State of the Onion: It Has Layers




Last night I attended my first “State of the Franchise” event by the Toronto Blue Jays. As I wrote yesterday, I didn’t expect to get any new information and, although I haven’t yet scoured my recording for subtext, I don’t think I’m going to find much.



Since I’m a bit late on the ball here, I’ll recommend that you go and read what some of my compatriots (whom I met for the first time outside of the blogosphere/twittersphere last night. Check out Ian Hunter’s take as well as Gideon Turk’s. Gideon had the presence of mind to ask Alex Anthopoulos a much better question than I did.


Alex Anthopoulos
Alex Anthopoulos


On the surface, the questions that were fielded during the orchestrated¬† Q & A were pretty much softball questions and the answers were all along the party lines. At least the team officials addressed the some of the fans’ major concerns like the lack of free agent/trade activity this season (note: Dioner Navarro was not mentioned once), thinness in the pitching rotation, Marcus Stroman‘s readiness for the big leagues, defense, spring training attitude and atmosphere, budget considerations, etc.


At the same time that the “shareholders’ meeting” (as Ian Hunter called it, quite astutely) was going on, Shi Davidi was just about to break some news about trades that didn’t happen this offseason. He wrote that the Jays were working on trades for both Ian Kinsler (new information) and Brett Anderson (old information). Kinsler’s deal ended up not going anywhere because the Jays broke off the trade talks when they found out that they were on Kinsler’s “no-trade” list (as was reported this morning by Ken Rosenthal).


John Gibbons
John Gibbons


The layer beneath the “this team was not built for one year” and “we got knocked down a bit” is about the questions that weren’t asked. Because the questions were submitted in advance by email and pre-screened by the club, no one was able to bring any (interesting) spontaneity to the proceedings.


Twitter was abuzz pre-SOTF with questions of whether Beeston would be held accountable for his “three post-seasons in five years” promise. He wasn’t. The question wasn’t asked. It seemed almost like a Stephen-Harper-esque whitewashing of history. Are the fans pissed off that that promise now seems like a pipe dream? You bet. Was there any acknowledgement that he even said those words? Nope.


Another question that wasn’t asked was whether Alex Anthopoulos’s job might be in jeopardy if the Blue Jays fail to show a glimmer of turning things around this season. The fact is that 2014 will be his fifth season on the job and few general managers get that long if things aren’t going well. While Anthopoulos does have a string of successes in terms of bringing the farm system back to life and making some good trades early on, there are some questionable trades and decisions that have been plaguing the team in the last couple of years that he has taken some flack for. The bottom line is winning and, if 2014 fails to produce a winning season in which it appears that the Blue Jays are within striking distance of the playoffs in 2015, I would argue that the time has come to make a change. I think the seasons ticket holder would agree with me there but, of course, this issue wasn’t brought up.


The question regarding Spring Training facilities also wasn’t asked. Over the last year, the Blue Jays were in talks to move to the east coast of Florida and share a new facility that was going to be built around Palm Beach Gardens for the Houston Astros who desperately want to leave Kissimmee. In the past few weeks, word has come out that the folks on the east coast don’t want the construction and traffic and this deal is being scuttled. The Blue Jays would prefer to go to a new complex where they had better facilities that aren’t available in Dunedin. There isn’t another full-size diamond for their use in the vicinity of Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and the minor league complex is a good 10-minute drive from downtown Dunedin, where the stadium is located. The question about the future of the Spring Training home of the Blue Jays wasn’t addressed at all.


The rest of the night involved schmoozing, partaking of the free food (the fish tacos were amazing) and discussing things with some of my fellow bloggers. Beeston, Anthopoulos, Gibbons and Buck Martinez were available for questions, autographs and photo ops afterwards as well.


The State of the Franchise was basically a feel-good event for the fans and the stakeholders in the team but it didn’t convince everyone. One season ticket holder that I overheard at the bar across the street felt like he was just being placated by the club’s officials and was hungry for a winning team. I think we all are, but I don’t think it’s coming in 2014.