Writing for the Toronto Star, Cathal Kelly mockingly compares the Toronto Blue Jays to an inept cellular phone service provider, suggesting that the current state of the team’s roster shares much in common with a cheap cellular network.

Considering that a separate branch of the corporate ownership group of the Blue Jays deals in such trades, it’s a cute little metaphor. A wholly inaccurate one, but cute nonetheless.

We’ll get into that later, for now, let’s focus on what Mr. Kelly writes after offering up that analogy.

Somehow, not giving Prince Fielder $214 million is being celebrated in Toronto as some sort of victory for common sense. That would be true only if he was being paid with your money. Since it’s not your money, failing to sign Fielder — or any other player with nearly guaranteed all-star upside, however long it may last — is a defeat.

Or, as Steve Buffery writing for the Toronto Sun, put it, less eloquently:

Unless you’re paid by Rogers, why should fans worry about how much money Rogers spends? Rogers has tons of money. Rogers is rich, RICH. Listen, if Rogers splashed out on a big-money free agent like a Prince Fielder or C.J. Wilson they wouldn’t go out of business. They’d still be rolling in it. If Rogers was serious about winning, they would spend more. Period.

I’m reminded of something that I’ve quoted before from our friend Sam Miller of the O.C. Register, and more recently, an ESPN: The Magazine cover story(!), in response to a similar suggestion, that fans shouldn’t worry about big ticket free agent additions because “it’s not your money.”

Yeah, they’re not your home runs, either. Rooting for a team is a vicarious experience, in which you project yourself into the situation and take pleasure (or pain) from the achievements of others. Nobody is arguing that taking on a bad contract is going to have any literal effect on your standard of living. The argument is that a) you want your team to win games, b) getting good players helps win games, c) overpaying for good players hurts your chances of getting more good players or better players. So if (C) hurts (B) and (B) promotes (A), then (C) hurts (A). Bad contracts make you sad.

Any analysis worth its salt looked at the $214 million given to Prince Fielder as an overpay. The only true argument in favour of it, admits this, but points to the added cost of turning the Detroit Tigers into 90+ win team from an 85-87 win team. It places special emphasis on those wins because they’re the ones that are most likely to guarantee the team’s presence in the playoffs.

The Toronto Blue Jays aren’t an 85 win team. And even if they were, becoming a 90 win team is no guarantee for the playoffs. In the Fielder scenario, there isn’t a universal right or wrong step to make. The first baseman is simply a better signing for the Tigers than he is for Toronto.

But Mr. Kelly and Mr. Buffery aren’t merely writing about the Blue Jays not signing Prince Fielder. They’re writing about the Blue Jays not spending very much money at all on the free agent market.

Spending a lot of money is not bad for teams. It’s bad for corporate bottom lines. Successful teams succeed because ownership encourages them to take risks. The Jays ownership is entirely risk averse.

I would suggest that the Blue Jays’ ownership isn’t risk averse, but rather stupidity averse. While there certainly is a correlation between spending money and winning inbaseball, that correlation isn’t a guarantee. A quick look at the Baltimore Orioles’ way of doing business should be all the evidence of this that we need.

Nevertheless, let’s talk about risk. More specifically, let’s look at the teams engaging in the most risks so far this off season: Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins and Texas Rangers.

There exists a misconception that the ownership groups of these teams have somehow become a sort of benefactor for fans. Certainly, there’s no denying that Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch is of the fan friendly variety, and his reputation for dipping into his own personal wealth to fund the team is an exception, not the rule. Let’s take a quick look at the other big spenders this off season.

I’ve written about the Rangers before, and how they’ve come to afford high priced talent. In 2008, the Rangers ranked 21st in payroll and 25th in attendance. In 2009, the team moved ahead into 19th in payroll and 18th in attendance. Then, in 2010, the team went all the way to the World Series on a payroll that ranked 28th in baseball, while drawing the 14th most amount of fans to its games. In 2011, the team returned to the World Series on a payroll that last year ranked 13th in the league, while drawing the 10th most amount of fans to its games.

This off season, the Rangers spent something in the neighbourhood of $110 million on acquiring and signing Yu Darvish. Once again, we see that the only time a dramatic increase in payroll expenditures occur is in the year following a dramatic increase in attendance. The well run Rangers have increased payroll as a reward for attendance, not an incentive to increase it.

Of course, adding to the team’s ability to do this is a television deal for which the organization will begin seeing money come their way shortly (at least that which wasn’t already fronted so that the team could afford to take part in the 2010 playoffs). In a similar vein, the Angels were able to make two separate splashes on the free agent market this off season, signing C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols for $317.5 million, not out of the goodness of Arte Moreno’s heart, but because of a new television deal signed at the end of 2011 that commits $3 billion over the next 20 years.

As for the Marlins, it’s quite likely that their owner doesn’t even have a heart. The contracts handed out to Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle total $191 million in commitments, and have everything to do with the Marlins gaming the system, both in terms of collecting revenue sharing while spending little for years, and in convincing a municipal government to publicly fund a brand new stadium for the team.

In Toronto, we like to harken back to the halcyon days of World Series titles when the team was dominant both in terms of winning percentage and payroll, but check out the lead up to that happening, beginning the first year that the team won the pennant and continuing on through the first years of the SkyDome.

  • 1985: 5th in attendance; 18th in payroll.
  • 1986: 5th in attendance; 10th in payroll.
  • 1987: 4th in attendance; 17th in payroll.
  • 1988: 6th in attendance; 6th in payroll.
  • 1989: 1st in attendance; 7th in payroll.
  • 1990: 1st in attendance; 13th in payroll.
  • 1991: 1st in attendance; 19th in payroll.
  • 1992: 1st in attendance; 1st in payroll.
  • 1993: 2nd in attendance; 1st in payroll.

Again, the World Series champion Blue Jays didn’t spend out of the goodness of its ownership’s heart. It spent on a team because it was first in attendance for three years prior to it becoming first in payroll.

