Andrew Stoeten

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Daily?

More tumult in the Rays organization, as manager Joe Maddon has exercised an opt-out clause in his contract that was activated when Tampa GM Andrew Friedman bolted for the Los Angeles Dodgers, making one of the games best-regarded managers a free agent.

Maddon won’t be coming here though, just in case any of you thought there was a chance in hell Rogers would actually pay top tier money for a manager. Joel Sherman tweets that executives from the Mets and Dodgers have confirmed Maddon isn’t a target, and he’s “Been told no by #Braves #Bluejays teams thought could be in play” [sic]. Of course, nobody actually believes that the Dodgers are out of the running, but that doesn’t mean I’d be going and holding my breath that the same was true of the Jays then.

We’re still seeing fallout from the Jays’ decision to raise ticket prices. Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star speaks to fans surprised and dismayed by the decision, and also Jays senior VP Stephen Brooks, who says that “It’s never an easy decision, as evidenced by the fact we haven’t done it in five years.” Brooks explains, “It’s just trying to get consistency in product pricing relative to other products by section,” and confirms that single game tickets will be going up as well. Welp.

I got a bit conspiratorial last night, tweeting rhetorically, “Would anyone be surprised if we look back next spring and think they were setting the front office up to fail so they can slash $?” What I meant by that is, with all we know about how the suits are watching revenue, giving more reason for fans to stay away — especially if the club has another underfunded, unsatisfying off-season — could provide a pretext for an eventual housecleaning. Honestly, though… it had been five years. I’m starting to believe that they probably didn’t want to do it any more than fans wanted it to be done, but they can’t really be expected to sit at 2009 prices forever, especially given inflation and the sagging dollar. Shit, fans kept coming out despite the traffic mess around the stadium this summer, so maybe they really can get away with it. Better now than following another year of the same story, right?

Speaking of the revenue question, though, Shi Davidi adds this in his piece on the ticket prices at Sportsnet: “Intriguingly, team owner Rogers Communications Inc., reported its third quarter earnings Thursday, with the company’s release noting that ‘higher revenue associated with the Toronto Blue Jays’ helped keep Rogers Media’s operating revenue unchanged in the quarter and up two percent year to date.” Well that’s alright, though he adds that “no specifics were provided.”

One of the reasons this increase has caused bigger ripples than it might have otherwise, of course, is the uncertainty the team faces going into this off-season, and the fact that we simply don’t know if Alex Anthopoulos is going to be able to do the very obvious things he needs to do in order to make this team tangibly better. It begins with re-signing Melky Cabrera (or an adequate replacement), and according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Jays are still hopeful they can do so, and “have begun” talks to bring him back. Hmmm. I’d wager that means formally or something — clearly they’ve discussed it before this point — but either way, that’s alright.

Regarding Melky’s status, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet notes that Jose Bautista, when speaking to Mike Wilner during a World Series pre-game show on the Fan 590, says he thinks it’s 50-50 whether Cabrera will return. Meanwhile, at FanGraphs, they profiled Cabrera as a part of this year’s Contract Crowdsourcing series (in which fans are asked to estimate the years and dollars players will receive on the open market), which highlighted something that ought to be a reality check for a lot of Jays fans who think the off-season hinges on getting him back: Cabrera has averaged 498 PA and 2.1 WAR over the last three seasons, and 2.5 WAR per 600 PA over the last three seasons. He was worth 2.6 WAR in 2014, and is projected to be worth 2.5 WAR in 2015. That makes him a very good player. That doesn’t make him an irreplaceable player.

