Breaking Down the State of the Franchise

Last night the Blue Jays held their annual State of the Franchise event for season ticket holders.  Despite not being a season ticket holder (alas, I am only a lowly Season Pass holder, banished to the 500 Level with my drunk brethren), I was generously given an invite and was lucky enough to attend.

Before I get into the meat of the event, let me say this: it was a great time.  I was able to meet several other Jays bloggers for the first time (the guys from Drunk Jays Fans, Getting Blanked, Mop Up Duty, and Jays Journal), re-meet some that I have met before (Blue Jay Hunter and 1 Blue Jays Way), and also meet several Jays tweeters for the first time.  (As an aside, there is nothing more awkward and weird than meeting somebody for the first time and introducing myself as 500 Level Fan, instead of my real name.  Odd.)  The atmosphere was pretty cool, the set up was intimate, and amazingly the beer was free.  All in all, a good event.

Here are some more detailed thoughts on what was State of the Franchise 2012:

– First off, the results of my “Early Betting Lines” post from yesterday.  I posted eight potential questions / actions that I thought might happen.  Here’s the rundown:

1 and 2. Yu Darvish and Prince Fielder were both discussed.  More on that later.

3. Payroll Parameters – not really.  Yes there was talk about payroll, but the specific $120-million figure never came up.

4. Catcher of the Future – D’Arnaud’s name was mentioned, but not in the context of supplanting Arencibia.

5. The LF Question – Farrell directly addressed this, a few times.

6 and 7. Tony Fernandez and EE – not at all.

8. AA getting away with a “non-answer” – yes.  More on that to come.

– I want to talk specifically about the Fielder and Darvish situation because unlike many in attendance, I thought the Jays handled it perfectly.  For those who couldn’t watch the panel last night, before Buck Martinez opened up the Q&A session to the fans in attendance, he personally asked two questions.  The first went to Paul Beeston about why Prince Fielder wasn’t brought in, and the second went to AA about what happened with Darvish.

To many, this was a slap in the face to fans, a cop-out, a slimy way to get out the back door.  By having Buck ask the questions in a free and easy, “we’re all friends here” manner, it basically takes the Prince and Yu issue off the table for the rest of the fans, some who may be legitimately angry.  But to me, that was a HUGE win.  I didn’t want to hear Jimmy from Oakville, or Peter from Ajax rip into the front office and call them cheap, or cowardly, or stupid because we didn’t get Prince Fielder.  I dont’ think we would have heard as honest or as direct of an explanation in that case.  It would have painted Beeston and AA into more of a defensive posture, like it or not.

Instead we heard a very honest answer by Beeston re: Fielder: “we don’t do any contract greater than 5-years in length.  If it was a 1, 3, or 5 year deal, we would have been right there.  Anything longer than that goes against our philosophy.”

We didn’t get quite the sane answer from Anthopoulos re: Darvish, which scores a point for item 8 in my betting lines piece (how many times will AA get away with a non-answer).  He basically gave no information about whether or not a bid was placed for Darvish, refusing to buckle and say that they were players in the sweepstakes for the Japanese pitcher.  Instead he mentioned that each potential addition has a price or a value that we place on them.  If they ask for more than what we feel they are worth, we won’t sign them.”

– I thought that all three members of the panel – Farrell, Anthopoulos, and Beeston – were very well spoken and handled the questions with grace.  There were many, many, many stupid questions (trust me – more about that later), but each man on the panel thanked the person that asked the question, and then gave as detailed and honest an answer as they possibly could.  They were never defensive and always friendly.

