As always, when I embark on a Today in Morons piece, I’m loathe to send links in the direction of pieces that are lazy, or disingenuous, or otherwise completely miss the mark– especially when, as in this case, it’s really fucking long, and it features a good old straw-manning of a misinterpretation of something I’ve written– but there’s just so much juicy fucking wrongness in the debut diatribe from The Five Tools, and so much that gets repeated by his or her (or, let’s be honest, his) ilk that I can’t not tackle it, even if it’s going to take about fifteen billion interjections.
You see, folks, the Five Tools is worried. Worried that there “is a growing disconnect between the opinions of some in the media in this city and the sentiments of a fan base clamouring for the team’s corporate owners to spend money and bring in the kinds of players that can compete with the Curtis Grandersons, the CC Sabathias and the Adrian Gonzalezes of the world.”
What he’s not worried about is that he’s going to mangle a half-assed application of his first year liberal arts major’s understanding of Noam Chomsky about 5000 words into this sucker, and pretty much everything else along the way.
He’s also not worried about kicking things off with a bang, impugning the objectivity and professional ethics of Jeff Blair, Mike Wilner, Bob McCown, anyone who works for a Rogers-owned company– and, now that they’re in cahoots with BCE on the MLSE deal, anyone who falls under that group as well. “Concerns that they might be slinging propaganda for their bosses have been voiced by fans,” he writes– failing to add “who are fucking morons”– “in various forums.”
Wilner certainly seems to have a favourable view of what the club is doing, but has this guy ever actually listened to Blair or McCown? Where is this nonsense possibly coming from, except perhaps the mind of someone who has decided– y’know, if we’re speaking about biases– what he wants to conclude, and objectivity be damned, he’s gonna get there. The media is in cahoots with the theives!
“The purchase of MLSE by Rogers Communications and Bell has created a situation that is really without comparison or precedent in professional sports,” he writes. “These two conglomerates are the poster children of media concentration here in Canada and the vertical integration of the sports franchises with the news media reporting on these properties ought to raise concerns for fans of these teams. Rogers and Bell have a stranglehold on the sports media in the Toronto market, through specialty cable channels Sportsnet and TSN, radio stations Sportsnet 590 The Fan and TSN Radio 1050, and print the new Sportsnet Magazine. Bell also owns CTV and the news programming on this station, while Rogers runs CityTV, an important source of local news for the GTA. Bell and Rogers are also this country`s largest Internet and wireless services providers, which are quickly becoming the new frontier in sports content distribution. It is of great importance then that we understand how Rogers manages the Blue Jays payroll going forward, to ascertain for ourselves whether the corporation`s investment into the team is a good faith attempt to field a winning team.”
Shitty thing is, he was going somewhere interesting there, and then tosses up an absolute unnecessary curveball at us. Yes, the oligopoly that controls sports teams and the media that covers them in this country is a pretty interesting subject for exploration– not that I’m exactly comfortable talking about it in terms that make it sound actually, y’know, important– but how the fuck does it follow that it’s of “great importance” to determine if Rogers is acting in good faith on the Jays?
And let’s stop right there for a second, because there is an implication within the question that I think is false. There is a horrifically naive conception of “payroll” that some fans have, where it’s expected that it can rise and fall absent of external factors. “We need a bigger payroll!” fans shout. OK. How are you getting from here to there? Who are you spending it on? Who are you going to convince to take your money over someone else’s– over a club with a chance to win, closer to home, a better environment, freer travel? How does the increase in payroll now impact what you’re going to want to do in the future– when some of the young players you’ve been meticulously cultivating start needing arbitration raises and extensions? Will dollars committed from ownership rise as needed, or would positioning ourselves closer to the payroll ceiling simply be limiting our future flexibility?
The answer to the question of why the club didn’t spend this off-season is far more complex than “because Rogers are cheap motherfuckers.”
The Five Tools continues on with another series of canards.
“The idea that the Blue Jays will be able to become ‘perennial contenders’ in the American League East, which Anthopolous has consistently stated is his goal for the team, with a payroll of 70-80 m (projected) is simply unreasonable,” he asserts. That’s probably true, but that’s not what the Jays are attempting to do. Already their payroll is at about $85-million, reportedly, and due to see almost $8-million in raises for 2013 for Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Sergio Santos, not to mention raises through arbitration for guys like Colby Rasmus and Brett Cecil.
