Tuesday, January 31, 2012

State of the State of the Franchise

(Photo courtesy of @rallycap_andy...artsy!)

We weren't able to make it to the Rogers Centre in person for Monday night's State of the Franchise meeting between the team's brain trust, the season ticket holders and other superfans and hangers on.

We were able to check in via the live stream and follow along with the snarktacular tomfoolery of our Twitter pals who were in attendance, gazing up the pantlegs of President Paul Beeston, GM Alex Anthopoulos and Manager John Farrell. (Oh, and moderated Buck "Albert" Martinez, just for good measure.) From the tales of morning after woe from those who we know were in attendance last night, it sounds like a good time was had by some.

A few observations, if you'll indulge us.

Beestmode: They say: "Only speak when it improves on the silence."

At last year's State of the Franchise, Beeston let slip that the team could, in some conceivable universe, spend $120 million or more in player salaries. No sooner had that vague speculation slipped out than the cries of "when can the payroll get to $120 million?" began. Give people a fencepost off in the distance, and they'll train their eyes on it to the exclusion of all else.

This year, Beeston fed the future fixation by intimating that the team has been examining ways of playing baseball on grass in the Rogers Centre. It was a bit of a dumbfounding statement, especially since we were prepared to scoff at the notion when it was raised by a fan.

In spite of Beeston's subsequent assurances to the subsequent media scrum that the installation of natural turf is feasible, we're left feeling more than a bit skeptical. To install a grass field would require some sort of drainage system being installed into a 23 year-old stadium, which is no small feat. Subsequently, a grass field would require plenty of sunlight, which would mean keeping the roof open on cold days an in all sorts of other weather. And while Beeston floated the notion that a multi-use stadium could indeed accommodate multiple tenants and still preserve the precious new sod, we also remember hearing how well the current carpet was supposed to stand up in spite of all the non-baseball events.

Not to dismiss the notion outright, because the ideal situation for the Blue Jays is that the park is exclusively theirs and that they can find a way to spread out a luscious lawn with impunity. But by giving the idea just enough oxygen last night, Beeston has helped to make the rolls of turf look that much uglier for a large swath of the fans.

Compressed Timelines: Remember the "Five Year Plan"? Oh, how we wish we could forget that monolithic bit of rhetoric which overshadowed so much of the last regime. And yet, there was Beeston, assuring those in attendance that he expects the Jays to be in the playoffs "two-to-three times" in the next five years.

More tellingly, Beeston mentioned that while a postseason berth doesn't guarantee a World Series, that getting there gives you as much of an opportunity as "the other nine teams." We're not sure if that was a slip of the tongue, or if Beeston views the expanded post-season as a fait accompli.

Maybe we're just reading a lot into nothing, but it may be revealing that the team's president has oriented his impressions of future success around a ten-team playoff.

Succession Plans: Someone (whose identity I can't confirm, but you know who you are) posed a question with regards to the future planning in the Jays' executive offices, hinting at something that we've been carrying in our back pocket for a while: The notion that Alex Anthopoulos will eventually - maybe soon - take over the Jays' presidency from Paul Beeston.

Given Beeston's reticence to assume the position in the first place, we would assume that he's not looking to spend that many more years at the helm of the franchise. Moreover, the role of the president may well suit Anthopoulos as it provides for some greater personal security and an ability to set the long-term vision for the club.

How would AA do sitting around the table with his fellow senior executives at Rogers? We actually think this might be a perfect role for him. Eventually.

In Search of Authority: We've seen a lot of this in our years as a blogger and a longtime listener to the JaysTalk post-game shows, but it was great fun to hear the competition among the questioners when it came to the legitimacy of their fandom.

"I've been a fan since 1977!"

"I've been a season ticket holder for 32 years!"

Of course, most people who feel the need to air these bona fides do so immediately in advance of some angry screed with regards the direction of the franchise. As though watching Danny Ainge flail at the ball for a year or so in the early 1980's somehow equips the mind with a greater insight for the game than is possessed by those employed by the team.

Look, we get that people are going to be fans on their own terms, and we're going to do a better job at not telling you how to cheer for the Jays. If you feel as though the 30 years or however long you've been a fan gives you a license to be angry and impatient, have at it. Be that thing.

Just don't expect your presence at the home opener against the White Sox in 1977 to legitimize your views on Colby Rasmus' contract.


Erix said...

*Puts on tinfoil hat*

Maybe a GM opening in Toronto in the near future is why LaCava stayed on.

Ian - BJH said...

Hi, my name is Ian and I grew up watching the 92/93 World Series videos.

Tao of Stieb said...


Peter DeMarco said...

Call me a pessimist but I think Beeston will come to regret his comments about the Jays making the playoffs 2 to 3 times in the next five years. Without a balanced schedule the additional playoff spot does not increase the Jays chances of making the playoffs by very much, as shown by the fact that they would have only made the post season once since 1993 under this format in spite of being better than actual playoff teams for many of those years.

