Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times used to cover the “White Jays” for the Toronto Star, and he’s become aghast as he’s seen Mariners fans and bloggers start doing the team’s dirty work, making excuses for why the M’s need to be financially prudent. To combat this, he lays down a screed on the recent history of the club he covered from 1998 until 2006.
On one hand Baker surely makes some points worth considering. He gives a tidy explanation of how Rogers’ cost-cutting during early JP Ricciardi years was really a way to drive down the price of the then-SkyDome, which succeeded, as Rogers paid what amounted to a song– $25-million– for the building. He also points out that at the height of the club’s Moneyball hysteria the club ran a payroll of $51-million in 2003. Given that the Canadian dollar was, for much of the year, worth less than $0.70 US, they were actually spending more then than the club is now– on the Major League roster, that is. Of course, that sensational statement looks a little disingenuous when you factor in currency equalization payments and the vast gulf between Ricciardi-era and 2011 spending on the scouting, the draft, and international free agents.
“If I’m a diehard Blue Jays fan,” he writes, “I’m asking myself: If the first half of the last decade was spent with the Blue Jays stockpiling cash for their owners to buy a stadium cheaply, what’s the second half been about? Has it been about Rogers stockpiling cash to buy a hockey team? At the expense of quality baseball?”
Because, y’know, spending equals quality baseball. Obviously. We should get our heads out of our asses and stop giving one of the smartest GMs in the game, Alex Anthopoulos, who “makes all the cost-effective moves to keep the blogs happy,” so much damn slack. Fuck intelligent management! Spend, dickholes! Cubs and Mets and Orioles and Dodgers and White Sox fans can tell you that.
And Blue Jays fans.
I mean, it’s not like we didn’t exactly see Ricciardi’s later teams make poor decisions with money, which led to poor decisions at the trade deadline because the club desperately wanted to look like it was making good use of ownership’s investment, which basically would have led to the entire house of cards falling in on itself had Jose Bautista not materialized out of thin air.
But Baker rather easily dismisses the change of course that in two years brought a big commitment to Troy Glaus on board, as well as top free agents BJ Ryan, AJ Burnett and Frank Thomas, and a massive contract to their own Vernon Wells. “Those expenditures weren’t thought out all that well,” he writes, “but no matter. With the stadium in hand, franchise value kept on growing — up to $353 million in 2009, when Ricciardi was finally fired after years of seeing his ‘rebuilding plan’ go nowhere.”
No matter? Um… when you’re writing an article that attempts to show how a club has simply been used by their ownership as a way to shuttle revenue into other ventures, that time where they went ahead and spent a whole lot of money and it didn’t work out? Yes, matter.
Curiously, when the Jays extended Vernon Wells to his albatross seven-year $126-million deal in December of 2006 he was going into his age-28 season, as Prince Fielder is now. Wells’ 162 game average over the four years prior to signing was 32 home runs, 42 doubles, with a .292/.344/.509/.853 line. Fielder’s previous four years have seen him average 38 HR and 32 doubles per 162 games, with a .284/.400/.537/.936 line. Vernon, of course, played above average defence at a premium position at the time, which narrows the significant gap with the bat. According to FanGraphs Wells had been worth 16.8 WAR over the four year period, while Fielder has been worth 17 WAR. You can feel so good about a player that you’re ready to give him crazy money, that you think it’s worth the risk he declines, that it’s worth the risk he gets hurt, that he’ll be so good on the front end that the back end won’t matter so much, that he’s young enough that you can’t possibly take such a hit. And you can be really, really fucking wrong.
Oh, but the Jays’ reluctance to go hard after Fielder must be because Rogers– who, as we all know, don’t have any other ventures to bleed money from– need “to spend hundreds of millions in other sports arenas.”
That scoffed, I’m fully aware of Rogers propensity for being cheap motherfuckers– maybe they really do think Fielder is worth the back-end risk (note: ha!) and don’t have the budget to do it anyway– but holy fuck, Geoff Baker, maybe think for a second about how corporate ownership works before lecturing the fans and bloggers who are trying to make sense of what’s going on with their club within that context that they ought to be working harder to push that boulder up the hill.
“Let them sell you on why they can or can’t do certain things,” he says. Yeah! Stop just eating up this shit they’re shovelling, Toronto! Baker is bang on! It’s high time fans stop going to games until ownership shows that they’re ready to… oh… right…
“And if you’re going to try to read into it,” he says, “make sure you’re looking at the stuff that matters. Start at the very top and work your way on down. No, it’s not as easy as venturing to a website and adding up all the pertinent numbers. Nor as easy as watching the latest Brad Pitt movie. Sometimes, it takes some real legwork to find the answers and they won’t become apparent right away.”
Oh, fuck off.