Saturday, February 4, 2012

The importance of the 2012 season for the Blue Jays

Since I haven’t been a season ticket holder for well over 10 years now, I don’t get to go to the January feature the Jays have put on for that august group. I can watch it on clips, though, and I’ve always found it informative, but maybe not in a way the team’s brass would like.

First and foremost, it’s a marketing exercise. They want to sell more tickets, so those of us on the outside can watch, our noses pressed against the glass, what special things people who lay down a wad of cash are treated to. Since it is about marketing, there’s not much said of substance. Sure, season ticket holders can air their grievances, but there never is much of that. How can there be? These people have already indicated their support of what the team is doing by plunking down their cash.

However, some grumbling occurred at this year’s “state of the union” address, and that’s a good thing. Those of us on the outside are still waiting to see what’s going to happen, and holding back our unfettered support while we keep our wallets firmly in our pockets.

Two years ago, Alex Anthopoulos, boy wonder, promised us a different way of doing things. He announced the Jays were going to build from within by making savvy draft choices, beefing up an ailing farm and scouting system, only making trades with a big upside and only signing major free agents when the team was ready to make a serious run at the post season. The proposed formula was promised to give the Jays sustainable, first-rank teams over a number of years. So far, he has stuck to his guns, diligently, rigorously, nearly to the point of obsession.

And the team has prospered modestly. It’s been above .500 both years AA has been on board – and through some significant injury adversity. Like many, I have been waiting as patiently as possible during the off-season to see what the Jays actually have when they hit the field. And I am one of the patient ones.

So what we have is a team on the cusp. Will they need one or two significant players to make the post season? Most likely. I do like what’s been done under AA’s tenure. What I don’t like is the fact that the team seems to be trying to distance themselves from being willing to try to go all the way this year. The 2013 season is what they’re now hinting at.

I don’t think that’s good. Sure, there are a lot of promising players on this team. If enough of them break out and some of the established players (Bautista, Lind, Escobar, et al) have solid seasons, the Jays could go pretty far. But ownership all of a sudden hinting that they want to see bums in seats before they’ll shell out big bucks for a big stud player is very troubling.

Should they have gone after Fielder? No. The price and length of contract required precluded that being a good fit. Darvish? No. Way too expensive. So deals were not made for big free agents. A lot of fans are objecting. Those fans will sit back further and take even more of a wait and see attitude. The result for 2012 may well be that enough bums won’t be in seats for the team’s owner to be willing to pony up cash for free agents after the season ends, free agents that the team may well desperately need in order to compete.

So it falls on the 2012 team to play way above their heads to get the fans hot and bothered again, and showing up at the ball park in far more increased numbers that has been the case in the past 10 seasons. I’m thinking that the average needs to be 30,000 per game for Rogers to reach for its wallet.

And that’s a tall order. I’m hoping to be very surprised by this year’s team – or AA’s plan could really be in trouble.

1 comment:

Rick Blechta said...

I just received this in an email and wanted to share it with all you Late Innings readers.

A baseball manager who had an ulcer was in his physician office for a checkup. "Remember," the doctor said, "don't get excited, don't get mad, and forget about baseball when you're off the field." Then he added, "By the way, how come you let the pitcher bat yesterday with the tying run on second and two men out in the ninth?"