“Spin the wheel raggedy man!” – Lois Griffin
Call the cops! Call the fire department! Call the Miami Marlins! The Toronto Blue Jays have once again been robbed of healthy players, watched our playoff hopes burn to the ground, and Henderson Alvarez is an all-star! What could be worse?
To hell with it, scrap the roster! Rebuild! Do it now while Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are still valuable trade chips! While Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez are still young and naive enough to believe they will be the difference for us in the future!
One problem with that, rebuilding now will mean a loss of yet another generation of frustrated Blue Jays fans. Rebuilding a team that is two or three players away from a playoff push is probably one of the worst ideas to come out of this city, and we’ve seen some pretty stupid decisions in the last couple decades (drafting Ricky Romero over Troy Tulowitzki anyone?)
No, what this team needs is a bigger cash investment in its current talent, and a serious push to get the best players available through either trade or free agency.
This has been the only formula the Blue Jays have ever won with in their franchise history. They have only won the World Series when they had THE highest payroll in baseball for those seasons. Rebuilding has never been a viable option for this franchise; we’ve already tried for two straight decades.
So, are the Blue Jays only successful when they buy championships?
I posed this question to TOTT editor Chris Okrainetz, and he brought up a good point that then Blue Jays GM Pat Gillick couldn’t miss when it came to trades back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, David Cone, all key guys on those championship rosters, joined the club via trade that were orchestrated by Gillick.
That is all very true; you need a little luck to be good. However, the catch was that Gillick wouldn’t be able to make those trades in the first place unless Labatt’s was willing to open the wallet to take on any extra salary that would come our way; something this ownership group has made clear to Alex Anthopoulos isn’t going to happen.
If Anthopoulos had the same kind of backing, Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka, Albert Pujols, Robinson Cano, ANY of those guys would be rocking a Jays Jersey right now. It doesn’t matter how those guys are performing right now, at the time of their free agency, they were damn good ball players and Toronto would have been home to at least one of them. A frugal wallet and a cautious approach kept AA out of any serious discussions with those guys.
Now as for trades, a penny pinching ownership will always give a gm less maneuverability at the bargaining table, and Gillick rarely had to worry about that during the mid-80’s and early 90’s. It was a kind of free spending the organization had never seen before or since.
The results also won Toronto a lot of games.
A Look to History
Before I get ahead of myself, I will recognize the fact that ownership of the Blue Jays have always been willing to give each GM one big allowance to sign a guy during that GM’s tenure. In 1997, it was Gord Ash signing Roger Clemens, who made a team high $8.4 million that year and brought home a Cy young award for his troubles. In 2006, J.P. Ricciardi signed Vernon Wells after a breakout season to a seven year, $126 million extension. Unfortunately, he never duplicated his .303 average, 32 home runs, and 106 RBI’s ever again, it was a cautious tale to Rogers, and have made them wary of big contracts ever since.
This brings me to an analogy I came up with while sweeping the floor to pass the time at the warehouse job I currently work at. (I believe this occupation gives me the utmost authority on building champions.)
What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas
When it comes to building a championship team in a cap free league, baseball is a lot like a roulette table with each team’s GM starting with a different chip count at the table.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the MLB Winter meetings. (photo: getty images)
You’ve got your high rollers that like a strong scotch, wear an Armani suit at the table, and have an arm so iced out that the cute blonde wrapped around his shoulder can see her own breath, these are your Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers.
Next, you have your one bet weekend warriors; they pound Bud Lights, and enjoy a good weekend thrill after payday, like the Blue Jays, Athletics, and Mariners.
Finally, you’ve got the weird smelling, Listerine guzzling bearded fellows that will put a chip on 00 because to hell with it the mortgage on that new stadium isn’t going to pay itself! We also call these your Padres, Marlins, and Astros.
Naturally, the guy with the most chips can always cover the most numbers and bet the highest. He may not always win, but you better believe he’s going to walk away with at least something most of the time.
20 years ago the Jays were that high roller, covering their chips across the table, making big bets while covering their losses. The result? A couple shiny rings and a ceiling full of banners.
Those Jays were both smart with their trades, and slightly belligerent with their money, Toronto doesn’t win without both of those things. Want proof? Try the last 20 years, where there has been plenty of both, but never at the same time.
How to Get Back?
The good news is that we can still get back to that; the team just has to show SOMETHING to Rogers that will justify it. That’s all they’re waiting for, a reason.
I believe that reason has already shown itself. We have some of the best hitters in the game and when this team is healthy, they can make a playoff run RIGHT NOW! Why in the hell are we talking about giving that up?
Some people already want to blow it up, ok, then what? By the time Mark Stroman and Aaron Sanchez come of age, our offence will be non-existent.
Just ask Roy Halladay, he debuted in 1998 on a Jays squad that was built to win right then. They missed the postseason, they didn’t re-sign their best players, and Roy Halladay spent the next 10 years as the best pitcher the baseball world never heard of.
That’s Stroman and Sanchez’s future if we repeat that path, and that’s only if they even decide to re-sign with us after they’ve grown tired of playing for mediocrity.
You honestly think this kid is going to give his best years to a .500 ball club?
If Pat Hengten and Roger Clemens and three straight seasons of Cy Young Awards weren’t enough to bring the ‘96-‘98 Blue Jays to the post season, Sanchez and Stroman never will, because they will NEVER be that good.
If Roy Halladay couldn’t even take this team to second in the division for all but one of his 10 years of individual dominance, Stroman and Sanchez NEVER will.
These kids need to see progress right now, not rebuilding. 20 years of that has made a lot of Blue Jays supporters very wary of the terms “in progress” or “rebuilding” or my personal favourite that Ricciardi coined, “Two to three years away.”
Believe in the Now
Despite what our record says, this team is not crap, our players are not crap. All we did was put some big chips on the table and the ball landed on 00, it happens, but it’s no excuse to throw up your hands and cash out, not with the kind of chip stack we have (that’s ever growing larger thanks to Rogers and Bell’s media monopoly), it’s time to double down.
You want that nice Armani suit? You want that iced out arm? YOU WANT THAT BIMBO BLONDE ON YOUR SHOULDER? Then it’s time for AA, Rogers, and most importantly, the players on the field to throw down some chips and spin that damn wheel one more time, were only one trade or signing, and a healthy stretch away from hitting black.
Just remember, in baseball, there is no walking away from the roulette wheel, you either keep hitting 00 for 108 years straight, or you win it all in four out in the Arizona desert. The choice is ours.