The Mockingbird

Flashback Friday

with 5 comments

Hope is high in Toronto, Blue Jays fans. The Red Sox are looking beatable after a late-season collapse, and the Jays are just getting better and better as they emerge from their rebuilding phase with a strong core and rumors of cash to spend. They have one of the best outfielders in the league. They have a highly-touted rookie (albeit with some questions about his glove at his current position) who stormed through the minors and absolutely mashed in September when he was called up last year.

They have an ace who is undeniably one of top pitchers in the league, in his prime, under control for a while. Behind him comes a fireballer with huge potential who is dominant at times and could be a Cy Young if he puts it all together. Their bullpen is anchored down by a high-strikeout closer. Really, it looks like all this team needs to make a decent run is some starting pitching depth and a slugging DH, and to do that, upper management is apparently willing to put the payroll up to 100 million (it now sits just above 70) at some point in the next few years.

The PR machine is pumping vaguely but incredibly optimistic, “our time is soon” propaganda and implying that they are willing to do what it takes to get to the top. The rest of the league is saying nice things about the team in the way that you do a former rival who is no longer living on the streets but hasn’t quite pulled it together enough to cause you any trouble. It is a time of less shame. Not pride, but less shame. Look out AL East, here we come!

But wait – I don’t mean now. I’m talking about 2006! Does this all seem a little familiar? Back then, all that was true too, and the Blue Jays had just finished with 87 wins (compared to 81 last year), ahead of the Red Sox for the first time in 1.4 million years, who had gone 9-21 in August (the Bosox went 7-20 in September last season, apparently the worst streak of all time that has ever happened in this game ever). And yet, the World Series was won by the Red Sox and the Yankees twice in the next three years, and the Jays continued to drone on slightly above .500. Not a single sniff of the playoffs, let alone a chance to collapse down the playoff run, and back into rebuilding and a new GM.

So let’s call a spade a spade — this offseason has been a massive disappointment. Patience? Ha. Anthopoulos pulling off more of his wheeling and dealing magic does not change the fact that he needs a lot more money to seriously compete with the Yankees and Red Sox, or even the potential second wildcard with, for one, the Nuclear Arms Race going on between the Angels and the Rangers in the American League West. I don’t care if you can make insane contracts go away or acquire former hot prospects for nothing, you can’t wheel and deal your way past teams with almost three times the payroll, even if you have had movies made about how smart you are (*cough* Beane *cough*). And the powers that be still don’t believe that this is the year, or next year might be the year, or that it is profitable in the long-term to invest in elite players at anything other than super bargain value in order to build a fanbase. As a fan, that SUCKS.

But hey, at least they didn’t go halfway too soon and then cut all new acquisitions off in a huff when it didn’t work out. At least AA didn’t believe his own hype and sign some brutal contracts in a desperation move when the reasonable deals he wanted didn’t work out. Really, AA is stalling, and that’s not so bad — there are a bunch of players who need to bust out or be bussed out (sorry), and with a young team, why would he not wait to take his one and only shot at playing with a real team? But as a fan, the only real question is when and for how much are the pockets going to be opened? Obviously they’re willing to go up in terms of payroll, but are we talking enough to have a chance at squeezing into the wildcard, or a serious attempt at re-creating a big-money profitable team that could compete for years in the AL East? Tune in next year…

Written by halejon

January 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Seriousness

5 Responses

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  1. I think we all agree Alex W Anthopolous has been working very diligently to move the club ahead. By the way, the “W” stands for Walmart.

    Rojak the Giant

    January 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm

  2. He’s a genius. So much more astute than the team had any reason to expect. Active, creative, rational. Off the charts. It saddens me that in our situation, that just won’t do it.

    halejon

    January 25, 2012 at 1:00 pm

  3. Man you missed a good pun in the last paragraph. Aubrey Huff anyone? (sorry I’m just bored)

    DC

    January 28, 2012 at 11:27 am

  4. The Rangers went to the World Series in 2010 on a $65 million payroll. In 2011, 2 teams reached the playoffs with payrolls less than The Blue Jays. The Cards have reached the playoffs 8 times since 2000, been to the World Series 3 times, and won twice. Their payroll did not exceed $100 million until 2011. The Braves have been to the World Series 15 times since 1991, with 5 World Series appearances and 1 win. Their largest payroll was $106,243,667 in 2003. Other than that, their payroll never exceeded $100 million. As a matter of fact, the teams with the largest payrolls have had a hard time making it out of the first round of the playoffs, if they got there at all (see Sox, Red and White; Angels, Anaheim; Cubs, Chicago; Mets, New York).
    You, my friend, equate large payroll with large talent, and that’s not valid. The Blue Jays are a very young team (much as Tampa Bay was once), and as such most of the players are still in their arbitration years or under buyout contracts. Their payroll has nothing to do with skill or ability.
    If you really need a timeline to the playoffs, instead of being content watching an exciting young team improve and mature, take a look at when the first wave of the top 50 prospects will be hitting the majors. Only then will the depth and value be there to trade for the missing pieces.
    In the meantime, 1 sleep until pitchers and catchers!

    George

    February 20, 2012 at 12:27 pm

  5. Examples from around the league don’t really work for me, because it’s a completely different situation when you’re in a division with TWO teams with twice (!) your payroll. The Cards and the Braves are in nowhere near as unbalanced a division so yeah, any year could be their year. The Jays are so squashed they have to try to time a wave of talent perfectly just to have a chance for ONE year.

    And yeah, you can waste money (see: Mets, White Sox, etc). I don’t think that having a huge payroll is a playoff guarantee. I’m saying unless you’re dealing with idiots, if they have half the money to spend it’s impossible to be competitive over the long haul. Try playing baseball mogul or drafting fantasy with half the payroll against some reasonably smart people. It’s no fun. You can’t outfox and outdraft someone enough to compensate for the ability to airdrop a superstar like C.C. or A-Rod out of nowhere. The Rays and the A’s are touted as these great success stories on low payroll…for what? Sneaking into the playoffs a couple of times before sinking back into ‘rebuilding’ mode? They get blips, and the Yankees are there every single year. I think the correlation between payroll and talent is unarguable if you look at history broadly instead of cherry picking counter examples.

    “The Blue Jays are a very young team (much as Tampa Bay was once), and as such most of the players are still in their arbitration years or under buyout contracts. Their payroll has nothing to do with skill or ability.”

    I get what you’re saying here, but it’s part of the problem…you’re right — the Jays talent at this point exceeds their payroll because they have all these young, underpaid guys. But as they age, the Jays will have to pay them more and more for the same level of ability. This exact same team in five years will require a huge boost in payroll to maintain. The wave of prospects is exciting, but Rogers will still need to open the wallet to have them on the field at the same time as the current stars.

    It’s not that I’m not willing to get excited about watching kids mature. It’s that just like the last playoff Jays, there’s going to come a point where the feelgood homegrown team needs some expensive mercenaries to take them over the top. Will Rogers do what it takes to create a dynasty, when the Yankees will absolutely 100% guaranteed be throwing money by the handfull at their team if the Jays are getting close some year at the trade deadline? I used to think so…now I’m not so sure. Right now they seem content to generate hype with vague promises while relying entirely on AA pulling gold out of his bum, hoping that fans rush back in droves so they have money to spend, instead of even considering the other way around this chicken and egg situation. In order to make Toronto a sustainable baseball town again, this team needs a paradigm shift, not tweaks — no matter how good AA is at tweaking.

    Blah, blah, blah…that was circular and overlong but man it feels good to get it out!

    halejon

    February 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm


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