When they’re discussing stats, or strategy, or closers, or pitcher wins, or clubhouse issues, or indulging Zaun Cherry, the baseball talk on Prime Time Sports tends to get a little bit unbelievably insufferable. But there are certain areas that are right in their fucking wheelhouse over there, and Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt hit on one during the 4 PM hour of Wednesday’s show this week (audio here), discussing strife between Paul Beeston and the ownership group at Rogers, and the incredibly tricky position the club finds itself in heading into the winter.
It’s a scene, man.
“For some weeks now, people have been whispering to me that Beeston is going to be done with the Blue Jays, suggesting somehow that Rogers may not be happy with him– that Beeston may not be a good fit with this ownership,” begins Bob McCown. “And I have steadfastly resisted that notion and argued that I have not seen anything that suggests that. Now, I’m not in meetings between Pelley and Beeston– I don’t know exactly how they get along. But I’ve never seen anything that’s suggested to me that Beeston wouldn’t continue, unless he’d decided he’d had enough.”
“Now the story is,” he goes on, “that they may be on the verge of new contract.”
“Yeah, a short-ish contract, but a contract,” replies Brunt. “And I think that what’s going to happen, is that he will be renewed. I’m not sure if they’ll talk about the terms– that isn’t there policy, generally, to talk about the terms, so I suspect they won’t. But I think it’s a relatively short-term contract.”
In fact, according to Bob Elliott’s piece this morning from the Toronto Sun, Beeston’s saying that a deal isn’t only already in place, “it happened two months ago”– a fact that potentially changes our view of what Brunt says next.
“I think it has been a challenging relationship for both sides,” Brunt explained, “because Paul, during his salad days running the Blue Jays way back when, worked for an owner that was simply happy to count success upon success, and make money and open a new stadium and make even more money, and watch the equity in the franchise go through the roof, and basically left he and Pat Gillick alone to do whatever they wanted. He’d admit it. It was as though they were owners, and they occasionally would have to go to somebody like Peter Hardy and say, ‘can we do this?’ But they pretty much had carte blanche, and it paid off.
“That’s not the environment anymore– for a whole bunch of reasons– and it’s a different culture with Rogers. And I think there probably has been a bit of chafing on both sides trying to make this work. But the other side of this is, Bob, Paul Beeston is a very popular guy in Toronto still– he’s very, very popular with the media. A lot of guys have long-standing relationships with him, including you and me, and if Paul Beeston left uncomfortably from this job, not on his terms, it would be a very tough thing for the Blue Jays and for Rogers to manage, I think. So I don’t know that they want to get into that. They’ve got all kinds of other things they’ve got to deal with right now, and I think that dealing with the kind of PR fallout from that kind of situation is not something that they want to do at this stage in history. So, I think they’re going to go forward together, and I think they’ve got some challenges this winter– it’s going to be interesting to see how they face them, in terms of expectations and credibility and getting results.”
Very interesting. Though… it sure looks good on Beeston to project an image of chafing at cheapskate ownership, if you get what I’m saying.
“The $120-million question is,” McCown continued, “has Beeston asked for money and been turned down? Is there a caveat that, in order to get the money he has to fill the seats? Has Beeston never gone to them, because he doesn’t believe it’s the right time. I mean, there are all kinds of possibilities and all kinds of stories out there, and I keep telling people, I don’t know what’s going on here. And nobody is telling me, from either side. We’ve heard stories, but we’ve heard conflicting stories about what the exact relationship is between the Blue Jays and Rogers. Give me your sense, one more time, as to what you think might be going on.”
“I have no information or no knowledge to suggest that there’s been a big ask that was turned down– let’s put it that way,” Brunt says. “Like a Cecil Fielder [sic] kind of ask, or a $50-million posting for Yu Darvish kind of ask. No one has said to me– no one has whispered to me, you know, ‘we asked for that and they turned us down.’ So I don’t think that’s happened. There may have been some smaller instances when they went in with a specific player in mind, and somebody said, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea,’ I don’t know. But I think the notion that this is a lock-type, we’re not going to spend another nickel, do the best you can kind of situation– that doesn’t work for the Jays, obviously, and that also doesn’t work for the owners. The better the team is, the more money they make. The brand– the value of the brand is important to them on a whole bunch of different levels: the TV, radio, all over the place. So, I think they want to win. And I think that they would spend to win at the moment when they thought spending would actually make a difference.”
Then what’s, for me, the real money quote:
“All that said, Bob, I think this winter, they’re almost kind of painted into a corner,” Brunt went on. “I think they have to spend now, just because it’s kind of turned back on them, and it’s– if you don’t spend flamboyantly, then you’re a bunch of cheap so-and-sos, so I expect them to do something quite– try and do something quite dramatic this winter and make a splash.”
Brunt here is bang on, encapsulating the fucked up moment we’re about to enter this winter. And what really stings is that, while it’s a moment that was partly setup by the club’s failure this season– for a number of reasons, including terrible luck with injury and the progression of young players– it’s also been setup by the choices the team, and especially ownership, made last season with respect to money.
I’ve maintained all along that what Alex Anthopoulos was selling was what appeared to be a way past the must-spend moments that so blew up in the face of his predecessor. Yet now here we are. The luxury Anthopoulos had last year to sit back and not pay the prices required to improve his club no longer exists, and he must find a way to spend big, and spend wisely.
Obviously, that’s one hell of a trick to have to pull off.
“You get back to the money thing, number one,” Brunt explains. “The spending will be determined to some degree by who’s on the market and what the market demands. And some of the stories that have come out just in the last little while– Carlos Beltran: the Jays offered him more money and more term and he turned it down. So, guys have got to want to come here, with Toronto as the highest bidder. There are going to be certain kinds of players who are not on the market– not a lot of starting pitchers on the market this year– so that means trades and taking on salary in different ways and acquiring players in different ways, so– look, it’s going to be a very, very significant off-season for this team, I think, and I think that Beeston being extended for however long he’s been extended for, I think both he and Alex Anthopoulos are kind of on the line here. This is their moment to be creative, and the ownership is on the line, because they’re going to have to support them.”
Precisely. It’s going to be a damn interesting winter. It better be.