Talk about short turnarounds. The Texas Rangers, who outbid the Toronto Blue Jays for Iranian/Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, were in bankruptcy protection as recently as 2009. They then got new ownership and, most importantly, a $3-billion TV windfall from FOX Sports Southwest. That will sign a lot of I Owe Yu’s. (Many more deals like this and the Rangers could be right back in bankruptcy, but we digress.)
The Blue Jays are directly owned by their TV rights holder, of course, so they cannot drive the final dollar in any deal for their broadcast rights. As the whirling Darvish bid demonstrates, Rogers will indulge its little baseball team in certain projects. But not all. And those ad-hoc decisions to gamble financially must be measured against the health of the entire Rogers enterprise and its stock price. In Texas, the only consideration on this inane deal was how it helps the Rangers get to a third straight World Series.
Hence the Blue Jays image problem in the media. While most consider Rogers’ current administration of the Blue Jays competent, fans also see the conflict between the goals of team and those of the owners at Rogers. When the Jays are outbid on Darvish or decline to bid on major free agents, many fans look at a Top Ten metropolitan market in baseball and wonder why can’t the Jays spend like the Yankees or Rangers all the time, not this once. (Especially if they pay the healthy fees for Rogers’ cell phones or cable TV.)
The Jays themselves don't help the situation. Fans wanted to know how close the team came in the Darvish sweepstakes. Unfortunately they got the mushroom treatment from general manager Alex Anthopoulos when asked Tuesday about why the team had come up short. For reasons such as these, the optics of Rogers’ financial commitment toward the Blue Jays will remain a sore point with their fans. One that has just a single cure: Winning. And that doesn’t appear imminent.
Brave new world: Nice to know that while the corporate suits at Bell and Rogers can nuzzle together under the mistletoe this holiday season, their reporter/employees aren’t going to let fraternity get in the way in the usual vendettas for each other.
Witness this tweet from Sportsnet contributor Damien Cox after the Blue Jays whiffed on Darvish: “Amusing to hear Bell-owned media types feign independent pt of view on Rogers failure to win bid for Darvish. Guess this is the new world.”
Sounds a lot like the old world, actually. Or the competitive one Bob McCown spent a week lamenting on Prime Time Sports (owned by Rogers). Not certain what got in Cox’s grille. After all, last week he was ho-humming the conflict aspects of the Bell/Rogers acquisition of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment in his co-host role on McCown’s chatterbox palace.
It’s not like TSN has gone to war on the Darvish file. They posted a wire story and a talkback with ESPN’s Buster Olney on their website. Other than the usual witty repartee from @tsndavehodge (“Sushi will no longer be sold at Rogers Centre... I called Rogers for the Darvish announcement - they put me on hold) the Bell empire has been fairly vanilla on the Darvish signing.
Over at Planet Rogers, where some complain the Blue Jays get an easy ride, the tone on the in-house nine was mostly balanced. Writer Shi Davidi lamented the Darvish disappointment but found a silver lining. “The staggering disappointment after nearly a week of increasing excitement and rising hopes based on little more than industry speculation was intense among a fan base that has for years longed for the kind of splashy addition Darvish would have represented.... The reality is the team is no worse off than it was last week, when Anthopoulos was looking to augment his young core.”
Sportsnet Radio 590 The Fan host Greg Brady was blunt in his tweet. “There’s NOTHING the Blue Jays could do in 2012 to finish in the Top 6 among records. That’s not me being pessimistic, that’s being realistic. They’ll have a worse record than the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Angels, Rangers, and probably the Rays and possibly one other team.”
Maybe the best final word goes to independent blogger DownGoesBrown. “So this Yu Darvish bid comes down to the Rangers vs. Toronto for the super overpriced free agent? It's basically the NHL from ten years ago.”
Moment of Zen: Even though the Yankees were not a factor in the Darvish dealings, the Bronx Bombers felt obliged to let the world know via Twitter that they still matter. “Your comments: Yankees' bid for Yu Darvish not enough as Texas Rangers win negotiating rights: http://ble.ac/uiMClv”. Just like ol’ George would have done it.
Tired Tongue Troubles: Now that our La Presse colleague Phillipe Cantin has decreed that having the Montreal Canadiens coach chatting him up in his lingua franca is more important than the team winning, is he prepared to accept the consequences as the Canadiens sink deeper into their current irrelevancy? Because if you have decreed that you want tunas with good taste instead of tunas that taste good you had best be prepared to shut your pie hole when making language Job Requirement No. 1 results in missing the playoffs.
The Habs’ language-obsessed hires have shackled the team since the 1993 Cup win. Drawing from a very limited pool of talent they’ve over-reached or compromised winning. Fine. That’s their culture, their choice. Just acknowledge you can’t have it both ways. Why don’t the chattering classes in Quebec simply give Cunneyworth a few months to learn a few French phrases, carry the can for losing at season’s end then conduct a proper search? Instead, we have the latest ode to cultural purity.
BTW: the current director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal is Californian Kent Nagano. Cough.
Here’s your Sign: Intrepid reporter after Monday’s Pittsburgh/San Francisco NFL game halted twice by power outages. Question: “What was it like in the dressing room before the game?” Niners coach Jim Harbaugh: “Dark.” Can’t make this stuff up.
Clown Knows: Finally, an honest man in Thom Brenneman, who called the Detroit/ Oakland NFL game Sunday for FOX. Raiders’ player Jerome Boyd had just wiped out a long kick return with a vicious illegal block on Lion Don Carey. As the telecast went to commercial, the cameras found Boyd yukking it up on the sidelines with a teammate, oblivious to how he’d just hurt his team’s chances (Oakland lost by a single point.) Blurted Brenneman, who may or may not have known he was still on, “Look at this clown”. Amen.
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