Some of that honesty came out with Anthopoulos (and Beeston for that matter), boldly stating that there were two cases in which Toronto offered a free agent more money and/or more years than what he ultimately signed for.  This was in response to a question from a man who demanded to know why the Jays didn’t sign Carlos Beltran to a free-agent contract, flatly stating that since Beltran only signed for 2-years and $12-million per, that he should have fit Toronto’s contract philsophy.  One can insinuate that Beltran might have been one of those two players.  Anthopoulos, in his gentlemanly way, calmly answered to the irate fan that “some players don’t want to play on turf, some don’t want to DH, and some don’t want to switch leagues from the NL to the AL,” meaning, obviously, that Beltran didn’t want to come here.  Many fans often forget that a player also has to want to come to and play in a certain city and join a certain team.  I’m sure the fact that Toronto hasn’t sniffed the playoffs in almost 20 years and St. Louis is the defending World Series champion might have also played a part in that.

Never mind the fact that Beltran will be 35 in April, his best days are behind him, and his health is declining rapidly.  AA chose to take the high road and not quote that, as I likely would have…

– The questions.  Oh, the questions.  What can I say about the questions?

I thought some were good (such as “what are your thoughts on interleague play?”), but most weren’t.

But here’s the thing – it’s not that questions themselves weren’t any good, it was the people who asked them.  Aside from one woman who simply asked John Farrell who he envisioned as his starting outfield in 2012, each and every question was fronted by a 250 word preamble.  The format was basically the same.

From a happy fan:

“Hi, my name is [insert name here], and I have been a season ticket for [x number] of years.  [Insert story about how much fan likes the Jays here]. [Insert comment on how glad they are to be here tonight.] [Insert comment on how they liked the glory years and feel we are on the right track here.] Now, here’s my question.”

From a disgruntled fan:

“Hi, my name is [insert name here], and I have been a season ticket for [x number] of years.  [Insert story about how disappointed fan was with the offseason]. [Insert comment on how upset they are with the failure to make playoffs / sign free agents / make trades / play on grass / contend on an annual basis.] Now, here’s my question.”

Honestly, a simple 20-second question at times took 3-4 minutes to ask.  I can’t say that I’m surprised and didn’t expect it.  I have been to an Annual General Meeting for a major corporation before, and the same thing happened.  Seriously people – the CEO / President / GM of a company is happy that you came, but unless you hold the majority of shares or have a direct influence on the company, they don’t care about your opinion.  Alex Anthopoulos doesn’t care that some guy from Cambridge thinks he gave up too much for Colby Rasmus (an honest to God comment from last night).  The trade is done.  It happened.  He also doesn’t likely care that some other guy renounced his fanship last night because Toronto didn’t sign Fielder.  I’m sure Beeston and Anthopoulos would much rather forfeit one fan’s $1,200 contribution to team revenue from his season tickets than be forced to pay a 36-year old 450 pound, immobile, and decrepit Prince Fielder $24-million.

Anyways, I digress…

Here are my winners in these five categories:

Funniest Question/Comment: A man named Ronny said that even if results aren’t there, he wants to see great effort, and “players that look and act like winners to me (but not the Charlie Sheen kind).  I look at Brett Lawrie and I see a winner.  I look at Alex and I see a winner.  I look at John Farrell and I don’t see a winner cause it’s too soon.”  Classic.

Stupidest Comment: “First off I want to say that I think we gave up way too much in the Colby Rasmus trade.  Both pitchers that went to St. Louis won the World Series.”  Amazing.  Never mind that we traded a 37-year old reliever on a one-year deal and a left-handed reliever for a 25-year old potential All Star, Dotel won the WORLD SERIES!  Terrible trade.

Stupidest Question:  I can’t remember the full question, but it ended something like this: “when will Toronto have a Canadian on the major league roster?”  Apparently calling Brett Lawrie “our Canadian superstar” wasn’t obvious enough.

Most Bizarre Moment: When a Venezuelan stood up and said that he brought a team of 35-year old Venezuelan players to Niagara Falls and wanted Toronto to sign them, only the representative from the Blue Jays said the team was too busy.  Instead, the Texas Rangers came up to Niagara Falls during the World Series and signed five of the players.  Very, very strange.  Even AA didn’t know what to think.

Biggest Bonehead: “I’m a Jays fan through and through,” said by a man wearing a Detroit Tigers shirt.  Seriously.  The best part was seeing AA call him out on it.  Classic.

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