Sticking with FanGraphs, something else Anthopoulos can do is raise the damn floor of the players that his club gives playing time to, which is something that’s explored with respect to the Orioles in an excellent piece from Jeff Sullivan this week. The O’s made the ALCS despite Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Davis being awful and off the post-season roster, and Matt Wieters and Manny Machado injured. Imagine the Jays having that happen and what we’d be hearing about “everyone has injuries, so we can’t use that as an excuse, but look at all our injuries!” The reason, Sullivan surmises, that Baltimore was able to weather that storm is not their magical manager (sorry spirit animal lovers), but the fact that GM Dan Duquette has actively worked to raise the floor of the players at his disposal as much as he’s worked to raise the ceiling, too. Over the last three years the Orioles have accumulated the sixth-least amount of negative WAR in the majors (the Rays, unsurprisingly, are first). The Jays are middle of the pack, but among AL teams, the only ones to have played more negative WAR players over that span are the lowly Astros, Twins, Clevelands, Mariners, and White Sox. Looking at it through the prism of Andrew Friedman’s current and former teams, Sullivan explains that “while the Dodgers, over the last three years, have combined for seven more positive WAR than the Rays, the Rays have been better by about 4 WAR overall, because they’ve been able to have better depth. Friedman has always accumulated talent beyond just the active roster, while Colletti had weaknesses on the active roster.” It’s a lesson Alex Anthopoulos would do well to learn — though, granted, one that was tougher to learn in his early years with the club, as J.P. Ricciardi’s weak drafts were still impacting him. Getting harder and harder to blame J.P. with each passing year, though.

Speaking of Ricciardi, Andy Martino of the Daily News reported this week that Ricciardi is about to extend his arrangement with the Mets, where he oversees pro scouting and acts as a senior advisor to GM Sandy Alderson. So much for him never working again, eh dipshits? In the same piece Martino looks at Yasmani Tomas, the 23-year-old Cuban outfielder who could be the subject of a bidding war this winter. We’d love to see the Jays involved, but given the market for the latest big talents out of Cuba, it’s hard to picture.

The same goes, unfortunately, for second baseman Jose Fernandez, who defected this month, even though he’d fit an obvious need for the club. MLBTR provides some background on him, with links to scouting reports from the always-excellent Ben Badler of Baseball America, and tells us another unfortunate fact: the process to get him declared a free agent by MLB won’t likely be complete until around the end of January. The Jays simply cannot wait until then to address their infield issue on the hope that they’ll be able to land Fernandez.

Speaking of the second base issue, back at FanGraphs, Eno Sarris provided a hopeful answer to a question yesterday in a chat that asked about Aaron Sanchez’s future. “ I think they put Sanchez and Norris in a battle, hope that one of them can be a number two to Stroman’s number one… and then I kinda like that team. I don’t know why people are so down on them. A targeted infield acquisition and a little bit of luck between their three young outfielders could make that team hum.” He’s not wrong. Except… well… gotta find some relievers and a better replacement for Melky than the youngsters. But still!

So what do the Jays do this off-season? Shi Davidi takes a detailed look in his latest at Sportsnet, priming us for the start of the off-season in earnest, which could come “as soon as Monday and no later than next Thursday depending on what happens this weekend in the World Series.”

Elsewhere at Sportsnet, the Tao Of Stieb tells us about the danger of looking to the World Series for lessons, while Ben Nicholson-Smith outlines what should be an off-season of change for teams in the AL East, which has obviously already started in a big way in Tampa.

More Sportsnet: yesterday was the 21st anniversary of Joe Carter’s home run, so they re-posted last year’s excellent oral history of the moment.

Back to the Toronto Star, Brendan Kennedy has a bunch of great stuff, most recently telling us about fan Scott Ingram’s proposal to commemorate Ralph Platner at the Rogers Centre. I think the idea is great, but even if you don’t, it’s not like it could possibly be worse than the one statue they do have down there. *COUGH*

Also from Brendan: an outstanding look at life in the minor leagues, a look at what the Jays can learn from the Kansas City Royals’ success, and a look from the Arizona Fall League at Dalton Pompey.

Speaking of the AFL, Your Van C’s looks at Roberto Osuna’s second appearance there, which took place on Tuesday and was… still not great, but better.

