Well here’s something that probably should turn into a regular feature, but never quite seems to — but that I’ll make to look like one anyway in order to keep from having it seem too terribly out of place: a collection of Monday thoughts on what was going on over the weekend that really should have just been separated into several individual posts…
Paul Beeston Is No Agromonongist
“I would say, at the very earliest, and probably realistically, 2018,” said Paul Beeston in an interview with Team 1040 in Vancounver (audio here) about the possibility of bringing grass to the Rogers Centre.
Beeston was on the west coast for the annual Vancouver Canadians luncheon, and spent a segment with former Globe and Mail scribe Matt Sekeres and Blake Price, answering the grass question, among several others. And actually, once you get past the initial groan about poor Jose Reyes’s knees on that shitty felt until 2018, and having to keep staring at a rug with all the visual appeal of a meth head’s front lawn (though Alex Anthopoulos has hinted that replacement turf may be coming in the interim), it’s really not that grim.
“The Argos are there until 2017. And, you know, I’m a great believer in the CFL,” Beeston said, as they all do when they’re trying to not poison their own brand with the potential stink of the rotting corpse of CFL in Toronto on their hands. “They’ve got their area to work it out, so they’ve got four more seasons to work it out. We have some real issues that we have to work on, engineering-wise. We have to take down, put it in, put in some type of drainage — and apparently the big thing is air flow. We have to have air flow — our air flow comes down from the top, it’s got to come from the side. Whatever that means, I’m not a agrologist, or whatever it is — an ‘agromonongist’ — or… you know what I’m talking about. The fact of the matter is, we’ve got some things, but I would say, realistically, that 2018. If the Argos left before that, we would expedite it.”
Ahh, pulled it out of the fire at the end, you wily old devil.
But… yeah. It is what it is. And it’s not like Beeston doesn’t know the value of proper stadium to the product he’s trying to sell — he brought up the universally acclaimed experience at PNC Park in Pittsburgh at one point, in fact. So… there’s that. There’s also the fact that, at the very least, he seems to think they can get the changes done between the end of an Argos season and the beginning of the next Jays one. Unless, that is, he just doesn’t want to say that it would be better to give the project the extra two (or, let’s be honest, six) weeks they’d get by waiting until the Jays were the sole tenant and doing the work for the entirety of their off-season.
Ugh. Let’s not even think about it taking even longer, though.
Other highlights of Beeston’s chat were:
- There were some mixed messages about “The Policy” and the Tanaka stuff, I thought. At first he took the blame off Rogers for their conservative approach to free agency, explaining, “We’ve never been told no on anybody. When we’ve asked, we’ve got it. It’s our rules that say that we don’t want to go over five years.” However, he later was less firm, explaining, “We try to have a limit on the number of years and we see where it goes from there.” And then on Tanaka specifically, he strayed a little from what we’ve heard so far, saying that “If it had been X number of dollars, which would have been significant by anybody’s terms, we might well have been there. But it was the length of the contract, it was the dollars at the very end.”
- On last season, though, he was blunt-ish. “”It was disappointing. I won’t say it was an embarrassment, but it was bordering on that.” You can probably go ahead and say that it was, Paul. We won’t mind (though, OK, maybe your players will).
- He made the bold prediction that we’d see baseball return to Montreal “I think in my lifetime, and I’m 68 years old.” Sure. OK. Um… no worries about the occasionally volatile Canadian dollar impacting that? *COUGH*
- And for those of you on out west: He promised that today he’d be on the phone pitching to MLB that, if they’re unable to schedule Canada Day games in Toronto, to at least try to get the Jays playing in Seattle that weekend. He also said that playing exhibition games in B.C. Place would be a possibility, though there were some scheduling obstacles that would need to be overcome in order to make it a reality.
Done In Dunedin? Not So Fast
In the Toronto Star, Richard Griffin looks at the Jays’ Spring Training situation, with their plans to join the Houston Astros at a complex on Florida’s Atlantic coast now looking unlikely to move forward due to opposition from residents near the Palm Beach Gardens site where the new facility was to be built. The Jays, Griffin reminds us, are in an enviable position with respect to their Spring Training site, because, “Astros letter-of-intent aside, the Jays have very little if any pressure to move, what with the two five-year club options” that they have on their current deal with Dunedin, which expires in 2017, and could conceivablyrun until 2027.
He notes the way that teams posture and bluff with various communities, looking to get public money in exchange for the economic benefit of bringing fan hordes into otherwise quiet Florida locales, figuring that the Jays’ dance with Palm Beach Gardens may speed up needed — but, as Griff notes, not that needed — changes to their current facilities. Doing so, he suggest, is probably the ideal end to this little game anyway, and I tend to agree.
“The bottom line,” he writes, “if indeed this 95-per-cent sure-thing misadventure with the Astros falls apart, at least the Toronto fan base is likely very happy to be staying in the Tampa Bay area. Many long-time Jays fans purchased real estate in Dunedin, Palm Harbor or Clearwater years ago and there was genuine anger from that group of loyalists.”
Griffin also suggests that the front office may not be terribly troubled if the team stays put, so perhaps they’re not quite so eager to move as they are to find an ideal way to upgrade their spring digs for as cheaply as possible — exactly what the Astros deal presented, as Griffin explains that the construction of the state of the art facility that was planned would have been funded by “little, if any, of their own money.”