To point at the corporate wealth of Rogers, the Blue Jays owner, and suggest that they should spend money on the team because they have money, is to completely miss the point and absolutely ignore the economics of owning a baseball team.

Mr. Kelly compared the Blue Jays to a cell phone service provider, but what he’s suggesting for the team is more reminiscent of Entertainment 720. For those unfamiliar with the sitcom Parks and Recreation, Entertainment 720 is a company that two characters start with no business model and a ton of unnecessary expenses.

It looks like a fun time, while it lasts, but it eventually goes bankrupt.

While Rogers isn’t likely to go bankrupt due to the cost of a couple of free agents, Rogers and the Blue Jays are not the same thing. The team is a separate entity from the corporation, and it’s treated as such. The corporation didn’t become what it is today by simply dumping money on its different areas of business. Yes, it invested in them, but then responded to its actual growth with further investment.

Rogers isn’t alone in treating their professional sports franchise in this fashion. What Major League Baseball teams have invested heavily in its rosters without financial backing specifically from the baseball team itself? Even the New York Yankees at one time weren’t first in payroll. They became so in response to other areas of growth directly linked to the ball club.

As a fan of the team, it can be a frustrating wait to see the franchise return to prominence, but we also have to remember that the 2012 season will only be the third season with Alex Anthopoulos in charge.

As Andrew Stoeten wrote over at DJF, there is a difference between the current regime and that of the past:

Some fans seem to feel betrayed by Rogers and Paul Beeston based on the logic-defying notion that if the club hasn’t skyrocketed payroll yet, they’re never going to; that because they haven’t seen the coming wave of prospects yet, they’re being asked to chase vapours; that because they’re hearing the all-too-familiar refrain of “wait another year,” the club is destined for more of the mediocre same in perpetuity. I guess I understand the impulse to roll one’s eyes at more pleas for patience, but it takes a pretty severe blind spot to mistake the reasons Anthopoulos is doing it for the ones Ricciardi gave.

At the end of his article, Mr. Kelly asks his readers to “not give these corporate mopes a pass as a team on the cusp watches a series of impact free agents receding into the distance, now playing for clubs the Jays will have to climb over in order to ever become serious contenders.”

Before that, he justifies the team spending more money by writing:

Having just opened a monthly cable bill, I feel fairly sure the team can financially weather any sort of “he’s making $20 million to DH for the last two years of his deal” debacle.

I suggest that instead of not giving a pass to corporate mopes, we not give a pass to the type of thinking that equates what we pay for our cable bill with what the Blue Jays have to spend on free agency.

Mr. Kelly is right when he says that the money our favourite baseball team spends isn’t our our money, just as it’s not our home runs or our team. The team is owned by Rogers. But what Mr. Kelly doesn’t explain is why we should we expect the expense of running the team to fall at the feet of another branch of that parent company.

Would it be fair to ask the Blue Jays to spend their revenue in research and development for a new wireless network? I suppose we shouldn’t be concerned though if this was asked of them. After all, it’s not our money.

Comments (92)

  1. I didn’t want to actually sign up at the star to leave a comment there.
    All I wanted to say was that he made a terrible analogy. You summed it up pretty well by labeling it ‘cute’

  2. The baseball team should be a profit center for Rogers. PERIOD. Yes, they should consider a reasonable amount of cash as payment for TV rights (discounted to make up for the investment in the team), but otherwise money should only flow one way from the team to the shareholders. Your monthly phone and cable bill has nothing to do with the baseball operations. NOTHING.

    For all those calling this evil/cheap/whatever you have no idea how the world works. Rogers has an obligation to make money for their shareholders. This includes all your pension funds, retirement funds, RRSP, and stock holdings.

    Signing a big free agent needs to be viewed as an investment. IF we spend $114 Million on an unproven pitcher what will the ROI be? It’s as simple as that. The Blue Jays are a business, not a charity.

    • In other words. Good job to yourself, Drew, and Stoeten on the related articles.

      PS – for everyone calling them Rogers apologists… you do realize they are paid by a competitor? Please tell me you do.

      • Agreed on the great job by Parkes, Drew and Stoeten today blasting these idiot journalists. Good god, this tired screed of “Rogers is cheap” has to end.

    • The Toronto Blue Jays could just as easily be seen as a marketing vehicle to sell Rogers products. I’ve mentioned this in the past, as the original reason the Blue Jays are even in existence today is because Labatt’s thought a baseball team would help sell beer, and it worked. When Labatt’s were awarded the Blue Jays expansion franchise they were 3rd in the beer market behind Carling O’keefe and just over ten years later they were #1.

      I know I’m fairly guilty of not switching my Rogers services because of the simple fact that they own the Blue Jays.

  3. That last paragraph is GOLD. God, I’m so sick of all of this.

  4. Glad someone responded to that awful piece of writing. Even if you disagree, that’s a laboured analogy he lays out at best.

    Beyond it being foolish to think Rogers should subsidy the Blue Jays, their unwillingness to pay this offseason for big name agents has less to do with their ability to do and more so with AA’s instances that he won’t get into contracts that don’t equal the weight of the value of the player with what they’re asking for. I don’t think he’s unwilling to overpay if needed, because we’ve yet to see an instance where that would make sense for the Jays. Yes Fielder fits a whole but the backend of his contact would wreck they’re ability to be a sustained competer. Spreading the money on multi-year deals for their younger players means we have to wait a few more years but is a much better use of resources regardless of how much total you have to spend. Kelly’s articule also insulated that Bautista’s contact wasn’t a risk for the team. It was if Bautista was a fluke (something that would have been a sane question last winter).

    Dustin, doesn’t it make sense then to see how say Lind does and flip for someone else at the deadline if he continues to suck? Even if we have to take a bit of a bath, we’d have the ability to trade away for that player and then lock them up (aka Votto or someone like that) because we didn’t commit $215 over nine years? We’d be able to lock up that player and still lock up other players down the road.

