So what changed so suddenly? In a matter of mere months, the Dodgers front office has changed the entire culture of the team. As opposite as the Blue Jays and Dodgers appear to be on the surface, it actually turns out they have one big thing in common; money.
Both organizations have a big financial backing, whether it's in the form of Guggenheim Baseball Management or a multi-billion dollar communications conglomerate like Rogers. But when it comes to front office strategies, the two teams could not be more different.
I heard Los Angeles Dodgers president Stan Kasten on Primetime Sports on Tuesday night, and at first I actually thought it was Paul Beeston. And for a team that had just taken on over a quarter of a billion dollars worth of contracts, Kasten was certainly saying all the right things:
“We didn’t see a robust free agent market, and we didn’t see other trades … people weren’t giving us star players. We have to be aggressive for now in the short term, in the long term we remain dedicated to the goal of becoming a first class scouting and player development system.Even though Stan Kasten may be the president of an opposing ball club, his remarks really resonated with me. When he said that the Dodgers essentially "owe it to the fans", I wondered to myself why the Blue Jays wouldn't do the very same thing.
But I can’t come in to Los Angeles and ask these fans, with their historic connection to this franchise, to wait around five years for us to develop a farm system.
We’re trying to add pieces because it’s a franchise whose fans have come to expect it and frankly deserve it.
The last few years have been rough for them; we’re trying to change that and turn it around, and I think we’re making progress on turning around the perception, turning it back to where the perception of the Dodgers once was.”
If I were a Dodgers fan, I would be pretty pleased with ownership right now, because Stan Kasten was doing a great job of assuring fans that the Dodgers were doing everything in their power to win.
Compare and contrast that with these comments made by Blue Jays president Paul Beeston last December, and these two presidents are clearly on completely different pages.
"We’re still capable of going to the US$120 million payroll once we start drawing the people. Once we start drawing the people means that we’re winning, right? The formula hasn’t changed."In my eyes, actions speak louder than words. On numerous occasions, Paul Beeston has indicated the Blue Jays have the financial backing to increase payroll above $100 million ... but it's beginning to feel like he's just paying us lip service.
On the other hand, the Dodgers put their money where their mouth is. It's only been three years since the Los Angeles Dodgers have been to the playoffs, and yet the front office feels like they they need to immediately restore the winning culture for the fans.
It's been nearly 20 years since the Blue Jays have made the playoffs, and yet there isn't nearly the same sense of urgency. Yes, strides have been made in this new regime of the Blue Jays to improve the ball club from the ground up, but ultimately the results at the big league level have remained the same.
This is where I'm torn as a fan; in one sense, I understand that building a perennial winner takes time and there's no such thing as fast tracking to success. But on the other hand, I see what's happening in LA and kind of wish it would happen in Toronto, too.
I'm not an advocate of blowing money for the sake of blowing it, because I'm sure that's one lesson that resonated after the J.P. Ricciardi era. But if the money is there to improve your team while still building the farm system, then why not do it?
If the Blue Jays are just saving their cash for when they're on the doorstep of contention, what if that time never comes? The club's core players certainly aren't getting younger, and contending for a playoff spot in the AL East isn't getting any easier.
It's somewhat worrisome that the Blue Jays only have three years left on Jose Bautista's contract with an option for a fourth year. That might seem like a long time, but there's no guarantees that Bautista will stick around after 2016. So really, the window for contention is actually much shorter than we realize.
Again, I'm not insinuating that the Blue Jays go out there and spend frivolously or take on the kind of contracts that the Los Angeles Dodgers did. However, there's nothing wrong with opening the pocketbook and spending a little cash to bolster the big league roster.
If Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos can continue to build up the farm system, field a contending big league team, and do it all while penny-pinching, then all the power to them. Unless the end game is an eventual return to the playoffs for the Blue Jays, fans could be left wondering if it was all for naught.