Toronto Blue Jays Fans Send Message to Ownership
By Shaun Doyle
For the longest time, fans of the Toronto Blue Jays have been operating under the general assumptions that the club’s ownership group, Rogers Communications, is cheap. And, to be fair, there has been several instances where that firmly held belief was supported. We’ve watched major free agents sign elsewhere. ‘Why won’t Rogers just spend some of their bajillion dollars to build a winner’ we’d shriek. Of course, General Manager, Alex Anthopoulos would always brush off these missed opportunities with the “not a smart baseball move” broom.
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That is until July, 2015 rolled around and the Blue Jays were trading away anything not nailed down to bring in top talent to make a push for the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. Indeed, AA went all in. And, we loved it. Since then, fans bought tickets at a fever pitch. Television viewings went up, merchandise sales went through the roof. Then, playoffs happened. Tickets were flying! The intangible support that this postseason saw from the sold out crowds was the talk of the baseball world.
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The crowd was loud, for sure. The players loved the support. They fed off it. There is no question that the people of Toronto, as well as Canada, have shown their support. Whether it came form their wallet, their vocal chords or their televisions, their radio, or a combination of the above, fans of the Toronto Blue Jays have sent a very clear message: we will support an entertaining product.
An this is significant because for years outgoing president, Paul Beeston, tried to flip the script and point the finger at fans to show support so the club could put a winner on the field. As if the effort from fans needed to be there first. Well, it is there. And, now ownership has to capitalize on it. They need to strike while the appetite is fresh. People love the Blue Jays and are willing to spend.
This will come into play as the club gets together with its new president, Mark Shapiro, and decides on the future of AA first and the players second. Formulating a plan will have to include just how the club will come back in 2016 to follow up on this magical season. And, a lot of that will be based on large financial decisions.
There are team options on both Jose Bautista ($14M) and Edwin Encarnacion ($10) that appear to be no brainers. $24M for 80 HR and 200 RBI? Yes, please. But, the decisions don’t end there. R.A. Dickey also has a team option. And, speaking of the rotation, Marco Estrada looks to head to free agency. Will they try and keep him? All of these decisions are going to tell us a lot about the level of financial commitment form ownership.
And, that doesn’t even cover the biggest potential financial move. David Price is going to command a pretty hefty contract. It will test the Blue Jays like no other contract they’ve handed out under AA’s tenure.
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Assuming the club can move on from its ‘5 Yr Policy’, the money required to land Price is going to be handsome. And, while he’s admitted to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca that he loved his time in Toronto and “absolutely” would be open to returning, there are bound to be several suitors for his services. Will ownership support this pursuit?
A successful baseball team requires reciprocity. The club’s ownership has to commit to putting the best product possible on the field. And, fans have to commit to consuming that product. If we’ve learned anything over the last few months, it is that fans are willing to live up to their end of the deal. The club certainly made some heady moves to show their commitment over the summer. But, the real test will be how they proceed this offseason. Fans of the Toronto Blue Jays have successfully sent a message to ownership. Your move, Rogers. Your move.
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