  5. Good one.

    Another thing to keep in mind is the cost of the next wave of contract extensions that will be necessary in order to keep the young nucleus together. Lawrie, Rasmus, Thames/Snider, Arencibia, Alvarez and even EE are only going to get more expensive. It would be ludicrous to not construct the payroll with an eye to what each of these players will be paid three seasons from now. The Jays would, by strapping themselves into a long term free-agent contract right now, detrimentally affect their ability to keep their core together. It would be addition by subtraction, just not in a good way.

  6. Fair Observations, Parkes. (see what I did there?)

    It’s important to realize that Rogers is set up as three divisions. Each division has it’s own management, who are responsible (ie compensated) based on the results of their division.

    So while Rogers expects an operating profit of some $4.7 billion dollars in fiscal 2011, the Media division that houses the Toronto Blue Jays (and Sportsnet and all specialty TV and Radio) expects an operating profit of $175m.

    Do we really expect Media management to forsake at $10m profit at the TBJ in favour of a $120m payroll (on $170m in Revenue) and a $20m loss? This would represent a 20% hit to their compensation. I’m not sure it’s going to happen. (This is not the place to debate executive compensation. It doesn’t change the facts.)

    The fact that the three divisions are all run separately and the results of each “matter” is also why business transacts between the three divisions at fair market value. Their is no incentive not to. The Cable and Wireless divisions are not getting rich on the backs of the Media division and, more specifically, the TBJ.

    We should expect a payroll of $90-100m (including draft and int’l FA bonuses of $10-13m) on a go forward base, with marginal increases as revenue increases from the current $170m level.

    All this is not to say Rogers couldn’t invest $100m over the next 3-4 years to try to grow its product that they acquired so cheaply. That’s a fair argument. Rogers does not seem to be interested in that strategy….at this time.

    • Then explain why the media division can spend three quarters of a billion on the Maple Leafs?

      • Because it’s an investment that will pay for it self and produce accretive value for the shareholders. Rogers will buy it and absorb it into the Media division (though it might be tracked as its own entity since it is a joint venture).

    • so you really think Cable and Wireless are “paying” Media market value for their share of the benefits of the Jays media rights? I guarantee you that is not the case. Rogers and Beeston claim that they will spend as revenue and attendance increases. The market value of the media rights as opportunity cost is the same as a revenue increase, as is the yearly increase in the value of the franchise. Clearly Rogers is not putting this value back into the team and to ignore them as equivalent to revenue increases is just economic ignorance on Beeston’s part at Rogers mouthpiece.

      • First of all, Media owns and operates Jays’ “media rights”, so they’re not paying anybody for it. (Jays, Sportsnet, RC and radio are all under the Media banner).

        What we’re talking about here is Cable and Wireless buying advertising at RC and on Sportsnet, Specialty TV and Radio.

        I believe, because the divisions have an interest in accounting for their operations fairly, and have no incentive (tax or otherwise) not to, that the prices paid for said advertising is at or close to fair value.

  7. While everything you wrote here makes sense, I don’t think it provides a legitimate reason to not be upset with Rogers. The fact is, corporate ownership sucks. The Blue Jays and the Braves are the only two teams who are corporately owned in the MLB, and teams across all sports that are corporately owned are treated exactly like the Jays are being treated now, As a faceless business entity where making money trumps winning.

    The other argument, that the signing makes more sense for the Tigers because they are closer to the playoffs than the Jays is also b.s. That is the type of thinking that leads to perpetual inaction on the free agent front. If we’re too far this year to sign a big free agent, we’ll be too far next year too, so why bother signing one then? Oh, the crop of minor league talent will emerge in the next 2-3 years and will all make an immediate impact. D’Arnaud is guaranteed to be the next Buster Posey, and Hech will almost certainly be the next Derek Jeter. My point is, it is ridiculous to assume these things, and if we find out that these players don’t become superstars, then the 3 years of Bautista in his prime, and Escobar in his twilight will be for naught.

    There’s enough pieces already in place to make a big free agent splash, but everyone keeps arguing that there isn’t. That’s frustrating to hear. I can’t wait to hear the same song and dance as to why we shouldn’t sign Votto after 2013.

    • The Blue Jays and Braves are also the only two teams without debt. Ask the Dodgers and Mets how being up to their eyeballs in debt is working for them.

    • That’s not a great argument either because the Jays in their best days were owned by a corporation too, just a different one.

      • There’s always exceptions, but on the whole, corporate ownership blows. Especially in a league where there is no salary cap.

        • You are wrong there are 3 teams in mlb with corporate ownership.

          Also the argument is valid about a team being closer to the playoffs. the Tigers were a playoff team last year, well the bluejays where not close, its very simple.

          Your 2nd point is a team can get better with out major FA, the rangers are a good point of this as they got there first free agent after they went to the world series not first.

    • Mariners are corporately owned as well, by Nintendo America

  8. My dream:

    Reds suck big time, they are a total bust.
    Reds realizeVotto isn’t staying, and decide they have to trade him at the deadline or off-season.
    AA comes riding in on his white horse.
    AA offers a low-ball offer.
    Reds get the deal up a bit, and accept the Jays offer.
    Rogers stops being cheap, sees the marketability of Votto and hands him a mega deal
    Jays sign Marcum or some decent, and not overpriced pitcher in the great free-agent class.
    Jays win World Series in 2013.

    You may say I’m a dream; but I’m not the only one.

    • There’s always exceptions, but on the whole, corporate ownership blows. Especially in a league where there is no salary cap.

    • LMAO That’s your dream? Wow…that’s sad.

      My dream is that I am the ace of the staff for the Blue Jays and lead them to win 5 consecutive championships with 15 perfect games. The off-season I play defenceman for the Leafs and win 5 consecutive Stanley Cups.

      Next time don’t mess up the last line. I was born in 1989 and I know the lyrics are supposed to be “You may say I’m a DREAMER; but I’m not the only one”

      Get some friends.

    • My mistake…you are an Argos fan. The worst league in all of sports is the CFL. You are, and forever will be, knowledge-impaired when it comes to sports.

