Well that was something!
Tonight was my first time attending a State of the Franchise event, and I can honestly say it was up there in my top 3 moments as a Jays fan/blogger. From the moment I walked into the media entrance with fellow BJP owner Chris Sherwin, until I left 3 hours later, it was non-stop fun (well, except for the part where AA, Beeston, and Gibby were feeding the crowd a bunch of BS that we have been hearing all winter, but more on that later). When we got there, I felt the people looking at me thinking to themselves why this kid was using this entrance. Those looks made the night better. Just to be allowed in was awesome(have to be 19 because of the alcohol being served), but to be invited by the Jays themselves along with a handful of other bloggers was surreal. Aside from meeting a whole bunch of people from twitter(and 2 members of the BJP staff!) for the first time, I also got a chance to talk to Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and President & CEO Paul Beeston one-on-one. Unfortunately, by the time I was done with them, Jays manager John Gibbons was no where to be found, so I was not able to talk to him.
Before I get to my brief discussions with Anthopoulos and Beeston, I’ll give my overall thoughts on the Q & A session they held, which, for the second year in a row, only had questions that were emailed to and handpicked by the Jays ahead of time. As well the answers were fairly straight forward; they did not elaborate much beyond what we already knew. With that said, there are a couple tidbits that can be garnered from their answers.
When talking about a possible platoon partner for Adam Lind heading into this season, Anthopoulos stated that Moises Sierra was going to be given every opportunity to win the job, but that the Jays are also exploring the trade market for the position; as they usually are. However, perhaps notably, not once did he mention the free agent route in relation to that position. You can’t definitively say that those comments (or lack there of) mean that a free agent like Jeff Baker isn’t coming to Toronto, but it’s probably pretty safe to say that Jeff Baker isn’t coming to Toronto. He did seem to imply that any trade made for a platoon bat would come at the end of spring training. Meaning that the player or players that he have in mind are most likely of the fringe variety and that the Jays would like to see how things shake out in Spring Training before making any further decisions.
When it came to pitching, Anthopoulos listed off four names; Arroyo, Burnett, Santana, and Jimenez. As things usually are, it most likely doesn’t mean anything, but the names weren’t exactly in alphabetical order. Were Arroyo and Burnett listed first because those are the two pitchers AA is targeting the most? If what Ken Rosenthal wrote today is true, then it’s certainly a possibility. At this point in the offseason, with so little having come to fruition, I’d be happy with a pitcher. So any of those free agents will conceivably fit the bill, however Burnett would probably be at the top of my list.
Aside from that, I didn’t take too much else out of the Q & A period. As I mentioned earlier, I was fortunate enough to get the chance to have a few words with each of Anthopoulos and Beeston.
I asked Alex two questions:
#1: What is with the decrease in scouts over the past year? Around 10 guys have been laid off from what had previously been the largest scouting staff in baseball by a wide margin.
Alex answered by saying that with the hiring of new Scouting Director Brian Parker, he wanted to give him the opportunity to bring in some of his own guys, and that is why the staff was reduced. He also mentioned that a good chunk of the 60 or so scouts the Jays employed prior to last season were young and who had at most 3 years on the job. However, from what we know from Bob Elliot, some of the scouts who were fired were veterans, so Anthopoulos’ response doesn’t exactly hold up. As well, I spoke to a scout a few weeks ago from an NL organization and he said that his team won’t fire a scout for the first 5 years of their term, which is an interesting policy in comparison to what we’ve seen with the Jays over the past year.
#2: I spoke to a scout who said that Bickford had some serious injury red flags on him before the draft, and that his club didn’t even bother to put him on their draft board as a result of that. Why exactly did the Jays select him?
I wasn’t exactly expecting Anthopoulos to elaborate too much and so I wasn’t too disappointed when he gave the ‘teams don’t know about medicals before the draft’ answer. Obviously one team saw something in Bickford that proved to be enough for them to take him off the board entirely, so it still intrigues me as to why the Jays ended up selecting him. He also mentioned that the Jays had never said publicly that anything was wrong with Bickford’s health, which seemed to imply that there was something the Jays saw that ultimately resulted in their not signing him; perhaps it was the injury red flags that another organization had seen pre-draft.
On to my talk with Paul Beeston:
#1: On the possibility of exhibition games in Vancouver…
“Within the next 2 years.”
As soon as I asked the question, Beeston responded emphatically with those words above. He was very certain that it was going to happen and said that since the Montreal games look like they’re going to be a resounding success that they are looking forward to getting the opportunity to play in Vancouver. It seems as if it will take two years because they need to figure out how to configure the newly renovated BC Place to accommodate a few games of baseball. There is a low hanging jumbotron, so I imagine that is the holdup. Beeston mentioned that Nat Bailey would not be an option because the games need to take place in March, whereas the field there is only ready in June, when the C’s start to play.
#2: On the TV deal and how it affects the Jays…
“We’ll complain when the payroll is under $140 million, but until then, everything is fine.”
Aside from that, Paul said the current number that the Blue Jays get is around $60 Million. Meaning it’s close to what the Red Sox get, and what teams like the Phillies, who just signed a monster deal, will be getting for the next few years. From that it seems as if Rogers is fairly compensating the team and will increase the TV revenue rate as the average rate inflates in baseball.
That’s it. I had a fantastic time, and really want to thank the Blue Jays for inviting us out tonight. We weren’t expecting it, and it was a great surprise.