|Image courtesy of Canada.com|
What exactly does payroll parameters even mean? I'm still not quite sure, but the gist of it seems to be that even though the Blue Jays could spend up to $120 million in payroll, they aren't going to.
Alex Anthopoulos is usually pretty tight-lipped about things like this, but Paul Beeston's comments in Dallas were a little disconcerting:
"We’re still capable of going to the US$120 million payroll once we start drawing the people."Some might have taken Paul Beeston's words out of context, but what I got from it was "if you come, they will build it".
AA typically shies away from mentioning anything about payroll, and maybe that's just his nature or perhaps it's more of Paul's area as the team president. After all, Beeston has reiterated a few times that the money was there if the Blue Jays needed to boost payroll.
As exciting as it is to hear the president of the Blue Jays feed us this news, the key thing that Beeston said was "once we start drawing the people". Which means that it's in the hands of the fans to help bring up the payroll?
Whether it's in print, on the radio, TV, or any corner of the blogosphere, there's nothing that irritates me more as a fan when people call my (our) fandom into question. Citing "real fans would come down to the ballpark and support this team" just makes by blood boil.
Trust me, the people that truly support the Toronto Blue Jays are going to the Rogers Centre. They're the season ticket holders, they're flex pack holders, they're Toronto Star pass holders, they're 20 ticket pack holders, and they're even the single game ticket buyers.
These folks are there game-in and game-out, and have been for a very long time. In the media, we don't hear about all the fans that were at the Rogers Centre watching the Blue Jays, it's about the fans that weren't.
If Paul Beeston insinuated the Blue Jays would be more aggressive in the pursuit of free agents if more fans came down to the ballpark, that's backwards thinking. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work that way; fans won't flock to the Rogers Centre in hopes that payroll will increase.
If the Blue Jays want to boost attendance, it's very simple; they have to win. And I'm not just talking one season of making the playoffs, I'm talking the Blue Jays need to be perennial contenders.
Look at the heyday of the Blue Jays in the late 80's and early 90's; they were favourites year-in and year-out, and the attendance numbers reflected that. The Blue Jays were the hottest ticket in town because they were a successful team.
I always chuckle when people say "player X would bring more fans to the ballpark". I'm sorry, but one solitary baseball player doesn't drive attendance numbers through the roof. Sure, it's a bonus to see your favourite player in action, but ultimately fans go to see the team.
The latest example of this can be seen at JaysFansWantFielder.com, whose proprietor suggests that fans would to go X amount of more games if the Blue Jays signed Prince Fielder. It also suggests fans should cancel their Rogers services if the team doesn't pony up the money for Prince.
While the site has accumulated over 1200 "signatures", let me ask those people this; if the Blue Jays signed Prince Fielder but then the team tanked, would you still attend all those extra games to promised to go to? I highly doubt it.
What it all boils down to is a winning team on the field puts fans in the stands. The segment of the extremely loyal fan base will always be there, but the market the Blue Jays are trying to capture are those casual fans. And right now, they might not see the value in going to the Rogers Centre unless the Blue Jays are in contention.
Maybe the Blue Jays hands are tied when it comes to payroll, and maybe they have an endless supply of cash at their disposal. Only the top executives know the truth, but it's not right to dangle a figure in front of the fans and then take it away.
Most folks can see past the arbitrary $120 million dollar payroll amount Paul Beeston lobbed out there and realize what really matters is building a solid foundation and then filling in the pieces later. But the casual fan might see it as "if they can spend up to $120 million, why don't they?"
Those are the exact same fans that the Blue Jays are trying to get down to the ballpark, yet it's also the exact same fans they're alienating by saying they have cash, but aren't spending it.
One can argue the big caveat of the J.P. Ricciardi era was all the big money contracts he shelled out during his tenure as the Blue Jays General Manager. I'll agree they may not have been the best contracts in the world, but there's no questioning J.P. wasn't going full tilt to build a winner.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not questioning whether Alex Anthopoulos is going about things the right way, because I believe he is. What I am questioning is the organization's willingness to spend money ... or at least their public stance on increasing payroll.
I'm willing to chalk it up to a slip of the tongue by Paul Beeston. Perhaps all those questions at the Winter Meetings about Prince Fielder and Yu Darvish finally got to him and his comment was a way to deflect any more questions about spending.
If the money is there and it makes sense to spend it, then do it. But don't dangle a number in front of fans like a carrot and promise them if they buy more tickets, the Blue Jays might just buy that shiny new free agent.
If you build it, they will come ... not the other way around.