  9. I keep seeing good solid examples of how the Rangers and Tigers have invested over the years. Why not expand that and see how well the Mets / ChiSox / Cubs / etc… have spent vs how much success they’ve had?

    I recall reading a fanpost at BBB illustrating how bad an idea it is to sign a FA positional player to a $70+million contract. Yet contract extensions were mostly fair value on the return. You want Prince for the last 9 years, not the next 9 for both the $$ AND the performance.

    Why can’t we get the Star in on this secret?

  10. Stay away from free agency.

    Aside from Japanese superstars who command huge posting fees and large contractual commitments, big-ticket free agents are by far the most expensive and riskiest type of player that can be acquired. Anyone who says that a bad contract doesn’t hinder a team’s ability to get better is a moron. Look no further than the situation the Jays were in after handing out big contracts to Burnett, Ryan, Thomas, Wells, Overbay and Rios. The team was prevented from making meaningful upgrades to their roster due to the costs of their players. Ricciardi repeatedly made this clear to the public.

  11. I can’t wait until the season starts so all this BS dies down and we can actually talk about baseball.

    …and the optimist in me says that when the 2012 bluejays are demonstrably better than the 2011 bluejays despite the lack of “big” free agent signings all of these articles will conveniently disappear. (I’m not so optimistic as to think any of the writers will admit they were wrong and overly impatient… because… well.. they are sports journalists and that just never happens)

  12. Rogers makes money on the jays, there isn’t one shred of evidence to prove otherwise and there is no reason to believe any rogers/bluejays executive who says the jays are a money loser

    Rogers is building a TV empire partly based on jays fans support, there is plenty of evidence to show this is true

    There is no reason at all for Rogers to spend $1 more than they think they need to in order to keep this all going. They don’t need any pricey Free Agents. They don’t need a real GM trying to do everything he can to build a winning team. They don’t need a team president that is anymore than a shill and excuse maker.

    You are doing an excellent job of helping them in their efforts.

    • No one was arguing that the don’t make money… The argument is weither one money making part of the company should subsidize another one. The reality is while the Jays don’t make as much as other branches of Rogers, they do make money… just not enough to self-fund a $215 investment. It’s just logical to assert that a well run team doesn’t either take on load of debt or have a owner who has non-business reason to pour money into the team. They can run it as a well run business… not one that maximus the profits of one over another.

      • sorry that’s a bridge way to far. rogers doesn’t have to tell me how much money any part of their vast billion dollar corporation makes or loses, so i don’t have to assume just because they don’t that they can’t afford to do whatever it takes to put a contending team on the field.

        i can safely assume though that they won’t spend anymore money than they have to to make as much money as they want. so i’m entirely justified in complaining that a multi-billion dollar corporation is screwing it’s fans for profits over product.

        • Rogers actually does have to tell you how much money “their vast billion dollar corporation makes”…its called Annual Reporting and every corporation in the world does it on a quarterly basis. They are very easy to find on Rogers’ corporate website.

          • yes but not how much the parts of it make or lose, or at least not “honestly” – that was the point that flew right over your head i guess

        • While we can surely agree that Rogers has oodles of money to spend where it sees fit, you don’t have a shred of evidence to suggest that the primary source of this money is the Blue Jays, with their mediocre TV ratings and poor attendance. Accordingly, why would you expect them to spend big money on the team?

          I’m also sick of this ‘investment’ argument being made by the peanut gallery. Spend money on big agents so that we win games and then people will fill the seats. If that’s truly your belief, how about they spend a few hundred million on talented players, but fund it by bumping ticket prices by 30%? Would that fly, do you think? This way, you, the fan, are actually the financier funding an investment to see what you want: winning.

      • I don’t think the argument is really about whether or not one branch should subsidize the other. The argument is, or at least the argument should be, whether or not the Blue Jays are being invested in by their ownership commensurate to the value they provide to their ownership.

        Right now we’re seeing an explosion in the value of teams as media properties and teams are using that money to re-invest in their clubs. Rogers is poised to take advantage of that media explosion like few others but fans aren’t seeing the corresponding investment in the team.

        I guess you’re right in a sense though. The argument is kind of about whether one branch of the company should subsidize the other. The dispute though seems to be there are those who think Rogers Media shouldn’t subsidize the Blue Jays and there are those who think the Blue Jays are subsidizing Rogers Media.

        • rogers can make as much money as fans will let them from the jays, and they can lie about what they are doing all they like. we don’t have to believe anything they say or give them any of our money. and we are allowed to express our opinions about what they are doing and what we think they are doing all we like.

  13. Know what’s awesome? Unlike my god forsaken 3 year cell phone contract, if I don’t like the product being provided (the Jays) I can STOP BUYING TICKETS.

    If you don’t like what they are doing, stop being a fan and go away. Of course I want my team to win, and I sincerely hope they do. But I don’t see the point in getting all huffy over osmething which I can’t control (namely what they decide to do with their money). Either I go and I enjoy myself at the games or if I decide I’m not enjoying it anymore, I stop.

    I like baseball.

    • Amen, I’m tired of the Occupy Rogers mentality of “If they don’t spend X, I’m not going.” This team is fun to watch, even if they didn’t always win. It’s the ups and downs of fandom. Watching a game is an fun experience unless the team is awful. This team isn’t.
      I had a blast at the games last year and they finished .500. Take a deep breath and realize that unlike hockey, the regular season means something.

      • Only if there is a realistic chance of that regular season leading to the post-season. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time. I agree about the sentiment that if you don’t like the product don’t buy it. I have no intention of paying for another ticket until Rogers grows a pair and takes a shot at competing.

  14. I agree with most of this article but my only quibble is this: it is reasonable to expect some of the revenue Rogers earns in other areas of their business (namely cable and RSN) because the broadcast rights revenue the team could earn on the open market are not reflected on the Bluejays operating income.

    Some of those cable bill and/or subscriber $s are earned by baseball operations.