Impressively, even with that deal seemingly falling apart, maybe the club can find an even better solution for everybody.
Pasco County is adjacent to Pinellas County, which is where Dunedin is located. One of the Pasco County communities north of the city limits of Tampa is Wesley Chapel. It’s about an hour’s drive from Dunedin, according to Google, so it’s a pretty big stretch to call it “ideal” for those who have real estate on the coast, but according to a report this month from the Tampa Tribune, the town is looking for a baseball team, and they’ve got the facility plans to lure one.
Earlier this month, Pasco County commissioners approved a contract to build a complex of nine MLB-sized fields, plus ten youth-sized ones, at a site in the area, according to the Tribune report, and the founder of the company that will build the $34-million site doesn’t mince words about his intentions:
With a signed contract in hand, [Blue Marble Strategic founder James] Talton can officially reach out to the Toronto Blue Jays, Houston Astros and other MLB teams that are shopping around for a new spring training site. “I know Florida would love for us to be able to steal back one of the Cactus League (Arizona) teams,” he said.
The site would put a team closer to the Tigers’ Lakeland facility, as well as the clubs in the Orlando area, than the Jays currently are, while also being within an hour’s drive of the teams in Tampa, Clearwater, and Bradenton.
Or, y’know, it might give the Jays a bit of leverage to crudely extract public money from Dunedin. That works too. (Or… well… y’know, actually fuck sports teams for doing this kind of shit, but you know what I mean).
There is negativity rotting away the guts of Jays fans this off-season, and boy, do they ever respond viscerally when you tap into it. Or even when you don’t, actually.
It irked me last week when the Jays used “The Policy” as their quasi-official excuse for not bidding harder on Masahiro Tanaka. That was especially so because — in addition to the fact that the policy is as absurd as it is fake (or, if you really want to split hairs, “soft”) — it spoke to everything wrong about the club’s use of it as a P.R. device, while also running counter to certain rumblings that have been out there about what may have really happened.
The Jays claimed that once the bidding on Tanaka reached their five year limit they bowed out, which is the perfectly convenient way for the club to use “The Policy” to make them sound like serious, well backed bidders for every premium free agent, while never having to actually spend the money. Doing so seemed doubly eyebrow-raising with rumblings out there that the interest wasn’t necessarily mutual, and that the Jays were not given much of a chance to land him anyway, despite willingness to make a genuine effort. If you want to read it that way, such a tale may be substantiated by John Lott, who confirmed via Twitter that the meeting between the two sides was short, that money wasn’t even discussed, and in a piece for the National Post he quotes a source told him that, as far as attempting to match the massive offer made by the Yankees, “We never got that far.”
That’s nowhere close to an airtight case that the interest wasn’t mutual, and everything Lott says also fits the quasi-official explanation that came from his and Shi Davidi’s sources with the club as well. But OK, if the club wanted to downplay to agents for other free agents any willingness to go farther than five years on Tanaka by invoking “The Policy” and not engaging in sour grapes about — or highlighting — a player’s unwillingness to play on this side of the border, you could understand that. Thing is, before we ponder such things too deeply, we should be sure not to lose sight of the fact that the key words in the above paragraph, as well as this one, are the ones that are italicized.
The fact that in some posts I’m just openly spitballin’, or explaining how I might feel if certain conditions are met, can get lost, it seems, especially when stoking those dark emotions that, right now, are just about ready to boil over in so many fans — myself included sometimes. But please don’t mistake some of what I’ve been saying here, easy as it may be to do so as the building frustrations of this winter have nudged me toward an angrier tone. It would be a problem if money — and not the call of the United States — was the reason that Dirk Hayhurst and Jack Morris have parted with Sportsnet, and if that signaled a similar type of pulling back from above the heads of baseball operations, but we don’t have nearly enough evidence to says such a thing is happening. What appeared like a potential lack of seriousness on Tanaka — especially given the excuse — certainly may not have been that, or at the very least was not, on its own, indicative of any sort of reining in of payroll from on high, nor is the fact that they haven’t done anything yet on the free agent market, nor are any of the many other theories floating around out there, from the ascension of Guy Laurence to the dropping Canadian dollar.
As fans we have a right to be upset if Rogers gets cold feet when it comes to spending to further a project that took excitement about this team last year to levels unprecedented over the previous two decades when it’s still so close to being right there with its American League rivals (close enough that it’s debatable whether they even need to lock themselves into relatively underwhelming free agent pitching for a bunch of years). But we haven’t seen any concrete evidence of that as yet — even better, we haven’t seen them make moves to divest themselves of payroll, nor have we seen Alex Anthopoulos desperately offloading prospects just to maintain his near-term job security.
More importantly, we spend a lot of time around here calling bullshit on narratives that it doesn’t make sense to swallow, and I certainly don’t want to be responsible for helping any of those forward myself, no matter how cathartic it feels to vent. There will be plenty of time vitriol should the club ultimately try to make the feeble case that there weren’t players available this winter who could have helped them in the short term while not encumbering them in the future. For now, though, tough as it is to remember sometimes, the winter continues to play out exactly as we sort of thought it would. To break out the pitch forks now, as I keep saying, and as I think keeps getting ignored, would be premature.
Glorious image still via James_in_TO.