And speaking of prospects, Jessica Quiroli of Minor League Ball writes about Matt Boyd, who tells her about dealing with his demotion back to Dunedin this season, after struggling to adapt at Double-A New Hampshire.

A bunch from MLBTR, as they feature the Jays in their Offseason Outlook series, and tell us about the hiring of former Nationals scout Paul Tinell by the Jays, as well as their re-signing of Jonathan Diaz to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training.

Some retrospectives on the season, as Blue Jays Plus grades the Jays’ bullpen, Bluebird Banter looks at whether the bullpen was really the problem, while Gregor Chisholm of BlueJays.com looks at the expectations that were unmet this year by the bullpen.

More from Gregor, as he looks at how history repeated itself with respect to the Jays’ infield troubles in 2014, and also tells us that Mark Buehrle is among the finalists for a Gold Glove this year.

Back to Bluebird Banter, where the always-excellent Nick Ashbourne looks into some splits, and determines that Drew Hutchison needs a new plan against left-handed hitters.

And lastly, not Jays-related, but two outstanding pieces that are definitely worth a read, as the Guardian talks about Billy Beane, his influence in baseball, and his obsession with soccer. Meanwhile, Jack Moore writes at Vice Sports about how Wall Street strangled the life out of Sabermetrics.

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For years I’ve had a “ballpark pass,” the ultra-cheap vestige of Paul Godfrey’s house-papering era that allows me entry to every Jays game, save the home opener, for about $100. Or… technically it’s not just “entry,” but a seat in the 500s in the shadowy part that’s actually behind one of the stadium lights — which, for the price I pay, is extraordinarily more than fair.

The point of mentioning all that is that I must admit up front that I’m flying a bit blind when it comes to stuff about ticket prices this time of year. I do end up purchasing a bunch of single game tickets anyway, but those aren’t on sale just yet, and more importantly enough about me, the effing Jays are actually raising ticket prices!!!!

At least, that’s what the internet is telling me. To wit:

And here’s a claim from the comments here yesterday, thanks to Jayfan34:

Not related directly, but note the Jays finally posted their 2015 season ticket info. My tickets went up by over 12%! Like to hear their justification for that one, it better be used to improve the on-field product.

Remember tweeting a couple weeks ago the Jays were probably raising prices and waiting for a day they could bury it, looks like game 1 of the world series was where they buried it.

You can also see a Twitter conversation about it here.

This is pretty much the extent of what I know. I don’t know which tickets have gone up by what, or what anything cost last year, and while I’m sure I could do a research project and look it all up… why? It seems pretty clear that prices are on their way up, and I’m sure more of you can fill us in from here on those sorts of specifics. I’d expect that single game ticket prices will be raised as well, but that’s purely speculation.

Speaking of speculation, I could offer up a few reasons why this is happening, not that any of those are going to be particularly satisfying to the most-loyal-of-the-loyal folks who actually fork out big dollars to go see this team every year — and who understandably aren’t exactly optimistic that the money they’re being asked to pour into the club’s coffers will actually be used to make the kinds of on-field improvements that could have put them into serious playoff contention this season, if only ownership hadn’t decided that watching their product die on the vine was more palatable than ponying up an extra 10% or so on payroll that could have made a truly significant difference.

To be fair-ish, prices aren’t outrageous and haven’t gone up for at least a couple of years now (a fact that I could be more specific about if, like I say, I actually knew anything about this). To also be fair, the Canadian dollar is sagging, and as much as they ought to be hedged for those kinds of fluctuations, a company that pays out in US dollars and takes in Canadian ones is always going to be impacted by a thing like that — or so they can claim?