    • not to mention the gigantic pile of free advertising for rogers and all it’s many other subsidiaries. so yeah maybe you can argue that the jays are paying their share for r&d, wireless networks and whatever else you want.

  15. … wait… are you saying we should let Tom Haverford run Rogers?

    Nice post!!

  16. I jut don’t see how it makes sense to say that the burden is on the fans. Why would it be our responsibility to spend our money on a mediocre team in order to show Rogers that we care? That’s now how business works. You have to have a good product which attracts customers in order to feel entitled to customers. it’s their imperative. If someone has to spend money in order to push the jays forward why does it makes sense for it to be the fans who take the first step over the teams ownership who has a direct responsibility and stake in the team?

  17. I agree with most things written here ,and find the Star article ridiculous, but I’ll give a contrarian viewpoint anyway. Most corporations, and Rogers in particular, do spend large amounts of money ahead of any future earnings (think laying down all that cable, or building a cell network) if the projected returns are high enough. As such, I think you could maybe make the business case that Rogers should invest more in the Jays soon/now. If done properly, this would result in large future returns and make money on their investment. Sometimes a large investment is needed in order to ensure future gains.

    That said, I don’t think Prince Fielder was that investment.

    The problem with the howling mouth breathers is that they aren’t making this business case. If you think Rogers sucks because they are not wasting money on the Jays, then buy Rogers stock and at least benefit from their business acumen and this supposed cheapness.

  18. The news writers in this city seem more concerned with spreading chickenfeed for the opinions of unintelligent Oshawaaaaaaaans than compelling them to forge a stronger viewpoint. It’s base. It’s a symptom is the broader state of North America. Pander to idiocy instead of taking charge to change perceptions. In fact, it’s quite the way the GOP and now, the conservatives, are holding fort admirably in our respective countries.

    • True.
      I’m noticing more and more that the left is just as guilty as the right though.

      back to baseball…. I really like baseball. I really hate Rogers… somehow my life goes on.

  19. This ceaseless defense of a corporate ownership group that has consistently shown that running a winning baseball isn’t a top priority (or even a priority at all) is grating to me.

    As is the idea that spending to make the Jays a consistently, winning baseball team (and even bigger cash cow) wouldn’t potentially be a worthwhile investment for that corporate ownership group,

    But you’re exactly right about one thing. Rogers’ shareholders definitely come before the fans.

    • Actually, Fullmer Fan, you’re wrong when you keep going on that Rogers’ shareholders come first. That’s an American legal concept that a corporation’s board of directors owes a fiduciary obligation to the shareholders first and foremost. In Canada, it’s a little more complex as directors’ fiduciary obligations are to the corporation itself and to the corporation’s stakeholders.

      One of the stakeholders of any corporation is its shareholders but others are debtholders, employees and others. So, legally, Rogers’ board of directors owes it to the corporation itself not to put itself in a position that affects its employees (overspending making layoffs necessary), its debtholders (overspending so it can’t pay its debts) and its shareholders (overspending, thereby reducing dividends paid).

      • So Rogers’ shareholders still come before the fans, then, is what you’re saying?

      • daniel, this is sophistry of the cheapest sort and typical of the corporate-schooled set.

        the premise of this article is flawed. market value is market value, and so can’t be ‘overpay’… you’re not even considering the players role in all of this. Their concern is to secure the best deal for themselves through their agent. that’s the right actually. to supply their services based on a market rate.

        Rogers simply refuses to aknowledge the market rate; instead preferring to wage a PR campaign (which the writers here and at DJF all seem to blindly subscribe to, pathetically) to convince fans that it’s not in their interests for a team to pay market value for top tier players.

        the fact that so many of you buy this argument doesn’t surprise me; you’re probably the same ones that accept like sheep the inferior services provided by companies like Rogers and can’t seem to wrap your minds around things like corporate greed etc.

        it’s really pretty say. sports teams, historically, are a fantastic way to rally civic pride and foster a sense of community and excitement. But Rogers doesn’t care about this. They care about PR for their products and services so you the consumer stay subscribed.

        and it’s working wonderfully.

        sigh.

        hell really is other people.

        • cb, your lack of understanding of economics makes me wonder wherever you learned a fancy word like “sophistry” (you didn’t use it right, by the way).

          In fact, a market is a mechanism for assigning scare goods to individuals. Since Prince Fielder is not the only good available, the “market” does not consist of only him, and thus there IS a way to determine a sense in which you can over and under pay for players.

          Suspend any disbelief for a moment and suppose that WAR is a true, accurate measure of how many more wins one player can accrue for a team over a season relative to a generic AAA replacement.

          Now suppose you have two positions to fill and four possible players to sign.
          Player A is a replacement-level 1B, WAR = 0
          Player B is a superstar slugger OF, WAR = 8
          Player C is a very good 1B, WAR = 5
          Player D is a very good OF, WAR = 5

          Now, let’s assume that you’re the GM (God forbid). If money were no object, you would want to sign B and C.

          However, suppose you are constrained. You can either sign player B, but lack the money you need to sign C and, so, be forced to pick up A as well, or you can sign C and D. The choice is obvious.

          Here, buying player B means getting player A as well. However, for a similar price you could get both players C and D. Together, they are worth more to the team than player B and player A. Thus, signing player B is “overpaying” for the consequential package of A and B with a combined WAR of 8 vs. a WAR of 10 you could get by signing C and D.

          Now, this is an abstracted example I’ll admit, but it highlights two key issues a good GM must consider:
          1. Budget constraints: even the Yankees have them
          2. Outside options: there is no player so unique that he is worth any price, one must carefully consider “what else?”

          I also failed to really argue that the premise that the outcome of two-party negotiations is not “market value,” but the result of a complicated series of bargaining decisions, but I’ll save that for another time.

          • This example is very good at illustrating the exact reasoning of these so called mouth breathers.

            The finite number of positions to attain WAR means there’s increased value in the B C combo. This isn’t a linear relationship. That is, it’s not an equivalent value as the difference between 12 WAR and 10WAR over 2 positions,(2 WAR difference) is much more valuable than the 10 WAR to 8WAR difference.

