To Gary Bettman and the NHL, it’s the trade from hell, justification for keeping their precious salary-cap system. But to baseball people, the Toronto/ Miami blockbuster on Tuesday is everything that’s right about the more pliant Major League Baseball financial system. It’s about winning, not bookkeeping.
The Blue Jays strip-mined the Marlins’ roster, picking up Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, John Buck and Josh Johnson in exchange for prospects and suspects. Toronto picked up almost $170-million in salary commitments from the Marlins in return.
If you’re a Blue Jays fan, you don’t care about the Marlins (under former Montreal Expos owner Jeffrey Loria). Your big-market team is suddenly spending like a big market to be a contender. The TV networks, too, are unconcerned. They like the star-laden teams the Blue Jays have morphed into.
Parity is for those hockey saps who are shutting down their business to make sure Nashville can compete with New York.
The Marlins, unconcerned about a punitive salary-cap floor, restocked with young players while collecting MLB’s lucrative TV / digital dollars in their stadium paid for by Florida taxpayers. It was cold, but it made business sense after a veteran-laden team cratered last year.
Ask a Blue Jays fan this morning. Are you happier? Of course you are. Isn’t that always the bottom line for a sports fan? Isn’t that something the NHL forgot?
FRUGAL TO FREE SPENDING: The trade is also a considerable corporate gamble by Rogers, which saw its gaudy young ball team implode last summer, dragging down attendance at their stadium and ratings on their TV network. This trade exposes Rogers’ bottom line. Getting Rogers’ CEO Nadir Mohamed to sign off on an extra $169.5-million in salary commitments and to have shareholders not revolt against such profligacy after the purchase of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment is no small feat forth communications giant.
But the dramatic transition from frugal managers (the Jays were one of only only a few teams without a $100-million payroll in team history before Tuesday) to free spenders underscored the fallout from the 2012 debacle. A season that began with the Rogers’ suits bragging how the Jays had turned the corner with a younger demographic ended with acres of empty seats and stories about entitlement among the franchise’s best prospects.
Suddenly the $12 beers and $ 15 sandwiches didn’t look so clever. Neither did the reputation as cheapskates in a major media market. Something had to give. It did on Tuesday.
THINKING SMALL: If the NHL were the MLB, the Nashville Predators would have traded two of Shea Weber, Ryan Suter or Pekka Rinne for a haul of prospects, reduced their payroll dramatically and guaranteed their playing future with the one franchise player they kept.
Instead they’re married to an impossibly high salaries for Weber and Rinne (with no-trade clauses), they’re dependent on revenue sharing to pay those salaries and they still can’t win. How is this better? Sometimes, if it walks like a small market and quacks like a small market, it’s got to be a small market.
RIVAL REACTION: Don Burke in the New York Post says the deal should make the vacant managing job in Toronto that much more attractive "The 73-89 Jays, who finished 22 games behind the Yankees in the AL East, remain without a manager after letting John Farrell leave last month to take over the Red Sox. But, thanks to last night’s Fish fry, the Toronto job just got much more attractive."
Joel Sherman of the New York Post cautions that the AL East isn't won in November. " The Blue Jays acted boldly because they sensed a vulnerable AL East with the Yankees having gone conservative with an eye on getting under $189 million in 2014, the Red Sox coming off a 2012 meltdown, the Rays always coping with payroll concerns and the Orioles having to prove they were not a one-year blip. Toronto has garnered praise for accumulating talent the past few years and one NL executive said of Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, “he was tired of asset collecting and finishing fourth. He wanted to make a difference. Alex got tired of building his core and wanted to compete.”
Over at the Daily News, Bill Madden says the Miami fire sale just transformed the Blue Jays into AL East favourites while guaranteeing Jeffrey Loria the status of Public Enemy No. 1 in South Beach
John Tomase of the Boston Herald says the Red Sox could have made a similar deal with the Marlins but it's a good thing they didn't
ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick says now we know why Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has been a little behind in his search for a new manager while Christina Kahrl says this deal harkens back to the Blue Jays of the Pat Gillick era
Patrick Rishe over at Forbes.com says shame on Jeffrey Loria for fleecing the public’s trust time and time again with this latest fire sale
Broadcaster Jim Rome was succinct. “ @jimrome Miami Marlins Motto. When the going gets tough. Quit.”
Former Jays prospect Justin Nicolino waves bye-bye. “ @J_Nicolino22 Couldn’t have ask to be apart of a great group of people...but now it’s a new chapter! Looking forward to being apart of the Miami Marlins!”
Sign of the LA times:” @ArashMarkazi Mike D’Antoni’s first interview in L.A. will be with Ryan Seacrest on 102.7 KIIS-FM in five minutes.”
CHEATERS NEVER PROSPER: British journalist Andrew Jennings has been fearless in his investigations of sports’ sacred cows. From the IOC to FIFA to fellow journalists, Jennings speaks his mind. After being vindicated on many of these files he now wants a purging of the people who made drug cheat Lance Armstrong into a tin god.
Specifically he wants Armstrong’s collaborator, Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post, to give back the book prize money for winning the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award for the year 2000. The one she won for writing Armstrong’s self-serving book. Oh, and he doesn’t believe Armstrong “beat” cancer .
NUMBERS GAME: Good news in TSN’s ratings from weekend No.1 of the CFL playoffs. The network drew 1.6 million for the Saskatchewan/ Calgary thriller that went into prime time in the East. The earlier Edmonton/ Toronto semifinal attracted an average 1.1 million viewers.
Hard to get a read on the healthy Toronto number as the game was played against a Western club. We’ll get a better sense of their drawing power this weekend as the Argos play Montreal. While in-game attendance is scarce for Toronto, the team is still a popular TV product.
So is Saskatchewan. The heartbreaking demise of the Roughriders won’t help ratings this week in the West as Calgary meets B.C..
CHASING MCQUAY: Seems only appropriate as we get to Grey Cup time in Toronto that Leon McQuay’s name show up. Actually, it’s Leon McQuay III who’s getting the press The grandson of the Toronto Argo legend (and Grey Cup goat) is one of the most highly recruited high school players in America. This McQuay plays defence, however. And doesn’t remember his celebrated grandpa, X-Ray McQuay, who died when he was one. Notre Dame, Michigan, USC and Tennessee are among the major programs chasing McQuay.
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