Thirdly, Rogers as a whole saw their third-quarter profit drop 28% according to a report this morning from Christine Dobby of the Globe and Mail. That doesn’t exactly mean that they’re “struggling” — “profit fell 28 per cent to $332-million or 64 cents per share, compared to net income of $464-million or 90 cents per share in the same quarter last year,” we’re told — and the company “reported positive signs on revenue,” but this is at the very least something resembling a reasonable pretext for a price raise. Especially given that “the company’s media division – which includes its stable of magazines and broadcast assets as well as the Toronto Blue Jays – reported flat revenue of $440-million.”

It’s hard to unpack what any of that really means for the Jays, but tangibly for fans it means that the prevailing thought is not only that the time is finally right for prices to go up, but that they can get away with it. Yikes.

Whether they’re right about that will be a very, very interesting question to watch over the course of the upcoming winter, but I’m willing to bet that an act of good faith from ownership on the payroll front* would go a long way towards answering it in the way that we all want it to be answered.

 

*I know, I know, tenth highest payroll in baseball and all that. But I’m sorry, it’s just not that simple. In fact, below is how I responded to a comment on the subject a few weeks ago, after reader TorontoMPH wrote, “The ‘terrible’ owner let the payroll go from $80m to $120m during the ’12-13 offseason, and got rewarded with a last place finish. I was as frustrated as anyone at the inactivity, but who knows what Alex promised to get the greenlight on the Marlins deal. Perhaps he got told “go ahead, but you sink or swim with what you got – there’s no more cookies in the cookie jar..””

And it makes them a good owner that they followed through on strangling the front office’s ability to do anything by not raising payroll a cent after the first year didn’t work out? That they would rather let their product die on the vine than spend a little more and give it a legitimate chance to win and actually make the kind of money they hoped for in the first place? That they didn’t believe the pre-2013 moves took them close enough to warrant more investment?

The “tenth highest payroll” thing gets tossed around a lot, and you’re right that it’s very possible that AA was hoisted on his own petard this year, but you’re not really a big spending team if you just do it once and then claw it back immediately.

The Marlins’ last four years of payroll are $57M, $101M, $50M, $45M — I don’t think we’d call them big spenders. They’re opportunistic spenders, and content to feed off other revenue sources the rest of the time and not much care how the team does. I know the Jays are going to stay well above where they were in 2012 for a few years, because of the long-term commitments, but to me they’re a lot closer to that than they are to being an actual big payroll team commensurate to the size of the market and the value of the TV rights, regardless of what the payroll number happens to be at the moment.

So… y’know.

Hey, and while we’re here, sorry for the lack of frothing outrage on this subject. Not sure if it’s because I’m just so used to Rogers or if it’s the fact that I’m not a season ticket holder proper, or even that I can’t not acknowledge that Jays tickets really are still a pretty damn good deal, but I didn’t have it in me to go apoplectic here. Maybe it’s that I still somehow have too much faith in the pipe dream that they might not actually fuck this whole off-season up.

Image via.

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Royals better get going here with this one, eh?

 

Image via Sportslogos.net.

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The information we’re given is scant, the source is anonymous, and there are myriad possibilities for why what we’re being told may or may not make any sense. So…

It’s here!!!! Bullshit rumour season is here!!!!

And it’s actually a somewhat interesting little nugget, to boot. Something that could unlock a whole lot of the roster turnover that Alex Anthopoulos has suggested he is excited to create this winter. If… y’know… it’s not utterly meaningless.

The rumour comes from Bob Elliott in this morning’s Toronto Sun, as he checks in from the current centre of the baseball universe, Kansas City, to tell us that the Jays have been receiving multiple phone calls on Adam Lind — and not just from American League clubs. Or, to put the exact same information another way: “I hear the Blue Jays are getting a lot of interest on Lind and not just from American League teams. I’ve heard three or four clubs,” one executive said.

Already this month I’ve fawned over Lind and the spectacular bat he brings to this lineup when facing right-handed pitching. To reiterate:

In 2014, among left-handers with 250 plate appearances in the split, Lind was tied with Michael Brantley as the best in baseball against right-handed pitching, with a 164 wRC+. In 2013 he ranked tenth. Over the last two seasons combined the “as L vs. R” leaderboard goes: David Ortiz, Freddie Freeman, Adam Lind, Robinson Cano, Chris Davis, Joey Votto.