            It’s this escalating value which makes the elite players worth more than your linear example. It’s why the Yankees are always going to be better than us unless we take advantage of an 8 WAR outfielder and not kill his value with a 0 WAR first baseman. There’s a reason AA wants an all star at every position. We had an opportunity to lock up those two positions with 12 – 14 WAR, at 38 million combined, which is great. We didn’t take it and now won’t compete with our 2 power positions only averaging 4 WAR. That won’t cut it in the AL East.

        • Well said, cb. I suspect Parkes might be long on Rogers stock.

    • It sounds like you, along with Cathal Kelly and Steve Buffery haven’t thought these things completely through to their natural conclusions.

      First of all, Prince Fielder would not have come to Toronto for the same price as he would have gone to Detroit. This is an indisputable fact. Taxes are higher, Toronto is further from contention and, furthermore, Toronto hasn’t been known for its baseball scene in nearly twenty years. Wearing the blue and white does not have the same as putting on pinstripes (even Detroit’s).

      If the Tigers had to overpay to get Fielder, we would have had to beat their offer, so that means to overypay even more. By definition, “overpaying” means that the costs exceeds the benefits. Any argument that Rogers could have made a profit on this deal is baloney.

      Fact is, if this deal gets done and it goes sour – even if Fielder lives up to expectations but the Jays don’t increase attendance and revenue through programming – the Roger’s CEO who approved of spending the money would likely get canned. Even in a corporation as big as Rogers, they don’t sneeze at a waste of $200+ million dollars. The next CEO might come in with a mandate to sell the Blue Jays. Remember when Rogers bought them in the first place? They were the only serious bidders who wanted to keep the team in Toronto (without trying extort a new stadium from the taxpayer).

      As fans, it’s in our interest for the ownership of the Blue Jays to be a worthwhile prospect for Rogers, as they do provide a service by being a prospective stable, long-term owner. So we don’t want to see the team sign deals that put that prospect at risk. It’s not being mouthpieces for corporations, it’s being protective of the team we support.

      A rational fan wants the team to be a success on and off the field.

      • Hengten, you are actually missing the point. Fielder is a red herring here. It doesn’t matter what the dollar amount would have been to sign him. the point is that market value is market value and that you just have to accept it as the cost of doing business.

        there are many reasons to not pay market value for stars (or, in other words, to not have stars on your team) but not many of them have to do with pure baseball issues.

        the only real argument against large, long term contracts is that towards the end of their terms, the dollar figure versus the performance purchased create a situation where a team is unable to upgrade and thus declines in overall performance.

        but the real-politik of sports teams has always aknowledged a requirement to trade off the future for a present, unless winning a championship is only a ‘nice to have’ rather than a primary mandate for ownership.

        in the case of the Jays, all evidence points to “nice to have” as the comfortable determination within the corporate office of the jays.

        this to me, and maybe it’s not to you, isn’t acceptable.

        • Actually, the argument against long contracts also notes that the future is uncertain. It’s pretty certain that production of current stars will trail off and be worth less than their contracts. Now, one must consider the possibility that the player gets hurt or somehow starts not being good (Vernon Wells, anyone?).

          Yes, some owners try to buy themselves championships. They’re usually individuals who make a personal choice to try it and they’re aware that it might not work.

          Rogers is a corporation, not a person. Good corporations are not supposed to take careless risks on frivolous activities, like overpaying to win a sports championship.

          You and Fulmer Fan are acting as if a company acting responsibly is somehow a bad thing.

          Rogers has a responsibility to its shareholders to maximize value and its debtors to pay them back. You know, those people who are investing for retirement by owning Rogers stock or those people who lent money to Rogers because they deemed them a safe bet.

          Wow, Rogers sure are assholes for keeping them in mind.

          By all accounts, they are committed to making the Blue Jays a profitable business, and, one would think, there’s a way for the team to be both profitable and successful on the field.

          Why is that such an unacceptable thing?

    • I think that the question becomes, ‘what investment in a winning baseball team is most likely to yield a profit’, rather than a firm belief that it’s “not potentially a worthwhile investment.” After all, in the interests of maximizing profit, a corporation may choose to make an investment if it perceives a return on that investment beyond their current investment. Clearly, Rogers doesn’t feel that such an investment is likely to yield a lucrative return, because Yu Darvish/Albert Pujols/CJ Wilson/etc aren’t about to put asses in seats because they aren’t going to win enough games to distract Leaf fans from the draft in June (or whatever).

      Go ahead and disagree with that, if you choose. You feel that the team’s management can afford to take a risk on signing a big name free agent like Fielder for 9 years and eat the mistake because they have the means to do so. But make no mistake about it, they may rake in billions of dollars a year, but they also dole billions out in costs. If the Jays or Rogers Entertainment becomes a loss leader in the organization, the purse strings will snap tight, ticket prices will go up, and your cell phone bill might go up to offset those losses.

      I don’t know what kind of idealism would cause you to see things differently from that, but it’s the only way you can reasonably expect the team to be run, unless you delude yourself to believing it should be run like a charity owned by one of the wealthiest companies in the country.

      • You are again pigeonholing. I’ve never asked them to sign Prince Fielder, nor do I think signing him to a 9 year/200+M deal would have been a particularly good idea. That doesn’t, however, mean that spending to improve the team couldn’t be done in various other ways that make a lot more sense for this organization.

        And you aren’t telling me anything that I don’t know about how Rogers conducts its business. They don’t spend that much on this team because they don’t have to do so to comfortably make money through its existence. There is simply little reason for them to take a risk to make more (and create a consistent winner using their money), as they are safely and profitably getting by as is. After all, why would they break up a good thing if they don’t have to?

        I don’t think there are any illusions about what Rogers’ goals are here. They don’t give a damn about the Jays, their fans, and how many games the team wins beyond the organization’s ability to create revenues for them and act as a PR vehicle for their other products. They are yet another example of how corporate ownership in sports is never a good thing for the people that actually care.

