They wait for a sign. Some hint of a direction. Until now, all discontented fans of the Toronto Blue Jays have is Paul Beeston's urging to accept on faith that owner Rogers Communications Inc. is committed to the team, that a plan will be revealed shortly.
But the fans fear a diminished payroll or even a sale of the team, and simple words do not suffice. Action tells the tale, to which Nadir Mohamed would say: Remember B.J. Ryan. Remember how we swallowed $17-million (all currency U.S.) by releasing him.
"Smart people make decisions with the best set of circumstances at the time," Mohamed, chief executive officer of Rogers Communications, told The Globe and Mail's Gordon Pitts recently in his first interview on the state of the Blue Jays since becoming CEO. "You can spend the rest of your life revisiting how we ended up.
"We thought it was a good idea to have the player move on and take the writeoff. It's life, it's business. It's part of the context of saying, 'What does it take to make us better?' We want to do better, we want to be able to make money," Mohamed said. "We have shareholders, they're important stakeholders, just as we have customers and employees.
"The idea of being competitive in the business you're in and being seen to be effective drives me. We want to do whatever it takes to become more competitive."
Mohamed reiterated the Blue Jays are not for sale - "We are absolutely committed to the team," he said.
Mohamed also said he would "love" Beeston, the team's interim president and CEO, to remain, and Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi "has been a great leader."
"He is somebody who has helped us and will continue to help us," Mohamed said, adding: "If you're getting into the decision making around people and so on, it is not right for me to address it. Paul Beeston, Tony [Viner, president and CEO of Rogers Media Inc., the division that oversees the Blue Jays]worry about this."
Although he's under contract through 2010, Ricciardi has been a focal point of fan unhappiness after eight years without a playoff appearance, during which time the team is 632-644 (going into Monday night) and has finished second in the American League East just once while placing third on four occasions.
Beeston has said in numerous interviews that when he explained the decision to let veteran reliever Ryan walk with 11/2 years remaining on his contract, Mohamed in turn asked Beeston if he needed more payroll. Beeston has suggested Rogers was willing to raise the ante to $120-million (U.S.), but he told them money alone would not realistically allow the team to compete with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
Beeston would not comment on Ricciardi's status, even when it was suggested Mohamed's words opened the door to the possibility of Ricciardi being retained in another capacity, perhaps allowing the continued grooming of Canadian-born Alex Anthopoulos into an eventual GM.
"Stay tuned," said Beeston, who again said he is not interested in staying on and his replacement needs to be "somebody who will stay in the job for five or 10 years."
Could the Blue Jays' CEO job be somehow split?
That was certainly on the table earlier this year, and Beeston has indicated the next president of the Blue Jays will need to spend more time dealing with Rogers's growing relationship with the NFL's Buffalo Bills and finding new revenue streams in the Rogers Centre than overseeing baseball operations.
Only one person has been identified publicly as having been offered the job: Rick Welts, the president and CEO of the NBA's Phoenix Suns, who has an extensive background in sports marketing and oversees the Suns' interest in the management of the team's home arena, U.S. Airways Center. Welts turned down the Toronto job.
Mohamed was asked if Rogers Communications would okay a payroll of, say, $150-million - which this year would have been the second-highest figure in baseball behind the Yankees' $201-million.
The Blue Jays' payroll is currently $80.58-million, 15th overall among the 30 major-league teams.
"Is that the number? No number guarantees a win," Mohamed said. "There is no question if you spend $200-million a year, you have a better shot at winning. It doesn't mean you will win.
"Spending $100-million says that the odds are more difficult over time, but it doesn't mean you don't win. Better doesn't just mean equating to salary. There are a lot of things that make a business, a company, a division better."