Add in right-handed hitters — i.e. among all batters against right-handed pitching — and Lind’s wRC+ is still sixth in baseball over the last two years, with only Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, and Andrew McCutchen leapfrogging him on the list. For 2014 on its own, only Trout and McCutchen were better. Only McCutchen got on base at a better clip against right-handers.

That’s a tonne of value, narrow as it may be, especially given his contract situation. The Jays will surely pick up his $7.5-million option for 2015, and the $8-million 2016 option for the best platoon DH in the game looks pretty good, as well. “Salivating to get rid of Adam Lind this off-season just for the sake of it? Because he seems replaceable? Because of what he can’t do?” I asked, somewhat incredulously. “I don’t get it. At all.”

I haven’t changed my tune since then, but it’s not untrue that all of what makes Lind an attractive piece for us will certainly make him attractive to others. With legitimate, middle-of-the-order bats seemingly becoming less and less easy to find, maybe there’s something to be done here. And maybe it could even be in the Jays’ interest.

The Jays currently employ an aging top of the lineup — especially if Melky Cabrera returns or is replaced by an older free agent acquisition — and have a stated intent to have Jose Reyes take some days at DH, along with Edwin Encarnacion spending a lot of 2014 games at DH out of necessity rather than choice, and Jose Bautista starting 24 games at either first base or DH. Those guys aren’t likely going anywhere, and perhaps that means flexibility is more important going forward than is locking in two roster spots — one for Lind, one for his lefty-mashing caddy — to the designated hitter position. Especially if Lind can bring back an everyday player either for the outfield or for second base.

Lind’s elite production against right-handed pitching won’t be easy to replace, so the rush to unload him is still confusing to me. But opening up an extra roster spot? Opening up the DH spot? Removing one of the club’s less athletic players from the basepaths? Using him to fill one of two major holes on the roster? To upgrade team defence by creating extra room for glove-first backups to fill in when your top players shift to DH?

It could work.

So… there’s that.

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Yes, I’m being especially intentionally lazy here this October. It’s one of the perks of covering the Jays all year, sadly.

Maybe not as lazy as whoever MLB got to design their World Series logo this year, though, eh? (Check out the great SportsLogos.net for some examples of older ones, which… actually aren’t that much better).

Anyway, yes, I’ll be ramping up the amount of content you see around here just as soon as… y’know… stuff starts happening and the rumours start flying. Should be a busy off-season. It had better be.

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Well here’s something you never like to hear:

He… what?

And Alexis clarifies that the surgery was to correct a partial labrum tear in his shoulder — though it’s as yet unknown whether it was his throwing or non-throwing one.

That’s… not good.

I’d say something here like “at least he’s not a pitcher,” but it’s not exactly like catchers don’t need to throw, too. Let’s not go too totally nuts, though. I’m pretty sure the level of career peril involved here is not quite the same — especially since we don’t even know yet if it’s his throwing shoulder.

In fact, according to an AP story via Fox News, Brian McCann had arthroscopic surgery for a partial labrum tear of his throwing shoulder following the 2012 season — and was given the same recovery period, four months, as Alexis tells us is the case for Pentecost — and was good as new the following year.

McCann’s shoulder problem “hampered his hitting” that season, according to the piece, as he slumped to a career low wRC+ of just 87, with a slash line of .230/.300/.399. The following year he bounced back to the tune of a 121 wRC+ and a .256/.336/.461, and his ability to control the running game appeared to actually get better (though, of course, this is dependent on other factors than just stolen base/caught stealing numbers): he was behind the plate for 104 stolen bases in 2011 (29 CS, 1083.0 innings), 76 in 2012 (24 CS, 994.2 innings), and post-surgery, just 47 in 2013 (15 CS, 806.1 innings). A more advanced metric available at FanGraphs, rSB (i.e. stolen base runs saved above average) had him as essentially stable throughout the process.

