bigger and better things. Fans are happy to see competitive baseball (I’m a Mets fan – I’d kill for it these days), but they need to eventually be rewarded with further progress or the interest will wane. Look at what happened to the Braves at the end of their run – they couldn’t sell out early round playoff games. No one thinks the Braves were failures, but you couldn’t blame the fans for wanting more.

    If the Jays win, they’ll draw. As for the mountain of the Yankees and Sox in front of them…

  33. tadthebad said...

    My only point on the Sox aquiring Bay was that he was not strictly bought as a FA.  If Toronto had been willing to part with some of their prospects, couldn’t the Jays have dealt directly with Pittsburgh and not involved another club to complete a three-way trade?  I’m not suggesting that it would have been the smartest move for them, but it was possible, right?  And of course the resources of clubs make a huge difference with respect to potential to contend.  But as it stands now, the Red Sox have the fourth highest payroll in MLB (according to CBSSportsline).  The Mets and Cubs have higher payrolls…so how is it that Philadelphia/Florida and Milwaukee/St. Louis can compete within the NL East and NL Central?  Given the Rays run differential this season, aren’t we classifying them as one-hit wonders a bit prematurely?  Based on the success of Tampa last season (and possibly this season), are we sure much of the blame for Toronto’s demise can’t be laid on Riccardi for never achieving similar success?

  34. Jack Marshall said...

    What? If Bay wasn’t acquired in trade, then what’s a trade? He had two years on his contract, the Red Sox gave two minor leaguers to Pittsburgh for his contract, and the Dodgers threw in one player as their payment for getting two free months of Manny’s company. Bay was NOT a free agent by any stretch of the concept. He had no say in the transaction. The Pirates would have been thrilled to trade him to the Jays if the Jays had made the best offer.

  35. Tim Kelly said...

    Tad,

    Yes the Cubs and Mets are high payroll clubs as well, but in the AL East you have *two* behemoths, not just one.  Swap the Yankees for the Nationals and tell me just how great life is going to be for the Braves, Phils, & Marlins…

  36. tadthebad said...

    OK, fair point, Tim.  But still, Tampa has proven it can be done, and perhaps not only on a “one-and-done” basis.  Is there any reason Toronto, rather than TB, could not enjoy similar success?  It just seems to me that blaming the payroll disparities, without considering the business acumen of the front offices, ignores a rather large factor in the competitive balance argument.  I think beyond the money – a huge part, no question – the Yanks and Sox demonstrate the ability to make smart business and baseball decisions, and it’s that combo that really sets them apart.  Does Toronto possess similarly talented front office personnel?

  37. Johnny Tuttle said...

    Part of the reason why Tampa Bay succeeded for at least one year was having had a top three pick in each round of the draft for more than a decade. Longorias, Prices, Crawfords, etc. don’t grow on trees.

    I’m hearing in this thread that only 4 of 9 years this decade have the Sox and Yanks made the playoffs together, and the Jays should be waiting for the other down years to compete. But then I hear as well that they should lose and lose big time to accumulate the highest draft picks.

    Does Toronto possess similarly talented front office personnel?

    Can Toronto afford that personnel? The financial disadvantages extend to the draft & bonuses, international signings, FA GMs (Epstein anyone?), in-house gurus (Bill James), and even additional low level MiLB clubs (Toronto famously reduced its total MiLB clubs for a few years this decade to save cash).

    As for Bay, my only point there is that the two behemoths of the AL East are deep pocketed clubs: when a good to great player comes available when a Pittsburgh decides again to sell at a deadline, the Sox can afford to give talent to get them: they’ve spent on the draft. They know they can resign him. They don’t have to fear the sunk cost as much (much more applicable to an Igawa or Dice signing, but still, Bay had had a down year recently before his trade). No one likes to think of their team buying success, but to deny the advantage the Sox and Yanks have is silly. Yes, they are very well run clubs who maximize that leverage, but it is an advantage as clear as day. Down to the guys and girls maximizing that leverage, too.