        • I read this blog primarily to scope out stupidity and read your comments on it. It’s nice to see that not everyone is eating the $hit that AA et al are shovelling.

        • You’d perhaps rather a Gillette-Hicks combo, instead?

          • I’d like to see a pennant hanging in the Skydome from this century. I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

    • Why do you assume that running a winning baseball team isn’t a top priority with this ownership group?

      Is it because of the following?

      - Lack of Free Agent Acquisitions in the past 5 years?
      - An average of $82 million in payroll each year (for the past 5 years)?
      - During that span, we peaked in 2008 (with $98 million) and hit the floor in 2011 (with $71 million)

      I’m sure there’s a myriad of other reasons but if these are some of your major points to your frustration, I can definitely see it. I can understand to why you might come to that conclusion, one of which I’m also struggling to make sense of and figure if I should be in the same boat as well.

      But is there a possibility that it’s mainly a matter of process and theory instead of something far more personal than a commitment to put a winning baseball team on the field?

      It’s very difficult to prove if a process is effective and far more convenient to say that Rogers (this big faceless corporation) just doesn’t care.

      I wonder, why would this ownership not want to win and just want to pad their bottom line. I can only assume that if they win, they’ll be profitable anyway.

      But instead, maybe they just think it’s merely another way to get there. Perhaps, they are in line with what AA is thinking and that the best way to build a team is not to buy free agents. Don’t get them because they’re too risky. A conservative process of building a winning that does not have speed (and high investment) of acquiring free agents.

      For some of us who are looking for the Jays to succeed We tend to want to separate the two (AA and the owners) so that we can heap loads of praise to AA and shit on a corporate entity. What if they’re one of the same and their opinion is that this is the best way to build that winning team?

      Or maybe I’m just naive.

      • your naive

        rogers cares about making money, which is fine, but they shouldn’t and especially nobody else should be shocked when people call them out for not being honest about it.

        aa cares about getting a long term contract and building his resume for the next job after his time runs out here and rogers decides to recycle the con again. the best you can hope is that he sees the best route to that is a contending team, but i doubt it, i’m a cynic.

        • If the ownership only cares about making money, then it behooves them to have a winning team.

          If AA only cares getting a long-term contract or the next job, it’s only natural that he builds a winning team.

          I’m not sure I get your point, cynical or otherwise.

        • And you’re cynical.

          And my point still stands.

          Thanks.

  20. It’s a good article and I agree with a lot of it but, and sorry if I’m repeating myself, but it’s entirely disingenuous to talk about the Rangers and their payroll without mentioning the change in their ownership(and the different financial circumstances of Tom Hicks and the Greenberg group) over that same time frame. Tom Hicks wasn’t waiting for fans to come out to the ballpark before he invested money in the club, he didn’t have any money to invest in the club regardless.

  21. Too bad Red Bull doesn’t own the Jays… I can only imagine how well they would market the franchise.

  22. I disagree with your arguments and in particular your final point about the Blue Jays having to pay for Rogers’ R&D.
    Rogers owns the Jays, the Jays do not own Rogers. Therefore the onus on running the Jays should be on Rogers.

    • The money for the Jays doesn’t come out of thin air. Either the money that Rogers would spend over what the Jays brings in comes out of dividends or the budgets of other departments.

      What Parkes is saying that if it makes sense to spend other department’s money on the Jays, would it make sense for it to be the other way around?

      • You’re making a huge assumption that the money fans are asking the Jays to spend isn’t rightfully theirs (Jays division) in the first place. The fact is nobody other than the accounting wonks know the true nature of the financial situation.

        The revenue sharing requirements under the new CBA changed from team revenue to team market size for a reason. MLB knows just how easily revenue numbers can be fudged and it’s doubly true of teams with RSN’s. So to me that argument doesn’t wash. I have no problem with Rogers taking more money from the Jays division if that’s what they choose to do. That’s their prerogative of course as owner.

        • exactly, all these “should the jays fund r&d” arguments hinge on the idea that the jays do not provide value to rogers and rogers spending more money on the jays (or taking less out of them) would be “unfair” to the rest of the corporation. there isn’t any reason to believe that at all, in fact there are a whole bunch of reasons to believe exactly the opposite. and there is no reason at all for rogers to change the equation.

      • Parkes is mixed up about budgets.At different points in the economic cycle, some divisions will be more or less profitable.

        Look at Rogers financial statements in the 1990′s & early 2000′s.

        The cellphone divisons was losing money because of heavy investment in cellphone towers etc.

        Cable tv was very profitable & helped pay for the cellphone division losss.

        The Jays provide profits to rogers sportsmedia.

  23. why is spending so consistently linked to attendance? what is this, 1993? sports entertainment (not the wrestling variety) is all about tv now. this whole attendance-payroll debate is a red herring that’s getting redder everytime samsung drops the price on their 52″ HD TVs.

  24. People angry at Rogers for not funding the Jays as they would like have two choices:

    1. Stop watching games
    2. Pool your money and buy the team

    Stop being crybabies.

    • do you enjoy begging “please sir may i have some more gruel”?

    • If you think that Rogers does not make major financial decisions for the Jays based on public sentiment, you’re wrong. Yeah, the whining gets a little old after a while, but en masse, it is an effective source of pressure.

      • Agreed. as much as the Rogers apologists try to explain to the fans that they are a poor team, the reality is that with new tv revenue coming t competitors, it’s harder for the jays to compete on the field with unproven prospects & scraps from other teams.

        How can anyone at Rogers argue that getting 500,000 viewers every night generates less money than Fox is willing to pay for the Angels or Rangers broadcasts which draw fewer viewers??

        We can compare attendance records, but gate receipts draw bring 25% of the Jays total revenues of the team.

        Rogers will have to put up or shut up within the next 2 years or face a backlash.

