David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

(Not So) Hidden Message From AA: We Can't Compete

So, the Toronto Blue Jays struck out…again. Alex Anthopoulos’ strike out rate is worse than that of Colby Rasmus and bordering on J.P. Arencibia‘s. The only good news to come from Ervin Santana signing with the Atlanta Braves is that the drama of the off season is hopefully over. For months, we’ve been sucked in to the rumor mill, had our hopes filled and deflated and with them had our belief in this team questioned…repeatedly. I have been one of those to defend Alex Anthopoulos. I even think his job is safe. But, there is a clear message being sent from this team.

From all of the non events of the last few months, we can read between the lines to see the message being sent to Blue Jays fans and players alike. The Blue Jays can’t compete in dollars. The Blue Jays can’t compete in years. The Blue Jays can’t compete in venue. The Blue Jays can’t compete!

Dollars- Setting aside the list of players the Yankees opened the vault for, we only need to look at one example to see the Blue Jays inability to compete. It was made very clear when Masahiro Tanaka was being pursued that there is no way the Blue Jays can compete with the dollars of the New York Yankees.  There is no way the Blue Jays would beat a 7yr/$155M offer. Even if they could, the Yankees would just raise their offer. Quite simply, there is nothing any team can do if the Yankees get involved in a bidding war. But, the Blue Jays did try. They did offer up the $20M (refundable) posting fee to at least enter the discussion. It didn’t last long. But, hey. They tried.

Years- When Ubaldo Jimenez signed with the Baltimore Orioles for a 4yr/$50M contract, it was clear that there was another issue. According to this piece by John Lott of the National Post, the Blue Jays would not exceed 3yrs. AA was not willing to compete with 4yrs. However, Jays fans had to endure the pursuit nonetheless. In the end, the message was clear. Jimenez would help the team, but the front office was not willing to compete to get him. They wanted to proceed on their terms. So we waited.

Venue/League- Fans were treated to the possibility that the Blue Jays were about to win their game of “Chicken” when we heard that Ervin Santana was considering a contract offer from AA. Since Santana’s asking price (and contract length) had come down to what AA had targeted, we were left with no choice but to assume the Blue Jays would enter the competition. After all, AA could not have drawn it up any better. Madness ensued. And, once again fans were treated to a roller coaster ride. Then the ride crashed. The Atlanta Braves swooped in to cover the spots left in their rotation by injuries to Kris Medlin and Brandon Beachy. The Blue Jays were once again losers in one of their pursuits. The response? John Lott quotes Alex Anthopoulos, who appeared on the Jeff Blair radio show:

“From what I was told, we couldn’t compete with the NL. The National League is where he wanted to be. So it was not money, it was not years,”

So there you have it. AA had Santana on dollars. He had him on years. But lost him because of the league. From the beginning, people were worried about Santana giving up bombs in the very hitter friendly confines of Rogers Centre. Apparently, Santana was worried too. AA later hinted that he thought there was a done deal with Santana in place:

“Normally, when things really leak around the Toronto Blue Jays to an extreme degree, they’re normally done… Sometimes, when there’s a tonne of fire, that’s only when things are done. That’s just a general statement that I’ll make.”

If there was smoke, there is supposed to be fire. AA thought he had his man. Realistically speaking, it is easy to understand all of this. If you are a pitcher who wishes to build his stock going into next off season in the hopes of avoiding the debacle that happened this winter, you go to the NL and play a lot of your games against the New York Mets and Miami Marlins. Makes sense. But, the response of “Well, we tried, but we couldn’t compete”…it just doesn’t sit right.

With fans and players alike almost desperate (as Jays Journal’s Ryan Mueller points out) the latest developments are going to be hard to get over. Paul Beeston has put it to fans that if they show increased interest at the gate, etc. the team will show increased winning product on the field. It is almost an opposite of Field of Dreams: “If you come, we’ll build it”. Fans have done that. According to Forbes.com, the Toronto Blue Jays have shown a revenue of $203M for 2013. The fans are living up to their end of the bargain. Yet, the Blue Jays continue to send the wrong message: “We can’t compete.”

As hard as it is to be a fan and hear this message, imagine being a player and watching this all unfold around you. The fact that AA did pursue upgrades tells players that the team needs to be improved, that it is not good enough to compete. And then each time one of these pursuits falls through, the team you play for is saying, “We can’t (or won’t) compete.” Now, there will be those who say that they are professionals and they get paid a lot to shut up and do their jobs. But, how hard would it be to do that when your boss is telling you that it won’t really matter anyway?

Of course, one could look at it another way: maybe Blue Jays management is telling its players that they don’t need to fork over lots of money or years to anyone. Maybe management is trying to tell its players that it believes in what they have. The question is: are the players buying it? The fans sure aren’t.

Tags: Alex Anthopoulos Ervin Santana Toronto Blue Jays

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