More importantly, the 2013 Jays will see young, cheap, talented guys like Travis d’Arnaud, Drew Hutchison, Anthony Gose and Adeiny Hechavarria start to make their way to the big leagues. Is the club being cheap by letting those young potential stars take up spots and not finding someone else to pay to fill out the roster, or are they being completely, inarguably responsible?
These are questions that, apparently, shouldn’t get in the way of a good conspiracy-laden rant.
Next we get treated to the old saw about how “yes, the Tampa Bay Rays have a payroll of $41 m, but they’ve only been competitive in the last three seasons after a decade of abject futility. It is true that Andrew Friedman is an excellent GM, but Tampa Bay’s recent successes are mostly the product of being the single worst team in the league for close to a decade.”
We then get the list of high picks who’ve helped Tampa succeed over the last several years, and– of course– no mention of anything that deviates from the hypothesis. Ben Zobrist? James Shields? Matt Moore? Jeremy Hellickson? Wade Davis? Desmond Jennings? Carl Crawford? The 2008 bullpen? Casey Kotchman? Carlos Pena? Edwin Jackson? Matt Joyce? Kyle Farnsworth?
Who are those guys? Everybody knows the Rays are Longoria, Price, Upton, Niemann, and whatever is left from trading Delmon Young.
Our long-winded friend then gets to the real nut of his argument, titling his next sub-section “The Apologists,” referring again to Wilner, McCown and Blair– who inex-fucking-plicably gets stung with this tag because of something Paul Beeston said while being interviewed on the radio.
You see, if you’re not criticising Rogers, you’re apologizing for them– the implication being that you know full well that what you’re doing is dirty and wrong and smothers babies to death in their sleep, but you do it anyway, because… because… because you’re a shill for your employers, or just a big meanie.
“Apologist,” the calling card of the twat who’d prefer it if you don’t use your brain to see how someone else’s ideas differ from his own! (OK, so maybe “moron” is a similar pejorative, but at least I’m trying to air this guy’s actual “arguments.”)
The contrast to the “apologists” are the Toronto Star and Sun writers who have questioned management’s willingness to spend. Sportsnet personalities are the only ones getting access to Beeston and Anthopoulos, we’re told, because long-form interviews are all that count, apparently, and the numerous media scrums and conference calls in which these reporters all participate mean dick all.
Oh, look! Horseshit!
“There are no more Moneyball inefficiencies to be exploited,” we’re told. “GM’s don’t discount walks any longer and they all employ nerdy statisticians compiling esoteric and exotic mathematical formulas to assess the value of players.”
I think someone needs to re-read the definition of inefficiencies!
“And the last CBA has all but eliminated Anthopolous’ other two strategies of gaming the compensation system to pick up extra sandwich picks in the draft and his high risk strategy of paying over slot money for difficult-to-sign draft picks,” he adds, which is true, and which was planned for, and which was never meant to be a strategy Anthopoulos employed in perpetuity. But hey, good line! Stick it to ‘em!
We’re then given some misinformation about the international free agent market (there are limits there in the new CBA too, champ), and reminded that the Jays could have got Michael Pineda for Brett Lawrie, but that he was too important an asset to part with, so the Yankees swooped in with their offer of Jesus Montero. “The Yankees don’t need Montero’s bat because they already have a $100 m in bats in their lineup,” we’re told.
Right. But… in what world does that demonstrate that expendable assets are only created by giant payrolls? No, the Jays aren’t there yet in terms of asset acquisition, but like so many frustrated fan diatribes The Five Tools is making the ridiculous error of assuming that something that isn’t true in the present will never be true in the future. Sure, statements like that ring hollow after all these years of contention being just outside of the club’s grasp, but it turns out fans are actually allowed to use their brains to think about all the reasons why, in this instance, that statement might be true, instead of instantly tuning it out as their minds fill up with inchoate rage.
The Sky Is Falling
Still going! Next up we’re told to contemplate the absolute worst possible disasterfuck of a season. The club is .500, prospects stop developing, Lind and Snider and Thames bust, every starter’s shoulder explodes, we have to face the prospect of trading Bautista?
GEE FUCKING WHIZ, COULD SURE USE A $200-MILLION UNTRADABLE PISS IN THE OCEAN NOW, AMIRIGHT?
“And if you’re excited about the talent on the farm,” we’re admonished, “I would remind you that in the mid-1990’s the Jays had Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, Michael Young, Roy Halladay, and Chris Carpenter all coming up together through the Jays minor league system. Why didn’t we win with this group?”
Um… because they pissed away three of them?
