In a twist that makes me think again about the possibility of the front office using the media as an instrument to exert pressure on Robbers Communications, Alex Anthopoulos was on Prime Time Sports on the Fan 590 on Friday, preceding his club’s home opener against the New York Yankees, and like Paul Beeston earlier in the day he confirmed the payment deferral scheme first reported by Ken Rosenthal last Thursday at Fox Sports, and — most intriguingly — was coy when it came to the question of who initiated it.
In response to Stephen Brunt broaching subject, the GM explained:
“How the money would have been allocated — how that would have been done — regardless, if something like that was to happen or not, that wouldn’t have been hidden. So, if anybody restructures their contract or defers money — like you talk about, Stephen — the union would have to sign off on that. That’s made available to everybody, no one would have been hiding anything at all. And there’s things we may choose to do, from a payroll standpoint, from a contractual structure standpoint, that might make more sense for us. But irrespective of the fact, we had the ability to sign him, this is where he told us he wanted to be, and we were prepared to go forward with it.
What the fallout from that is, or this story, I know where a lot of people want to go with it, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that we have the dollars to sign the player. Again, how that money was going to be allocated, how it was going to be done, those are things I would keep to myself.
What gets me here, and should get every Jays fan, is the fact that the door was wide open for Anthopoulos to say that this was solely a player-initiated thing, that it wasn’t necessary, that ownership is great, that the dollars were there, and that everything is peachy between the Jays and the corporate monolith that controls their cash flow and owns the network that clutches the no-bid contract for their TV rights that is astonishingly valuable in this era of live event programming being the only thing of any worth in TV, and other clubs auctioning off their own rights for multiple billions — much like the NHL rights deal Rogers itself recently signed. Yet he unequivocally doesn’t.
“Whether players came to us, we went to them, to what level any of this went on, I don’t want to get into it,” Anthopoulos later explains.
Translation: we tried our best to do this creatively after being handcuffed by ownership in the face of a sagging Canadian dollar, a new CEO with a penchant for dramatic cost-cutting, and a big investment last year that didn’t work out as we’d hoped.
Or, at least, that sure would seem to be the implication. And it was reinforced by his deflection when Bob McCown went straight to the nut.
“During the off-season a senior member of ‘the family’ indicated to me that the payroll would be pushing $150-million this year,” McCown explained. “That suggests to me that you had that $14-million, or something pretty close to it. You did not, without going to Rogers?”
“I don’t personally go to Rogers,” Anthopoulos said, doing his best to wriggle away. “I go to Paul, and I have that discussion with Paul, and Paul’s the one who deals from the ownership level.”
And that was that. So we’re left to wonder whether the money really was or wasn’t there. But Anthopoulos, as is his job, evidently, made sure to apply one more layer of lipstick to this pig, reiterating, “I can’t stress enough, Ervin Santana would have been here today if Kris Medlen wouldn’t have been hurt.”
Of course, that’s not really the issue. The issue is myopic corporate groupthink from an ownership that appears to know precisely dick all about this key pillar of their media division, and is entirely disinterested in how to make it work beyond slavish adherence to return on short-term investment in a way that anyone with half a brain ought to see is incompatible with the realities of running a pro sports team and engendering any kind of success (and which the “hey, it’s a publicly traded company, they have to be like that” excuse would work better for if not for a little company called MLSE in its portfolio, or the massive aforementioned investment in hockey). Dipshit rigidity simply won’t work here, and is especially tough to swallow in a game so flush with cash that the Rays are now within $7-million and the A’s within $2-million of the payroll these big-market, huge-rating, nationally-televised Jays — who MLB removed from their revenue sharing program in its latest CBA — ran just two years ago during the 2012 season. However, as I’ve been pointing out since the Santana debacle, it’s exactly the job of Beeston and Anthopoulos to feel out for those edges where the corporation is going to push back and make sure they don’t fucking run aground on them like this.
Bob Elliott also wrote about the situation on Saturday, in a piece appearing on the Canadian Baseball Network, having discussed it with Jose Reyes. Contra Anthopoulos, he shaded it to clearly suggest that it was a player-driven initiative.
Shortstop Jose Reyes confirmed Ken Rosenthal’s FOX Sports story Friday that some Jays players had discussed deferring portions of their salaries in order to sign free-agent right-hander Ervin Santana.
Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Reyes agreed to defer amounts, which would equal the $14.1 million earmarked for Santana, who eventually signed with the Atlanta Braves.
“I think Buehrle and I were going to give a little more than the other guys since we make more,” said Reyes after the Jays lost 7-3 to the New York Yankees last night.
For what it’s worth, Elliott adds that “word in the corporate hallways is that there may be more money coming the Jays’ way at the trade deadline — if they happen to be factors — but not before the team shows management what it can do with the 10th highest payroll.”
A begrudging addition of payroll on the off-chance that the branch of your company that you purposefully hamstrung by suddenly pulling out the funding rug from under manages to succeed in spite of you? Gee, thanks, dicks.