Archive for the ‘Rogers Communications’ Category

ujlooks

There is zero excuse for the Blue Jays to not sign a free agent pitcher this winter. None. Not when their position is so advantageous when it comes to the guys with draft pick compensation. Not when cheap jack Baltimore feels a contract is worth giving up the 17th overall pick — and associated pool money — for, but the Jays won’t give up pick 49.

None.

I don’t even necessarily love the contract the Orioles will give to Ubaldo Jimenez — assuming he passes his physical — or the idea of locking him up for four years. I also don’t think it’s nearly as far fetched as many fans do that Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, Todd Redmond, Kyle Drabek, and whoever else may end up filling out the rotation can be very good for this club. There is a tendency to forget just how very pedestrian relied-upon AL East pitchers like Felix Doubront, Ryan Dempster, Jason Hammel, Scott Feldman, Phil Hughes, David Phelps, Jeremy Hellickson, and Roberto Hernandez have been while in the rotations of very successful teams. All of them — save Feldman (15), Norris (9), and Phelps (12) — made at least 23 AL starts last year. And all of them failed to generate one full -win of value, according to Baseball Reference.

But we all understand that a club has a better chance to make it through the grind of a season with more, better options in the rotation. We all know how vital it is for a team to accumulate quality assets, even in areas of depth, and the possibilities that opens up.

The Jays could still “line up on value” — as Alex Anthopoulos is fond of saying — with Ervin Santana, but he is now their final hope to turn the 49th pick in next year’s draft into a tremendous win-now market advantage, and teams like the Mariners are reportedly lurking. To piss the opportunity away and expect us to open wide and swallow shovel-fulls of P.R. tripe is an affront to a fan base so beaten down by years of mediocrity that the only bar they ask their club to hurdle is that they at least just fucking try.

It would be premature, and I’d be too taken by inchoate rage right now if I wagged my finger about the club coming to regret yet another hammer blow to consumer confidence, or tried to conjure a grim financial future for the club coming out of this possibility. The fans aren’t going to disappear, the TV numbers will be strong until the club fades, and if they manage to be competitive, all will be forgotten. Not much will change for the failure to land one of these truly unsexy pitching names, but that almost would make it worse. I mean, isn’t it preferable to be lovable losers who at least try than to be losers who can just kind of go fuck themselves? Soulless, corporatist, bottom-line worshipping scum of the earth, searching with no dignity for value in the narrowest possible terms?

The world is full of that kind of stuff at every turn, of course, and to keep our sanity we all try our best to work out livable compromises with the behemoth, but when it repeatedly punches our guts in one of the few places we fans turn to for escape, it’s hard not to get awfully bitter about the experience. You’re playing in the fourth largest city in North America, in an un-capped league, in a sport where TV rights deals are worth many multiple billions, and this is really all you can give us? Indifference to your product or any connection with our psyches beyond piddly, bush league marketing and game ops, and the patronizing admonishment that we should be happy you at least tried last year?

That’s a lot to put on the failure to sign one of two pitchers who each could quite reasonably be fairly crappy, but to me that’s what it would signal, and some days I have less confidence than others in any of the inept, manipulative handlers of this organization to identify, let alone care enough to reverse the rot.

Granted, for all our eye rolling about value for value’s sake, the Anthopouloses of the world are right that it’s dangerous to let such big picture considerations matter so much when it comes to roster construction, but they do matter.

Again, though, it’s too soon to say any of this. The signing of Ervin Santana could still come along and erase this potential narrative. There’s no reason to think it couldn’t — worries about payroll parameters or the Canadian dollar remain reasonable yet entirely unfounded at this stage — but if it doesn’t, I can’t help but think that the club will again show to have been blind to its own failures of messaging. Whatever downsides would come with blaming stingy ownership or a sinking dollar seem trivial, to me, compared to the disgust, disappointment, and, worse, the apathy that will come from the insistence that they needn’t do anything, and that they trust their young arms so much more than Baltimore does their own, much better prospect, Kevin Gausman.

That sort of moment, should we run headlong into it in the next week, will fade into memory like they all do, I know. Surely the club will weather it like they always do. But for fuck sakes, here we are again, like November 2012 never happened. And how many of these moments — even just these potential moments — must we endure? It’s not a whole lot of fun leaving so much emotional investment to the mercy and whims of humourless corporate shitheels, even when there’s still a chance they might do right by it. Anthopoulos, for all his good intentions, sometimes seems as powerless as we are, and with payroll supposedly so inextricably linked with the revenue the club can generate, I fear that maybe this time the diminishing returns on selling false hope will genuinely start to be felt if this is the path they choose to take.