  38. David said...

    (1) Considering the huge number of successful Canadians in MLB (off the top of my head: Jason Bay, Eric Bedard, Justin Morneau, Russell Martin, Scott Richmond, Matt Stairs….I’m sure there are at least a dozen more) and considering how popular they were in the 90’s (first team to draw 4m) saying that the team can’t draw in Canada is asinine.  There are clearly a lot of Canadians playing at a high level and there are clearly a lot of Canadians who’d pay to watch competitive baseball.

    (Incidentally, a player on the ‘93 Phillies team said that the Skydome was the loudest stadium he’d ever heard in his life, including rock concerts.)

    (2) However legitimate his excuses might be, the fact of the matter is that Riccardi has had nearly a decade to make this team a playoff team and he hasn’t.  Furthermore, he’s had a number of PR debacles and he seems to think that it’s cute to spout out at the mouth about stupid crap (including disparaging his own prospects as well as denigrating other team’s players on talk radio).

    It’s possible – not likely, but possible – that Riccardi’s a great baseball man and has the crude baseball knowledge to run a team.  But he’s the complete opposite of a leader, motivator, or steadying force (and believe me, I use those terms very begrudgingly because I think that 99% of the time they’re used by retarded American businessmen as an excuse to avoid having to actually, ya know, build anything).

    It’s time for the Rogers company to thank Riccardi for his efforts, recognize some of his good works, and then send him on his way. 

    (3) The Nationals are the worst organization in baseball, in my opinion.  Nevermind the uniform (“Natinals”) incident, nevermind Elijah Dukes and the back-and-forth about firing Acta, nevermind the barren, taxpayer subsidized stadium that the residents resent.  No, this organization’s standing can be summed up in one anecdote: the team’s president phoned Philadelphia sports talk radio and pleaded with the opposing team’s fans to attend games at his team’s stadium.

  39. Tim Kelly said...

    Thank you Tad, and yes, I agree with you on two points there:

    1)  The Red Sox & Yankees have smart people running their operations

    2)  The Blue Jays could certainly enjoy similar success to Tampa Bay

    I don’t mean to ever claim that baseball in Toronto is hopeless.  I have been having the conversation with other people in the office here today (including a Twins fan, a Cardinals fan, and a Cubs fan) and no one I could find would want to be in the AL East with the Yankees and Red Sox.  Sure, the Blue Jays could have a great season and make better decisions, but in the long run the financial advantages in Boston & NY are a serious impediment to Blue Jay long-term success.

    An illustrative example:  The Blue Jays are widely considered to be hamstrung by the Wells contract (it is Soriano-level bad), but no one ever said that about the Giambi contract in NY.  Or Pavano.  Or Dice-K.  Or throwing $5 MM at Smoltzie as a break-in-case-of-glass 7th starter. 

    The mistakes that Ricciardi makes don’t go away, they linger.  The mistakes that Theo or Cashman make can be swept under the rug…

  40. Kevin S. said...

    “Part of the reason why Tampa Bay succeeded for at least one year was having had a top three pick in each round of the draft for more than a decade. Longorias, Prices, Crawfords, etc. don’t grow on trees.”

    Crawford was taken 52nd overall.  Virtually every team had a shot at him.  That’s the thing, really.  Outside of Longoria, Upton, and Price, everybody else was acquired via a later draft pick, shrewd trades, or budget FA signings.  They hardly have a top-five draft pick manning every position on the team.

  41. Brandon Heikoop said...

    “The mistakes that Ricciardi makes don’t go away, they linger.”

    But this draws back to the problem of Torontonian’s. Had Ricciardi not locked up Wells and he had left after the 2008 season – even after a relatively weak performance that year – the fans of Toronto would have been calling for Ricciardi’s head for letting another star get out of town – the same way they were when Delgado first left, although that tune has changed, at least a bit.

    Also, we need to disregard Mr. Marshall’s comments regarding a time when winning in baseball wasn’t #1. Were players stealing signs for the fun of it? Were pitchers throwing at a batters head after a home run because he wasn’t angry?

