Money and Meaning
It's a weird scenario.
Let's say the Blue Jays look at the Oakland Athletics and desire to be just like them after watching Billy Beane's club wildly celebrate a totally unexpected and totally thrilling divisional title yesterday.
First thing, to mimic the A's, would be to slash the payroll. By about 25 per cent. The A's won the AL West with the second lowest payroll in the sport, about $55 million, while the Jays had arguably the worst season in team history with $74 million-plus spent on players.
Weird, but the A's knocked off Texas, a team with more than twice the payroll. Also weird that a few teams - take the Minnesota Twins and their $94 million payroll or Miami and their whopping $118 million payroll - spent significantly more than the Jays and got nowhere with it. The Washington Nationals are in the post-season after having spent about $6 million more than the Jays. So what does that mean?
So it's not JUST about money, just like this lost season wasn't JUST about injuries. There's about 500 variables here.
But somewhere in all of this is an awkward truth, and that is that one of those variables is the politics of the individual cities, the way in which the marketplace feels about the local squad, the optics of what the team does, doesn't do, has done and hasn't done.
Here in Toronto, Rogers faces a hard-to-shake perception that it hasn't spend enough on players to put a winning team on the field. When you're 23trd in the majors in payroll and you've had the kind of disappointing season the jays have just had, that perception becomes stronger, particularly in a city where attendance and TV numbers are up.
So the answer, clearly, is that the Jays must spend, even if they don't want to and have nothing really of impact to spend on.
Spend they must.
One is left to wonder - and it's clearly with loads of hindsight - whether if they were to do it all again the ballclub would have gone much, much harder after Yu Darvish, who has proven (so far) to have been a sound investment for the Rangers last summer.
GM Alex Anthopoulos has never said what the Jays bid, but sources suggest it was about $15-20 million, not remotely competitive with the $51.7 million the Rangers ponied up for the young right-handed power pitcher.
Clearly the Jays didn't want to aggressively be in that market, and they have their reasons and policies. But imagine if they had. They'd have a pitcher with lots of future and would have been able to silence the doubters that proclaim Rogers won't spend even if the 2012 season hadn't gone well.
Heck, imagine if they'd fallen a hair short of landing Darvish and let the world know about it. Again, perceptions would have been changed.
Now, they face an off-season with greater pressure to spend - $100 million seems to be the number, which would put them close to the top 10 - without a Darvish or anything close to spend on.
But the politics and perceptions of the market say spend they must, without much guarantee at all it will get them anywhere.