I’ve weathered many years of being called an apologist for arguing in the past that it was understandable when the Jays didn’t go after significant — or, frankly, any – free agents because of the hard lessons learned at the end of J.P. Ricciardi’s tenure, when ownership began to balk at the notion of throwing good money after bad. The absurdity of the posture, given that Rogers could buy the whole of Major League Baseball and still not bankrupt the fucking company, was immaterial; that’s the way they operate. So, with that in mind, the fear of Alex Anthopoulos having followed his predecessor down that same futile path after last season’s huge rise in spending has become increasingly palpable over this long, dim winter.
That the Jays didn’t land Masahiro Tanaka today makes it all the more so. But, of course, the winter isn’t over yet, and the Jays still have time to stop hiding behind narrow talk about value and nonsense about contract length. It would be premature of us to go rant and rave about this, our heads full of fear for what might be happening behind the scenes at Rogers with respect to payroll. But… uh… probably going to do that anyway.
It would be especially off-base if we did so, as fans sometimes have the tendency to do, forgetting that everyone operates under some conception of which costs are palatable, relative to valuation — even the Yankees, who walked away from Robinson Cano and last year from Russell Martin, and the Dodgers, who failed to make good on their reported bluster about not being outbid on Tanaka.
It’s not unfair that Alex Anthopoulos says that he values players only to a certain point. I’d say, then, that what’s frustrating is how often it seems that where he’s willing to go in an offer to a player falls short, but actually that may just be selective memory on my part and the part of other fans. For example, he overpaid, and fended off other suitors, in landing R.A. Dickey last winter, and it’s a safe bet he was the first to blink and offer an extra year to get a deal done with Maicer Izturis, and possibly did the same with Melky Cabrera as well. Ironically, those three deals are likely as reviled as any Anthopoulos has made, by the exact same sorts of people who today are aghast that the club didn’t explode the doors off the barn and go all-in on Tanaka.
The reality is, it’s easier for the Yankees or the Dodgers to blow past their valuations on top end players like Tanaka, because they have the willingness — not the resources, because just about every teams has those — to spend the money, and the understanding that more money will be there to be spent when they need another piece, or, inevitably, one of their big money deals goes terribly bad.
The Jays insist that they have the resources — Alex Anthopoulos was on the radio last week saying that there were deals he could have had done that night, if he thought the value was there — but so far they’re not showing the willingness.
I could accept that lack of willingness on a guy like Tanaka, given that gigantic offers were always bound to be coming from New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and that the Jays’ interest in him may not have necessarily been mutual, but it becomes harder to take, and easier to find dubious when they try to have it both ways, like this:
#BlueJays bid on Tanaka, but dropped out of talks when contract length went beyond five years, source says.
— John Lott (@LottOnBaseball) January 22, 2014
Oh! So no fucking problem, then, eh???? The Jays have a shit-tonne of money to spend! Y’know, according to them. It’s just they can’t spend it, because they have a policy. A policy, that is, that we’re supposed to dumbly believe only prevents them from committing years, not dollars. Because let’s not have a conversation about where money is possibly disappearing to inside the cash-sucking behemoth of company that owns the club and doesn’t have to pay out the billions for TV rights that other clubs’ RSNs do, let’s have a talk [pushes up nerd glasses, raises voice two octaves] about value!
I mean… what a patronizing load of garbage.
In a second tweet, Lott — who, I should point out, just so we’re totally clear, as the messenger, is not the target of one iota of this ire (and also not the only one reporting it, as Shi Davidi had it as well) — adds that the club was also uncomfortable with the idea of an opt-out clause. There is certainly reason to be wary of all the back-end risk that giving the player an opt-out builds into the contract (though maybe less so when you’re supposedly only willing to go five years anyway), but what I see here is the Jays insulating themselves — and Rogers — from tough questions by using these pseudo-policies to make it look like they missed out for reasons other than money, or to make it look like they were more serious than they really were.
Their lack of comfort going beyond a certain number of years is, as I’ve said here many times, irrelevant — and that’s forgetting the fact that they’ve already admitted that they’re not necessarily going to strictly keep themselves beholden to it. It would have taken a high average annual value for the Jays to match the offer made by the Yankees ($31-million; $9-million more per season than the deal he’ll sign), but if they wanted the player badly enough, they could have matched even within the supposed policy. So by making the claim that they got scared off by the years, the Jays are only further exposing the myth. And what they’re really telling us is that any time a big ticket free agent now becomes available, they can use this facade to say that they went to their limit, had the full backing of ownership to spend lavishly, but couldn’t go any further as per their own absurd policy.