  42. Brandon Heikoop said...

    “Is there any reason Toronto,
    rather than TB, could not enjoy similar success?”

    Yes, there is. Toronto is a huge market with a variety of things to do. It also has a fairly weak baseball following to begin with (if you stopped and asked 10 people on the street who two non-Wells position players were, most would keep walking), it’s simply not a baseball town.

    That said, a dramatic drop in attendance would kill the Jays, and having a decade of around .400 baseball, while selling and never buying would bury this franchise that has an extremely valuable piece of property in downtown Toronto.

  43. Jack Marshall said...

    Boy, Brandon, now there’s a distortion worthy of The New York Post. Who said winning wasn’t the main thing? Winning’s great, and #1, whatever it is, is great in life too, but in life and in games, if you can’t enjoy #‘s 2-10, you’re missing a lot, and you’re going to be disappointed most of the time. I also believe I was talking about the fans, not the players, who, you know, HAVE to show up. But why pay attention to such trivial distinctions?

  44. Brandon Heikoop said...

    And you think that if Vernon Wells said in a post game press conference “I’ve been stealing signs the last few weeks and we are winning” his fans would begin to boo him?

    The fact is, fans view their time and money as an investment in the club. Only the most dedicated fan rarely support a loser for a long period. This is why fans refer to the team they support as “their team” and “us”, or “we”.

    That being said, fans have, and always will, want to see a winner.

  45. Jack Marshall said...

    Brandon, that comment makes no sense whatsoever. Compose yourself. Your argument is a tautology. The most dedicated fans support a team when it’s losing, and the definition of a dedicated fan is one who does so. The Jays have not been “losers” unless you define “losers” as “not winning championships.” Real fans don’t like crummy teams, but they’ll support good ones that fall short of winning it all. Maybe you won’t, but it’s true.

  46. Brandon Heikoop said...

    Sorry, mis-worded my statement. It should have read, “Only the most dedicated fan will support” not “rarely will support”.

    Question, when did I state that the Jays have been losers? All along I have said the Jays have been extremely successful, which is one of the reasons why I think JP has done an outstanding job throughout his tenure.

    Please refrain from making this argument personal with comments such as “maybe you won’t”. This is a conversation about the Jays and about Jays fans. I am neither a Blue Jay (surprise) nor a Jays fan. I do have a lot of first hand experience with Jays fans as Toronto is the closest big league team to my home town. Through that observation I have seen how little interest the town has in the Jays (go to a Jays game when the Stanley Cup playoffs are on, and attendance is WAY down, go to a bar the night of the NHL draft, and there isn’t a Jays game on a single television).

  47. Johnny Tuttle said...

    “The real baseball cities still are like that, aren’t they?”

    Yes, and that’s true in Toronto. Every team has a good, core base that’s going to stay there through thick and thin, and to suggest that that wasn’t there in Montreal or not there in Toronto now is silly.

    The two main points I have are:

    1) Loria and MLB murdered baseball in Montreal. It wasn’t the park, apathy on the fans, or the strike (although the strike didn’t help). Loria killed baseball in Montreal.

    2) You’re asking Toronto to (along with the Rays and Orioles) uniquely accept something no other fans have to: no chance at the playoffs barring the remarkable. Toronto could likely afford more player contracts now, and they’ve signed more internationally in the 16 year old FA set. They are spending more. The bad contracts really start and end with Wells. It’s different for them than it is for someone signing Igawa or Pavano or Penny or Dice or whatnot, sure. They retained the local hero after letting Delgado go. And Green.

    Manny was a FA. Manny traded for Bay. Bay not bought?

  48. tadthebad said...

    Kind of some long and winding logic there, JTuttle.  Sox didn’t simply go out and spend more than anyone else to get Bay.  As stated earlier, Toronto had an opportunity to aquire Bay, but whether through ignorance or apathy, they did not.

