Thursday, January 30, 2014
Takeaways from the Blue Jays State of the Franchise
By Ian Hunter
In previous years, the Toronto Blue Jays State of the Franchise has set the tone for the upcoming season. It really was a great way to get a feel for the fan base and to understand the pulse of the team prior to Spring Training.
In 2012, it was about a young and talented team looking to take the next step towards contention. In 2013, it was all about the team that made some bold offseason moves, and was finally on the doorstep to becoming winner.
This year, I really don't quite know exactly what the tone is supposed to be going into the 2014 season. For some reason, it was a very indifferent experience; I left feeling no better or no worse about this particular team's chances of winning.
It was a quite short affair; the panel of Paul Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos and John Gibbons answered questions for about only 30 minutes. In years past, the panel portion would go much longer, but it seemed like it was cut short this year.
While the pre-submitted questions did touch on the key areas of concern on the roster, the answers given by the panel didn't quite quench fans' thirst for any sort of inside knowledge or interesting tidbits.
By design, the State of the Franchise is supposed to address concerns to season ticket holders and assure fans that the organization is doing everything in their power to produce a winner (or at the very least, is moving towards an eventual winner).
The Blue Jays call it the State of the Franchise, but it's really more of a shareholder meeting. In it, the brass attempt to instill confidence and reaffirm ticket holders' decision to come back for one more year
The Blue Jays did not do a very good job of providing a great deal of hope for the 2014 season. It was more like "thanks for supporting us last year, we'll try to be better this year".
I spoke with one season ticket holder who's actually still on the fence about renewing his season tickets for the 2014 season. He felt that the Blue Jays just haven't done enough this offseason to warrant him signing up again for 81 home games.
Frankly, I can't really blame him; the Blue Jays haven't done all that much to improve their team this offseason, and yet they're expecting fans to plunk down significant money on essentially the same product they had at the end of the 2013 season.
The Blue Jays barely spent any money to make the club better, so what incentive do fans have to spend their hard-earned dollar?
If the New York Yankees hosted a similar event, they could boast about their bevy of offseason signings and how they spent significant money to improve their ball club. If I were a Yankees season ticket holder, those moves would warrant a renewal on my part.
In years past, Paul Beeston went to great lengths to sell the team as a World Series contender for many years to come, and despite the horrible results last year, he didn't really pull back on creating lofty expectations for 2014.
"World Series" and "meaningful games in September and October" were phrases which were thrown around, but this is the very same lip service we've heard from Beeston in the past.
Although 2013 was year one of what was supposed to be the Blue Jays string of playoff appearances, Beeston did reiterate it would not be just a one year process to get the Blue Jays to contention.
Alex Anthopoulos gave his typical Anthopoulos answers, but the one thing I noticed is he did acknowledge the Blue Jays are active in free agent talks. Oddly enough, the first name out of his mouth was Bronson Arroyo. Maybe AA has Bronson on his mind?
Anthopoulos reminded us that free agent talks could continue to sign with teams through Spring Training, recalling that Michael Bourn didn't sign with the Indians until late last February, and the same with Kyle Lohse and the Brewers.
Here's my question; why would AA mention that unless the Blue Jays are waiting out guys like Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez? It seems odd he would mention those other late offseason signings examples unless he's planning one himself.
If that's the case, this is what I've wondered; if they like Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana at 3-4 years and around $40-$50 million, what's the benefit of waiting a couple weeks just to save a couple of million dollars?
It's a dangerous game of chicken that Alex Anthopoulos is playing, and other teams could just as easily swoop in and sign Ubaldo or Santana and leave the Blue Jays to fight for the services of Bronson Arroyo.
As stated earlier, I left the Blue Jays State of the Franchise no more confident or no less pessimistic about their chances in 2014.
Lastly, apropos of nothing, this is the turf that the Blue Jays play on 81 games a year. No, that's not a hay field in the prairies ... that's an artificial playing surface. Just further cementing the fact that the Blue Jays need to get real grass at the Rogers Centre.
For more thoughts from the State of the Franchise, check out Blue Jays Plus and Blue Jays from Away.