I mean… who needs this?

morrisses

It was just over a week ago that we were hearing, from Jerry Howarth, via Jays Journal, that Jack Morris would be back with him in the Jays’ broadcast booth this season.

At the time, here’s what I wrote:

Apparently the favourite of revisionist historians everywhere was only considering leaving — as reports earlier in the off-season had suggested — if he’d been elected to the Hall Of Fame. Since he wasn’t — which, OK, OK, would have been fine too (who cares!) — he’s going to return. And you know what? I was not keen on the hire when it was first announced, based mostly on a few clips I’d listened too, some poor reviews from Twins fans, and reports that were quick to highlight the negative. But I found him a whole lot more enjoyable to listen to than I gave him credit for. Old school, yes. A little to quick to point to dispelled notions that only aid his legacy, sure. But pretty alright, on the whole.

I probably could have been even stronger in my praise, really. But so much for that, as earlier today Eric Fisher of SportsBusiness Journal tweeted that Morris was returning to Minnesota, and now the Twins have sent out a press release confirming exactly that.

Morris is a native of St. Paul and had worked on Twins broadcasts for several years, so it’s pretty much impossible to begrudge him for going back. It sure doesn’t do a whole lot to change the growing narrative about Rogers bizarrely getting tight with money on what should be a crown jewel property for them, though, does it? I mean, the broadcast and the club are obviously independent things, but if they’re not fighting harder to keep guys like Morris and Dirk Hayhurst when the States come a-calling, you can’t help but wonder what that says about the resources available to other baseball-related areas, like… uh… the team itself — especially in light of the fact that the club has done nothing this winter.

Granted, we don’t know what happened here and what the plans, if any, are for a replacement in the booth, or someone to take Wilner’s duties if he slides over into Morris’s chair. I should probably also grant that if the Jays were under some kind of asinine new budget crunch, I’m not sure that doing nothing would be indicative of that — surely there are ways that they could have moved some money around to free up cash to improve the club with, if that was the case — and, of course, the off-season isn’t over yet, and we’ve suspected all along that it would play out exactly as we’re seeing, at least with respect to starting pitching. And this is still better, I think, than seeing them trade away more of their top young assets.

So the time for pitchforks and torches this is not. Yet.

But hoo boy, it’s going to be a real fun year for screeds if the corporate sphincter has tightened up on this club so quickly and preposterously after seeing what kind of dent the Jays can make in this market when ownership doesn’t resign fans to swallowing the same false hope that has been peddled for, literally, two decades. Hoo fucking boy.

Montreal Expos' pitcher Bartolo Colon throws to th

MLBTR has scooped up a statement that Peter Gammons made on the MLB Network this afternoon about the Jays potentially having interest in Bartolo Colon.

That’s… interesting? Unsurprising?

Or do I mean uninspiring?

No, no, it was the first thing. And actually, while Alex Anthopoulos has been saying that they’d have interest in any top pitcher at this point, and while Colon– about to pitch his age-41 season– might be a scary proposition, given he’d be moving out of the pitcher-friendly confines of O.co Coliseum, there’s a lot to like there, all things considered. I mean, shit, he was a +3.9 WAR pitcher by FanGraphs and +5 WAR by Baseball Reference. Not sure about the changing environment bit, or the move to the AL East, but for the right price, sure? Fine.

I guess that goes for anybody, but… I don’t know. Sure. All the pitchers!

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NHLDeal

Gary Bettman, Nadir Mohamed, and Keith Pelley yesterday in Toronto

Jeff Blair and his producers made the excellent choice this morning to have a brief exchange with Rogers Media president Keith Pelley, in order to get a statement from ownership themselves about whether and how the company’s new deal with the NHL, and their seeming “all-in” move when it comes to hockey in this country, will impact the Blue Jays.

You can hear the audio by way of a link currently at Fan590.com– or can go directly to the mp3 clip here– and while Pelley, frankly, says pretty much everything that you’d fully expect him to, it… uh… it sure feels good to hear him say it.

Here is a transcript of his comments:

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guylaurence

New Rogers CEO Guy Laurence, Formerly of Vodafone

As if panicky Jays fans– among whom I guess I’d have to consider myself after yesterday’s fretting over the price of Jeff Samardzija– didn’t already have enough reason for consternation, over the weekend we had some supreme silliness in the form of a “rumour” of some kind of financial doomsday for the Blue Jays, related to the stepping down of Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed. Or, more specifically, related to his successor, former Vodafone exec, and notorious budget-slasher, Guy Laurence.

It all seems pretty quaint right now, given today’s news about Rogers’ acquisition of the national rights to all NHL games for the next twelve years. Obviously the company understands the tremendous value of premium sports content in today’s TV and digital media landscape. In fact, that’s precisely what Mohamed– who is indeed still around– said in the press release announcing the NHL deal, explaining that “sports content is a key strategic asset and we’ve been investing significantly to strengthen our sports offering to Canadians.”

