Blue Jays 2011: Ownership and Front Office

27 12 2011

Here’s the problem: the purpose of a business isn’t to provide a good or service. The purpose of a business, when you get right down to it, is to provide revenue for the business owner – everybody’s got to earn a living. Rogers Communications is a business, and isn’t about to throw money at the Blue Jays if they’re not likely to receive anything in return. We might wish it were otherwise, but it’s not.

I think that the Blue Jays are trying to win. Honestly. If they weren’t, they would not have signed Hechevarria and they would not have re-signed Bautista. But their problem is that they are competing against owners that aren’t running their teams like a business. These owners have enormously deep pockets and enormously large egos, and are running their baseball teams as an exercise in personal gratification. Sometimes this doesn’t work out well for the team’s fans – look at the Baltimore Orioles, for example.

Still, I sometimes wonder whether somebody at Rogers has run some sort of cost-benefit analysis and has determined that an 83-win team yields the maximum profit (ticket sales plus advertising fees minus salaries and costs).

As for the front office: if you’re a Blue Jays fan of a certain age, Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston’s current plan for the Jays should seem familar, as they’re using the approach that Pat Gillick and Beeston used in the 1980s. In particular, they’re following these guidelines:

  • Don’t waste money on expensive free agents. The best players don’t want to come here (Beeston has mentioned this repeatedly), and it’s not worth it to overpay for mediocre players, especially when the farm system is likely to produce somebody equally as good very soon.
  • Pay to keep the players you have, unless a better alternative exists in the system. Jose Bautista, Ricky Romero, Adam Lind, and Yunel Escobar are examples of this.
  • Spend more on scouting and player development. The Jays expanded their scouting department when Anthopoulos was hired, and are aggressively pursuing international talent.
  • Be patient.

This strategy eventually worked for the Gillick-era Jays, but it took a long time. The team first seriously contended in 1983, but didn’t win a World Series – or even appear in one – until 1992. (They were a bit unlucky in 1985, when they had what I believe was the best team they ever assembled. And let’s not talk about 1987, thank you.) A typical Blue Jays season during the late 80s was something like 87-75: a good team, but not quite good enough. This means that Jays fans might have to wait a little while longer before meaningful September baseball is played in these parts.

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