Don’t question the payroll parameters; it was the policy. Don’t say Alex isn’t out there trying to be a big time player; it was the policy. Don’t say we’re backed by a multi-kabillion dollar corporation, sitting in the fourth biggest city in North America, playing in a stadium they bought for a song with a near-billion dollar brand they bought for $160-million in 2000, stuffing millions upon millions into their pockets every year in TV rights money that they would otherwise have to pay us if the contract were actually open for bidding, and yet still operating the team like a small market organization run roughshod over a bunch of greedhead corporate jackals; it was the policy.
Why not just the truth? Because the less we hear of it, the more we get to thinking it really is closer to that dark one, unspeakable as it surely is for those on the inside of said multi-kabillion dollar corporation. [If that's it, touch your nose exactly three minutes into the Q&A portion of the State of the Franchise, Alex!]
If Tanaka wasn’t interested in coming here, why not say that? If the money isn’t there, you honestly can’t just try to sell us on the idea that for years Rogers was spending more than its payroll led on, via both the international amateur market and the draft, then point to where payroll jumped last year and make the case that even as is this is a better, deeper version of the team that everyone thought was going to be so good in 2013? If the fear is that ownership is going to take payroll backwards next winter should things not work out on the field, so you want to hedge on a potential mid-year rebuild as much as possible and don’t think the headache of adding salary is worth it… um… OK, maybe don’t say that. And if you’re just posturing for the benefit of the agents representing Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana (and Stephen Drew *COUGH*), maybe don’t say that either. But also — and this is important — maybe don’t piss in our mouths and tell us its raining.
I mean, I get that clubs can’t always be entirely truthful with fans, but don’t lob us a bag of bullshit and tell us it’s dinner.
Like… I don’t mind how the policy isn’t real, on account of how it would be monumentally fucking stupid if it were, and an affront to anyone who knows anything about the vast wealth of ownership, the value of the club, or the new economic realities of baseball, but don’t proudly hold up your soiled drawers and claim you tried real hard to make it to the big boy potty.
Because, it’s not that it wasn’t cool how you showed your willingness to overpay for somebody last year, even if it was kind of dumbly done in prospect capital and not a much less valuable asset, like cash, but don’t ask us to believe that you don’t have any of the stuff when I know THERE WAS A GODDAMN HALF BAG LEFT WHEN I GAVE IT TO YOU FIFTEEN MINUTES AGO, RANDY!
Er… OK, that last one doesn’t really work, but I think you get the idea. What happened today would have been a lot better without the whole trying to look serious while pretending we thwarted ourselves with an absurd policy thing. There would still be questions, but maybe less room for head scratching and cyncism. Losing out to the Yankees is totally understandable. Tanaka not wanting to come here, given the alternatives and money being thrown around, is unsurprising. Failing to go harder after a player you obviously wanted — enough to supposedly be interested at something near $100-million for him, on top of the $20-million posting fee — because of a ridiculous self-imposed policy is bizarre, sure, but using the supposed existence of that absurd policy to try to make it sound to your fan base like you made some kind of a run at a player you knew all along you weren’t going to get is… well… just kinda shitty. (And while, admittedly, this isn’t exactly an official pronouncement from the club… come on! It’s reasonably close-ish.)
It’s my dad’s birthday today — happy birthday, old man! — and I’m reminded of how, more than just about anything, he always taught us the value of honesty. It really does do wonders for eradicating bullshit, and keeping people from running wild and angry with whatever imperfect kernels of suspicion they can get their hands on. Again, I don’t think it’s something that sports teams owe to their fans, but I think the Jays sure could use some of it here anyway, because I’m not sure they’d be making right call if they stood pat this winter while remaining insistent on posturing that they had money all along that they simply would not spend. No, the off-season isn’t over yet, but getting fans excited for 2014 with essentially an unchanged team and the idea that they left possible payroll unspent does not sound to me like a step forward for this little baseballing project Alex Anthopoulos has embarked on, hog-tied as it supposedly is to the revenues it generates. Not in the long-term or in the short.
Or… wait, did I say honesty? I meant SIGNING FREE AGENT PITCHERS. Jays totally could use some of that.