Tao of Stieb said...

You know what? It's really frickin' hard for the Jays to make the playoffs.

Sorry if that makes me an apologist, as I know everyone else is a BOTTOM LINE KINDA GUY and I'm a puddle jumper in galoshes and a poodle skirt.

My point - and I'm not sure that I have one - is that I think that success for the Jays is going to have to be measured in different ways.

Even if AA's plan works perfectly, there will be 88 win seasons that will result in the Jays being on the outside looking in, and not close in September.

Patience is a virtue. I'm here for the journey.

mike in boston said...

screwed up my goggle login somehow ...

My point - and I'm not sure that I have one - is that I think that success for the Jays is going to have to be measured in different ways.

Patience is a virtue. I'm here for the journey.

is what you're saying that you'll be happy win or lose so long as the team keeps rewarding you with high ceiling prospects?

it's a respectable position, but it is somewhat non-standard. most people want to cheer for teams that get to the playoffs, or have a hope of winning. that's not your position, but it's not a crazy position either.

It's not hard to see why it would be frustrating for those who value winning to see the Jays' chances of winning decreased by ignoring the high end free agent market, or players who can command more than 5 year contracts.

Tao of Stieb said...

I think "winning" is a bit of a vague concept. Does winning mean "winning more than losing"? Does it have to mean "in the race right up until the season's end?"

I want the Jays to field teams that can compete and be in the mix every year. But I also recognize that a couple of injuries and a crap West Coast swing, and a 92-win team turns into an 84 win team.

This is my issue, and I keep saying it and I keep getting called names for it, but here it is: The difference between success and failure for a team is about one extra win every two weeks. An extra win every two weeks last year, and the Jays are in the playoffs.

That's the margin. And there are a lot of snot-nosed, know it all blowhards who will not even see a good year when it's right in front of them.

I mean, for goodness sake, think about the baseball that we've seen over the last two years! The 2010 team that knocked the snot out of the ball all year long? Smacking taters until we all had diabetes and gout?

And the 11 or so walkoff wins last year?


mike in boston said...

well here's hoping for a gout-free 2012 to us all. I can't afford to lose any more limbs.

you're right about the difference between being a contender and a non-contender for the playoffs. but it's precisely that slim difference that justifies investing in as many avenues of improvement as possible. the team seems content to rely mostly on internal improvement to do the heavy lifting. that's legitimately frustrating, in my opinion, and a point of valid criticism of ownership.

mike in boston said...

since we're here chatting: has anyone tracked the correlation between having a top 5 ranked farm system and W-L record in the N years that followed? i'm curious to know if/how much having a great farm system is a predictor of future success.

might make for an interesting post down the road.

Unknown said...

"The difference between success and failure for a team is about one extra win every two weeks."

Well said Mr. Tao. This is why, for me anyway, I was so pleased to see the blue birds go out and get a legitimate closer. I mean how many blown saves did we have last season? My count is 20; yes we were that bad. Convert just 10 of those and we're a 91 win team :)

Anonymous said...

Not as simple as 1 win every 14 days...

The difference between a hall of fame hitter and major league bust is 1 hit every 14 at bats too... There's a lot that goes into each & every play, every single pitch, and add them all up over the course of a game, the course of a season, & there's not much random variance between how many games your team wins & how many games your team deserved to win; You earn' em.

Sure any team can win on any given day, and there is a fine line between winning & losing, but over the long-haul--> 162 games, the cream rises to the top.

All the breaks, funny-bounces, etc., even out, for the most part, and the "deserving"(best) teams almost always find a way to be on the winning side of that fine line over the course of a season, it's not like a few bloop basehits, seeing-eye singles, or lucky/unlucky bounces makes or breaks the season. (unless it's some major momentum-changing turning point event). Let's not fool ourselves-

Anonymous said...

Being a wild card team doesn't give you as much of a chance as "the other nine teams". The two wild card teams in each league each have more or less half the chance of the other three teams, since only one of them will actually get to the LDS. The other team will be eliminated after one game.

Anonymous said...

" I think that success for the Jays is going to have to be measured in different ways. "

i completely agree with the sentiments of this entire post.

i feel like, as canadian baseball fans, we're poisoned by the way the NHL just hands out playoff spots to anyone.

in hockey, you have to be pretty terrible to fail to make the playoffs.
in baseball, no one just "sneaks" in.
something i've always loved about baseball is the season actually matters.
i believe any sport which brags about it's playoffs being essentially a second season, should seriously consider just having that tournament to begin with, and scraping everything else.

baseball's season matters, and it's playoffs are for the kings of that year.

randyor said...

Thanks for the blogs, nice information. most people feel the need to ventilate these bona fides do so immediately before some mad rule with respect to the direction of the franchise.

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advantages and disadvantages of a franchise business said...

It is informative post. Mostly people need in advance of some angry screed with regards the direction of the franchise.

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