That obviously doesn’t mean that we should have no worries for Pentecost. Every shoulder is different — and you only have to do a quick Google search about labrum tears to see how disparate various players’ recovery processes have been (McCann and Curt Schilling went great, Casey Janssen and Michael Pineda took a while but eventually returned to where they left off, others haven’t been so fortunate) — and all of Pentecost’s value is tied to his being able to stay behind the plate. Anything that might hamper him in that regard could completely throw a wrench into both his career, and the Jays’ long-term plans behind the plate. Again.

And shit, while it would have been more than a little bit fanciful to hope that he could have forced his way onto the roster by the time Dioner Navarro’s contract is up at the end of this season — sure, Vancouver is the highest level he’s played at so far (and only for 19 games), but it’s still something entirely worth hoping for given the dumpster fires that appear to occupy every other spot on the Jays’ catching depth chart — this certainly is a setback in that regard, as well.

So… it’s not good news. But it’s not full-on panic kind of news either. Only time will tell.

Of course, I’m sure that won’t stop the howling about why the club drafted a guy who may have already been hurt (y’know, apart from the other guy mentioned in Alexis’s original tweet, Jeff Hoffman, who they drafted knowing full well he was hurt). But let’s maybe all just hope the recovery goes smoothly, eh?

 

Image still awesomely via Crashburn Alley.

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If you’re like me you won’t necessarily find it easy to get through all the stuff about the fabulously opulent lives of entitled, drape-wearing heirs to astronomical wealth that fuels so much of the first part of Kelly Pullen’s current Toronto Life cover story, The Man Who Would Be King, nor will you avoid a bit of nausea at the glowing terms given to Ted Rogers’ efforts to build his empire “one precarious piece at a time,” with its less-than-humble beginnings as he borrowed against the wealth of his father’s estate and was supported further by a father-in-law, a British lord. But as Jays fans it is very much worth pushing through such feelings, if you have them, because what lies inside the piece is a pretty tremendous work of journalism.

While ostensibly a piece on Uncle Ted’s son, Edward S. Rogers III, by the end of it Pullen has lifted the veil on not only Edward’s aspirations within his father’s company, but the power struggle that’s taken place within it during the years since Ted’s death, and how the company currently sees itself and where it is headed.

Even though the Jays barely rate a mention — Edward likes going to baseball games, we’re told, and the club is named as tenants of the Rogers Centre in a simple list of places and things in Toronto that bear the company’s name — it offers some important background on trying to understand the relationship between ownership and the club, and what we can potentially expect now that the days of conflicts between Edward Rogers, his sister Melinda, and former CEO Nadir Mohamed are over, with former Vodafone U.K. head Guy Laurence firmly in charge.

The results of all this digging are… actually maybe somewhat hopeful.

Here are my Coles Notes on the parts of the piece to do with the power struggle, with a slant towards all that seemed pertinent to the Jays:

- Edward was in charge of Rogers Cable in the early 2000s, and didn’t like how Mohamed came in to run mobile just as it was becoming a tremendous growth industry. At the time cable’s growth was good, but not exploding the way mobile’s was, especially after Rogers became, for a time when it first launched, the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in Canada.

- Partly due to the successes of mobile, Uncle Ted made it clear that he wanted Mohamed to run the company after his death. When that time came, Edward put his name forward as a candidate to the CEO search committee anyway. Wary of having the company founder’s son — and a member of the board of directors, and one of its biggest shareholders — looking over his shoulder, Mohamed negotiated a multimillion dollar golden parachute for himself when he was given the job. If there was ever an impasse between him and the board, and it determined that he needed to go, he’d be paid very handsomely. And, in fact, though his exit a year ago was billed publicly as a retirement, it was more the result of a failed power play — “and neither side could say for certain whether he’d quit or been let go.”