Wait, no! It’s “because the development curves of prospects are notoriously fickle and if you add in the propensity of pitchers to blow out their elbows and shoulders, it becomes positively a crap shoot.”
Well, good thing the current Jays have more than five prospects, right? No! Because “if you`re looking to Drew Hutchison or Noah Syndergaard, Deck Maguire or Chad Jenkins to put this team over the top, it likely won`t be with the current core of players. And if we are watching these pitchers trying to develop at the major league level as the core of our starting staff, it`ll mean that we`ve just suffered through another half decade of painful mediocrity.”
Because, y’know, Romero and Morrow (and Alvarez) aren’t already there. And because young pitchers always take forever in developing. And because, since they haven’t spent on a big free agent pitcher yet, they obviously never will!
And then we get to the budget– including another stop in horseshit land, which is the Jays’ supposed $70- to 80-million payroll, and whether this is an acceptable number, regardless, as always, of what additional money could have been wisely spent on– and bullshit about market size, bullshit about TV broadcast rights money.
“Rogers can frame the accounting of the revenues they derive from the Blue Jays to say pretty much whatever they want and the company hasn’t been forthcoming about the team`s finances and likely never will,” he writes. “If you consider, however, the market size and the ratings numbers for Jays games on television and radio, when you factor in all the cheap programming Rogers is able to create around the Jays broadcasts, the national audience the Blue Jays have access to, when you consider the value add of free streaming of all Blue Jays games for Rogers Internet subscribers, when you add to the ledger BlueJays.com, or count all the traffic this team generates for Internet properties like Sportsnet.com, Fan590.com and so forth, you don’t have to be a forensic account to see that Rogers is making out like bandits from the Blue Jays.”
It’s not an unfair conclusion. It’s just… so what? Yes, Rogers has money. Yes, they make money on the Jays. Yes, you want them to spend it. Problem is, you want them to spend it in some kind of fantasy world vacuum where money goes in and a great baseball team comes out the other side and nobody has to worry about what happens if Anthopoulos Ricciardis the money into bad assets and Rogers won’t let spending spiral out of control to fix it.
Worst case scenarios are only good for putting apologists in their place, apparently.
The Cart and the Horse
Ahhh, and we finally get to me. (And let’s be honest, that’s all this was really about anyway, right?)
“Andrew Stoeten of Drunk Jays Fan fame, unabashed imbiber of beer and writer of a profanity laced and oft entertaining Blue Jays blog, has come up with a rather curious analogy to refer to management`s logic on spending and attendance, referring to the problem as ‘putting the cart before the horse.’
“In this analogy, it is the fans, apparently, that are the horse pulling the ‘cart’ of the team, or as he put it ‘the revenue horse driving the money cart.’ In other words, arguing that the team should invest to improve the team is like putting the proverbial cart before the horse.
Um… no. Thanks for playing. Nice try.
For one, I don’t know where I said “the revenue horse driving the money cart,” but a Google search of that quote turns up nothing. Regardless, the notion is far more complex than what’s being presented, because the notion of “revenue” when it comes to the Jays is, as we’ve discussed, complicated. It’s not about waiting for gate revenue, that’s for sure, because it’s just not that big of an income source. The idea behind using the idiom is to suggest that it’s unwise to start asking Rogers for huge outlays of cash without a roster in place that can ensure ownership’s money is well-spent. If Rogers spends $200-million on a player and it doesn’t get the Jays into a pennant race, doesn’t fill the Dome from mid-season onwards, does that not impact the company’s willingness to spend further later? Does that put a rope around Alex Anthopoulos’s neck– perhaps sooner than he needed to? Does it not immediately make the near-term his focus, at the expense of the long term strategy he’s employed to this point?
Maybe in the fantasy world where Rogers is the club’s benefactor and not the primary shareholder it does, but that’s about it.
“Apparently, according to Mr. Stoeten, the fans of this city have to collectively decide en masse to start spending their hard earned money to attend Blue Jays games in order to give Rogers the wherewithal to improve their product.”
No, they’ll do that naturally as the club gets better– as it has been, immensely, under Anthopoulos. Just because they haven’t improved at a fucking crybaby-approved rate of instant gratification doesn’t mean they’re not far better than two years ago and still on the rise.
“Even when Rogers fields a team consisting of the likes of Jayson Nix, Corey Patterson, Dana Eveland and Jo-Jo Reyes? Really Mr. Stoeten? Even if the team has no real chance of making the playoffs? Even when the franchise hasn’t sniffed a playoff or division title since 1993?” According to this logic, we can expect before long for Rogers to start berating the fans for forcing the company to put a crappy team on the field.