  25. i would disagree with this whole justification based on attendance and payroll of late 80′s/early 90′s teams as well. back then there was an awful lot of “stand pat” discontent, there was a lot of questions about when labatt was going to get tired of beeston/gillick and the sole owners of the team wasn’t a gigantic media/telecommunications conglomerate shoving itself down your throats at every turn and then crying poor. the skydome was brand new and exciting and guess what? it wasn’t called the john labbatt centre either. the team may have been well down in payroll some of those years but it wasn’t as i remember it being out spent 2-3x by it’s competitors. and most importantly you got the sense that gillick was not happy with only being a contender, and it didn’t feel like the owners were telling you you should just be happy you had baseball.

    contrast that with today before you bring up then please

  26. Dustin, you’re right, no company would choose to spend revenues and profits that they generate in one division of their entirely business for a completely different division of their business. But, in this case it is pretty clear that Rogers is not investing the very revenue that it generates form the Jays into the team itself. That is, Rogers does not pay fair market revenues to the Jays for the tv rights it receives from the Jays. By failing to allocate those revenues to the Jays they are artificially reducing the overall revenues of the Jays and, accordingly, the total amount the team can afford for salaries. The same holds true of all of the advertising that Rogers and Sportsnet get from the Jays without paying fair value for those rights. So, while it’s ridiculous to expect the Jays to spend wildly there is no doubt Rogers spends very little on the Jays relative to the very revenues they generate from the team.

    All fans are demanding is that the team spend to a level of spending which is league average. It’s clear that the Jays revenues is well above league average given that MLB has now removed the Jays from revenue sharing given their market size and revenues.

    • You do make a valid point. The reason that teams like the Angels were able to make big splashes was because of big new TV deals. If Rogers is indeed taking in XX number of dollars on the TV side but only returning X dollars to the team, that is potentially a problem.

  27. Rogers and the Blue Jays are doing everything that can reasonably be expected of them. Nothing to see here, folks. Keep on buying tickets.

  28. I really hate it when people phone in to the Fan and saw things like “if they think I’m going to spend money on a 4th place team, they’re dreaming.” First of all, if you go to a Jays game, you can get a ticket and a beer for roughly what it costs you to park your car for a Leafs game. Yet, people would probably trade their children for nosebleeds to a Leafs game, a team that has played only a handful of meaningful games over the last 7 years. It’s an interesting divide, isn’t it?

    I go to Jays games every year. Not as many as I’d like, but a handful. The biggest reason is that I love baseball. I go for the enjoyment of the sport – not because of the team’s win-loss record, and definitely not for the opportunity to pay $11 for a beer and hear some dumb-ass 19 year old behind me yelling at the other team’s centerfielder because said 19-year old can’t handle his booze.

    I’m sure a lot of people who read this blog are in the same boat; they’re among the 20,000 die-hards that frequently go to games. I’m sure we all hope that there will be tickets available for us when the team does start to win, and that the fair-weather phonies don’t snap them all up.

    I’m not terribly saddened that the Jays didn’t make a splash on any big-name free agents this year, but I felt a twinge of it when Fielder signed in Detroit. My resentment there wasn’t the player, it was the context of the signing: Detroit’s owner wants to win a World Series. He made a decision that it would take Prince Fielder, so he got him. As Jays fans, I think we all feel the same way to some extent, that when that one guy is available and Rogers says “we want to win a World Series”, they’ll open their wallet for him. This year, Detroit was in that position and Fielder was their man. Hopefully, in a couple of years, the Jays will be in that position, and THEIR man will be available – Joey Votto, maybe?

    Over the last 2+ years, this team has been run the right way. We have a farm system that’s been consistently ranked in the Top 3 in baseball, and AA has shown little compunction over trading prospects (Molina, Stewart, etc) for major league players (Escobar, Rasmus, Santos). I know people have been “patient” (read: not really) for a while, but let’s not forget that there was a different regime in place only a short time ago that had no clear target or strategy. It might take another year or two, but this team looks like it could be scary good in a short amount of time.

    • if you enjoy paying to watch what you consider moral victories good for you, the rest of us don’t have to like it and we don’t have to shut up because we don’t

      if you want to keep dreaming that one day this team will be “only one player away” good luck to you. fielder would have been a good start for everything this team needs.

  29. hey mr parkes – your refutation seems to have been refuted pretty well here by a number of commenters, any thoughts?

  30. that’s probably about as good as parkes could do to

  31. I agree wholeheartedly with your skewering of the idea that because Rogers is rich, they should just take a loss on the team because they can. Dumb, dumb, dumb. But Kelly’s other point has a lot of truth in it: the Jays are in a chicken and egg situation right now. They can’t realistically compete without a lot more money, and they’re not going to get a lot more money without a significant attendance boost — which in turn will only come through realistically competing.

    One way to get out of that fix is to tweak and tweak and hope you get kinda competitive so a few more people come out so you can get a little more competitive and a few more people come out…or, you go big, and decide to flood money into the team so that they acquire momentum, eventually become hugely popular — and then just doesn’t matter if you’ve lost 10-20 million here on a questionable contract, because that is completely dwarfed by how much more the team is worth, in TV contracts, sponsorship, merchandise, etc, etc, etc.

    Take the Angels – they have signed some incredibly shitty contracts lately — I mean INCREDIBLY — but the team is worth so much more than when they started pumping money in haphazardly that in the long run it wasn’t such a dumb business move. As smart fans, we’re arguing over nickels and dimes on contracts here and there and missing the larger point for debate: is it worth it to take a bit of a kicking on the acquisitions market, to grab a whole bunch of not-optimal value talent in exchange for the possibility of turning this team, and city, into the GIGANTIC money-maker it has been in the past? When you look at the size of the market and the state of the other sports teams, there’s a pretty decent argument that Rogers is sitting on a gold mine, and just not willing to take a loss now in exchange for generating fanbase momentum and future exponential gains.

    Then when you look at the division we’re in, there’s a counter argument that nobody in their right mind would invest anything more than the bare minimum to keep people marginally excited in this team. @#$@#$%%!!!

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