- The background to Mohamed’s departure is this: Both members of the Rogers family who are involved in the business (Ed and Melinda) bristled at the new hierarchies Mohamed imported when he arrived. The Rogers siblings lost power, and people from Mohamed’s mobile division got better jobs than those from Edward’s cable division when the two were merged. In response to this, we’re told that Edward and Melinda intentionally created confusion among other employees (especially because of their status as primary shareholders) by disagreeing with Nadir, snubbing mandatory meetings, etc.

- That wasn’t his only difficulty. From Pullen’s piece: “Mohamed’s role became more challenging as the competitive advantages Rogers had enjoyed began to disappear. Bell, for years the most lumbering, bureaucratic organization in the country, now had a new CEO, George Cope, who was on a mission to make the company more nimble. In 2008, Bell and Telus teamed up to build a new national wireless network that would give their customers the same roaming capabilities as Rogers (as well as access to the iPhone). And the effects of the federal government’s 2008 decision to open the market to other wireless carriers were now becoming clear: the new entrants, whose operations were mainly centred in Toronto, had taken a bite out of Rogers’ business. The years of unbridled growth at Rogers had led to a kind of complacency within the company and a lack of investment in itself. Its internal software systems (for customer or tech support, for example) were in need of upgrading. Even the company’s branding seemed stuck in the ’90s.”

- In 2011, the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan put their stake in MLSE for sale, which ended up being “ the only major acquisition Rogers made during Mohamed’s tenure,” despite the fact that, to his mind, ”buying a sports team wasn’t on strategy. Rogers was in the ­connectivity business, not the ego-driven, high-risk sports ownership business. His solution: mitigate the risk. He and George Cope agreed to a joint bid of $1.32 billion and split MLSE 50-50.”

- The split with Bell on MLSE happened “much to the chagrin of the family, who were growing tired of sitting on the sidelines. Edward and Melinda were especially disappointed: they had wanted all of OTPP’s stake.”

- Not long after that deal was secured, Mohamed proposed a five year plan to the board of directors that would have cut both Edward and Melinda Rogers out of the company hierarchy. It’s painted in the piece as Mohamed trying to force the board’s hand: to either give him the company or the golden parachute. They chose the latter.

- Given the timing of everything that has happened between the club and ownership — the Jays’ late 2012 expenditures came before Mohamed’s retirement was announced, and the money seemed to dry up as soon as he left– his departure is sometimes viewed as a pivotal, and negative moment for the club, but considering Mohamed’s supposed aversion to his company’s heavy involvement in sports world, despite the opposite public face, I’m not sure that’s necessarily the right reading.

- Rogers’ massive NHL rights deal was announced almost a year ago, as Mohamed’s tenure was winding down. According to the piece, the company was essentially between CEO’s, though this was a time when Edward had “the new locus of power, and people began buzzing around his office more.” Despite Ed perhaps feeling that the time was right for him to take his rightful place atop the company his father had built — something the piece suggests he still wants now, as he “stands offstage, waiting in the wings, eager to restore the family name” — it’s at this point that Guy Laurence enters the picture and takes over as CEO.

- Laurence was a compelling figure, made it clear that he badly wanted the job, was liked by a Rogers family he was keen to ingratiate himself to, and it was thought that “his radical management ideas sounded like just what was needed to rejuvenate the Rogers brand.” He began his tenure in December of last year, precisely around the time the picture seemed to change for the Blue Jays, whose talk of needing to add multiple players shifted into revenue-neutral deals and the sound of crickets. Laurence’s first order of business was to get to know the company as best he could, so he went on a listening tour.