Of course, that likely won’t stop Jays fans from getting nervous– just like they did a year ago, when Rogers splashed a lot of cash on their joint purchase, with Bell Canada, of MLSE (and how did that turn out?)– especially in the wake of the weekend’s rumour, which, unfortunately, has already been given far more attention than it deserves.

It began in the curious little corner of the web called Toronto Sports Media, which I’d like to suggest is plenty right there to know not to take it seriously, except that there have been instances where the writer there actually did seem to have something resembling inside information from within the city’s sports media towers– enough that I can’t dismiss what he says entirely out of hand.

That said, uh… I don’t think anybody’s record means a hell of a lot when we’re talking about a “scoop” like this:

The same good folks who tipped me off to the trimmings at Rogers media a few weeks back are telling me that the new CEO of Rogers could be asking for a cut in the Toronto Blue Jays budget as well.

How much, when or even if I can’t say for sure, but I trust those who are telling me enough to pass along to you.

It seems that bottom line is going to be much more important at Rogers and this is one area where things will be watched closely.

Uh… airtight?

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bloomberg

No, there’s nothing missing from the picture above. Well… apart from the bits that are cut off. Aaaaand the fact that it’s not at all interactive.

Look, it’s just a screen cap of part of the infographic released by Bloomberg yesterday that breaks down each MLB club’s value and their various revenue streams, and allows you to compare and contrast them. It’s pretty nifty!

So much so, in fact, that other outlets started reporting it. Sportsnet, for example. But a funny thing happened on the way to Sportsnet regurgitating Bloomberg’s breakdown of the Jays’ revenue streams…

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07-BigAnthopoulos

Where’s the money, Anthopoulos?

It’s going to be an odd prelude to the winter for Jays fans, as we wait to see how the club follows last year’s big moves, and attempts to undo some of the mess they created by flipping five of their best, closest-to-the-Majors prospects, while taking on ass-loads of payroll, in order to instantly improve (supposedly) their big league roster.

Alex Anthopoulos has spoken about his preference for the trade market– as he always does– but it’s difficult to envision how he’s going to be able to pull a rabbit out of that particular hat. Of course, we felt the same way this time last year and he managed to pull it off, but this time the stakes are higher, the pool of talent he’s potentially dealing from is shallower, and he won’t have nearly the same ability to explode the club’s payroll.

A lot of focus in the media then– and around here– has been on what strength he can manage to deal from while still improving the club in the overall. There isn’t much that can be done without creating a giant hole elsewhere on the roster– one of Anthony Gose or Colby Rasmus could be moved, so could one of a number of bullpen arms, or one of the team’s many potential back-end starters, but it would take a nifty trick to parlay those spare parts into the kind pitching that the team covets. Move anything else, aside from what remains of the club’s top prospects– which doesn’t offer a great pool of talent above A-ball– and they’ll need to either promote someone from within the organization to fill the hole created, or weaken the depth in their areas of strength to trade for a replacement, or spend money on the free agent market.

There are a lot of potential moving parts when you put it that way, and opportunities for Alex Anthopoulos to use his creativity, but what I wonder is if that necessarily has to be the game plan. As unideal as we’ve been told to believe the free agent market normally is, the conversation this winter will be different. We’re no longer necessarily talking about making massive expenditures to jump-start the fortunes of the organization the way fans were when they dreamed on names like Yu Darvish or Prince Fielder. That initial hurdle was cleared a year ago, and now the roster– whether you like it or not, whether you think the rest of the talent is there or not– needs to be filled in around a core that has, for the most part, already been assembled.

Yes, the team can continue playing the dangerous game started last winter, one that Anthopoulos had spoken about since he replaced J.P. Ricciardi as the club’s GM, and spread itself increasingly more thin, but doing so means trading future assets– and crucially, for Rogers, an even bigger portion of the cheap talent base of future incarnations of the team– in order to prevent last year’s massive investments from becoming all the more pointless.

The other way– a way that Jays fans seem to have almost been conditioned to ignore, or to think they’re powerless to demand– is to follow the path of the Boston Red Sox.

So much of the conversation surrounding this team focuses on the fate of Alex Anthopoulos, of Paul Beeston, of John Gibbons, of Chad Mottola, of Jose Bautista, of Aaron Sanchez, and of all kinds of actors in between. They’re all important, but in my view none of those people ought to have anything close to the amount of expectations heaped on them as are deserved by the shadowy entity that this winter will decide whether they really believe in the vision they’ve been paying lip service to for years, or whether they’re willing to risk letting it die on the vine: Rogers.

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