  49. Brandon Heikoop said...

    People recall that some Ramirez guy was a part of the deal acquiring Bay, right? And while LaRoche had struggled in his limited big league playing time prior to the trade, he was still a highly touted youngster, maybe not in the mold of Travis Snider, but certainly not far from the value of Adam Lind.

    That said, would the Jays be much better right now if they had replaced Bay with Lind? What about in 2011?

    Nevertheless, the negativity shot at JP for not acquiring Bay is a joke.

  50. Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

    The Nationals are the worst organization in baseball, in my opinion.  Nevermind the uniform (“Natinals”) incident, nevermind Elijah Dukes and the back-and-forth about firing Acta, nevermind the barren, taxpayer subsidized stadium that the residents resent.  No, this organization’s standing can be summed up in one anecdote: the team’s president phoned Philadelphia sports talk radio and pleaded with the opposing team’s fans to attend games at his team’s stadium.

    Yeah, I suppose it’s really, really easy to rebuild an organization after it had been plundered by Loria and raped by Omar Minaya and MLB. But thanks for not mentioning those facts, because after all, an anecdote will adequately explain everything.

  51. Johnny Tuttle said...

    Hey, Tadd.

    How did the Sox get Ramirez again?

    Are there are differences between how the Pirates and Sox treated or are treating Bay’s pending free agency?

  52. 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.

  53. 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.

  54. Tim Kelly said...

    I think the test case is Tampa Bay.  As Tad points out, they have a good baseball ops department and anyone can see that they have a ton of talent at the major league and minor league levels.  Will this lead to long-term success in a division with NY & Boston?  I guess we’ll see…

  55. Jack Marshall said...

    OK, Brandon, I officially give up trying to follow your arguments. I can’t tell whether you are talking about actual Blue Jay fans or some fans of some abstract definition of “losers” you would not apply to the Jays. Never mind.

  56. Johnny Tuttle said...

    I’d agree with Tim yet again if I weren’t so pessimistic for what happens to TB as its vaunted young talent reaches arbitration and FA in droves.

    Seriously? Someone questioned that the Rays were built through the draft, aided by higher choices there? And simultaneously dismissed that as “only” having yielded three blue chippers (Upton, Longoria, and Price)? The Blue Jays are a team caught in the old success cycle middle ground in that division (where they could very plausible win the AL West or NL Central). That ain’t rocket science, folks. They can’t outspend the Yanks and Sox. They would have to endure bottoming out Pittsburgh style to rebuild completely. Yuck.

    Somehow, the Jays and their fans are supposed to be willing to endure that for a shot, as calculated and tenuous and disadvantaged as the Rays’ shot now and the run the Orioles are putting on for 2012? And if they don’t show up in droves, it’s their fault? Goodness.

  57. Brandon Heikoop said...

    Jack, I’m talking about 75% of “baseball fans” in Toronto. The ones who show up when the Sox or Yanks are in town. Not the small percentage that make the road trips down to Comerica or the Prog. These are the sports fans in Toronto that really could care less unless there is a big ticket event.

  58. Brandon Heikoop said...

    Jack, I’m talking about 75% of “baseball fans” in Toronto. The ones who show up when the Sox or Yanks are in town. Not the small percentage that make the road trips down to Comerica or the Prog. These are the sports fans in Toronto that really could care less unless there is a big ticket event. This is why the UFC does so well in Canada, as does the Super Bowl.

  59. Tim Kelly said...

    Johnny,

    I’m pessimistic on TB too (and the Orioles), but I can’t say that I *know* (yet) that they can’t succeed.  I do think this system can only last so long, if TB does melt away and the O’s get derailed by some mistake or injury in a few years, change will have to happen…

  60. tadthebad said...

    I’m confused.  Which is it?  Toronto doesn’t have enough money to compete with Red Sox/Yankees, or is it that Toronto doesn’t suck enough to get good draft picks a la Tampa Bay?  As mentioned above, not getting the very top draft position(s) can hardly be an excuse/reason for poor drafting.  Either way, I’m still unconvinced that a shrewd front office couldn’t make up for either.  TB has the money to craft a good baseball ops department, why not Toronto?

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