- From Pullen: “While he was conducting interviews and town hall meetings, Laurence kept his own counsel. He was sphinx-like—­listening to everybody but confiding in no one. In late April, he compiled his report, a 20,000-word document he presented to the board. The findings weren’t entirely surprising, but they put the internal issues like poor customer service into high relief. Everyone was worried the company had lost its way, that it had become slow and risk-averse. Dispirited employees were envious of Telus, with its slick branding and high customer retention rates. They were tired of working for the most loathed company in Canada.”

-  The fact alone that they hired Laurence in part on the basis of upper management’s concern for the brand — unlike the complacent preceding years — would seem good news for Jays fans given what should be obvious about how a well-funded and successful club would reflect on ownership, as opposed to the perception that currently persists. Something else to be hopeful for, if one can allow oneself to read it that way: the company may have been in a minor state of paralysis while Laurence did his listening tour and compiled his strategy report. That may not mean anything for a piece of the puzzle as small as the baseball team — perhaps not as much as the sinking Canadian dollar — but if it didn’t impact their operating budget directly last winter, it may have impacted their willingness to ask for more.

- Two things that have characterized Rogers’ ownership of the club as much as anything have been their aversion to risk — especially financially, and especially when it comes to fears of throwing good money after bad the way that seems necessary as long as they’re not going to have the patience for a sustained, lengthy, brutal rebuild — and the way the team’s fortunes and actions — the lack of spending, the lying company men at the top if the organization, the failure to move faster on the turf issue that has been painfully obvious at least since free agent Carlos Beltran spurned them following the 2011 season (though, really, since Troy Glaus forced his way out of town in 2007), the astonishingly tone deaf placement of the Ted Rogers statue outside the park, etc. — have made the parent company appear utterly loathsome. If Laurence wants to be less risk averse and is more brand conscious, even if they’re a minor blip on his radar, this could turn out to be a good thing for the Jays.

- There is another possibility, though, and not a particularly good one: interestingly, despite the good relations and quick ingratiation, once Laurence came in he made the same sort of power play that Mohamed did, trying to remove the Rogers family from the day-today operation of the business. And this time the board complied. Along with outside-the-box thinking, Laurence is known best for cost-cutting, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for the company’s baseball club — or anyone but its shareholders, really. It doesn’t help either that moving Edward farther away from the centre of power removes someone who actually likes baseball, and who presumably wants to see the brand and the team do well — after all, he was, it has been reported, the one who promised Jays players at a team event in the spring that money would be available at the trade deadline if the club was still in contention.

- There is still reason to hope, though. Laurence’s “strategy, dubbed Rogers 3.0, includes fixing customer service and accelerating growth. Laurence believes that the NHL broadcasting rights are a project the entire company can rally behind, and one that can be leveraged to help resuscitate the Rogers brand. The rights may not substantially raise ad revenues, but Laurence is hoping they’ll translate into increased revenue in cable and mobile.”

- In theory those same ideas should apply to the Jays, though the parallels are not perfect. They take in money in CDN for example, but by far their biggest expenditures (payroll) are in USD, making them especially vulnerable to fluctuations on the currency market. Plus, MLBAM already has domain over much of digital rights aspects of the game, limiting the way the company could exploit that revenue stream — though obviously a better product ought to lead to more demand to watch on cable and through whatever means Rogers can devise to get digital viewers through their proprietary services.

- The baseball club seems poised to remain the red headed step child of the Rogers family, at least where sports are concerned. It’s perhaps even a bit unsettling to read of just how big their hockey play is to the company — for example, just about all Rogers-owned publications, “even decidedly un-sporty ones,” are being required to produce hockey content — while baseball is entirely an afterthought, both in the piece, and presumably in the top floor hallways at Bloor and Jarvis. However, if “critics of the NHL deal [who] say it has quickly transformed Rogers from a communications company into a sports marketing company” are right, in addition to the company’s greater willingness to take risks, and the keenness on un-poisoning their brand, fans can at least feel a little hopeful for their teams that sports and the marketing is such a central focus of the behemoth, I think. Even those who are fans of the “wrong” sport. I hope.