Oh, fuck off.
“Alex Anthopolous expressed similar sentiments in his January 12th interview with Bob McCown in which he confirmed that more money would be put into the payroll once the teams starts winning. But doesn’t this only bring us back to the same fundamental question – how do we start winning without spending?”
By being patient you fucking mope!
Big Words, Little Logic
Mr. Stoeten is also of the opinion, for some inexplicable reason, that the fans should not expect Rogers to reinvest their television revenues into the team simply by virtue of the fact that Rogers purchased the team:
“ it’s hopelessly naive to expect Rogers to undermine the entire point of their ownership by handing the Jays a cheque comparable to ones being given out by regional TV networks south of the border.”
So by this logic, a person could purchase the New York Yankees, reduce it to a Triple A team roster, and pocket all the profits simply because he owns it? Owners owe nothing to the fans or the city? There is no ethical obligation on the part of Rogers to reinvest earnings into the team and make a good faith effort to win? Is this because Rogers is a cable company and cable companies possess some innate right to make obscene profits? And why precisely would it be hopelessly naïve to think so? What prevailing business logic is Mr. Stoeten alluding to here that the rest of us are apparently unaware of? Or is it that Mr. Stoeten has simply been given a privileged glimpse into the ruthless mendacity of the business culture at Rogers and is merely sparing us the futility of expecting Rogers to behave like a responsible corporate citizen?
Good lord. First of all he’s missed a crucial point, which is that I didn’t say it’s naive to expect Rogers to reinvest TV revenues into the club, I said it’s naive to expect them to hand the Jays a cheque equivalent market rates for broadcast rights.
Second of all, holy shit. For someone about to start pulling Noam Chomsky out of his ass, The Five Tools sure doesn’t have a handle on how corporations work. I’m no economy talkin’ guy, but no, there’s no ethical obligation for Rogers to put a winning fucking baseball team on the field. Their obligation is to the bottom line of their business. You don’t have to like that, but it is what it is– and it ain’t rocket surgery.
Also: bravo to the shit dribbling out of your mouth in the form of that last sentence, my friend. Bra-vo.
“Andrew Stoeten isn’t in the employ of Rogers (he works for the Score) but his bizarre defense of Rogers’ management of the Blue Jays is revealing of the lengths one is forced to go to in order to justify this team’s current payroll.”
Never mind that I actually think Rogers should spend more, and was in favour of signing Fielder in a perfect world. But sadly, that world is one where if the contract turns sour ownership will be loose enough with payroll to not let it inhibit future spending, and like the skeptic that I am about Rogers, I’m not ready to believe that world exists, and I certainly can’t kill Anthopoulos and Beeston for not being ready to believe that world exists.
Yes, friend, I too have massive doubts about Rogers’ willingness to do right by this franchise in the long-term, which is why I can get behind a strategy that insulates the club’s operations from relying too greatly on Nadir Mohamed giving the thumbs up or thumbs down to doling out more investment capital. The thriftier they are, the more prudent they are, the more strongly they build up the core of the franchise, the more likely it will be that, a) they will become competitive via a Rays’-like model, b) free agent players will want to come here, and will do so without huge overpayments, and c) Rogers will be willing to spend the money, and spend more still when it doesn’t work out.
Upping the ante now, bringing on genuine internal pressure to start seeing results– not bullshit posturing fan and media pressure that will evaporate with the next string of victories– isn’t really in Alex’s best interest or the long-term interest of the project he’s embarked on– the one he sold Rogers on when he took the job. Sure, it’s in the interest of the fans who want to see as good a club as possible as soon as possible, but those interests don’t necessarily have to overlap, not because anybody is making excuses for Rogers being cheap pricks, but precisely because we’re concerned they’re going to be down the line– especially if they’re asked for a huge outlay of cash at this point in the process and get discouraged by the return on that investment.
Is it possible that the journalists are beginning to behave like their nightly news counterparts, manufacturing consent as it were, doing their masters bidding while the parent company packages us, the fans, together like so many flocks of muttering sheep, to sell to their advertisers, reaping untold profits?
And… ya, he goes on, gets a bit wistful, talks Leafs and Raptors, before finally wrapping the damn thing up. And… holy shit, I can’t do this anymore. My post is as massive as his– and frankly, it kinda makes me respect the effort The Five Tools put in, even if I would have preferred my position not be misconstrued and to have been given something more than the typical off-season furious commenter blather.