Nadir Mohamed isn't giving up on the Toronto Blue Jays, even though the baseball team hasn't come close to meeting expectations after his off-season decision to boost its payroll to field a contender.
The chief executive officer of Rogers Communications Inc., which owns the American League team, said it's too early to determine whether the company's decision to spend a roughly $125-million (U.S.) on salaries this year was a bad one.
Rogers spent the off-season hyping the rebuilt team on its television networks and print properties, with executives suggesting it was an immediate contender that could challenge for top spot in the American League East.
It hasn't worked out: the Blue Jays went into Tuesday's doubleheader in New York against the Yankees with a 57-67 record, some 15 games back of the division-leading Boston Red Sox (who played in San Francisco against the Giants late Monday night).
"It's the joy of sports," Mohamed said Monday in an interview. "Anybody that owns sports teams knows there are many elements that go into a winning team. But nobody should be confused – this is not a one-season investment. We are building what we think will be a better team over time."
The team's woes have been well documented. It suffered a series of injuries to start the season, and some of its new additions have underwhelmed – last year's National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey is 9-11 with a 4.49 earned-run average, while 2010 NL earned-run average leader Josh Johnson is 2-8 with a 6.20 ERA.
Heading into the season, Blue Jays president Paul Beeston said it would be nice if the team could have a strong season, considering Mohamed is leaving Rogers in January. Beeston said the Rogers CEO has been pivotal in building the team, listening carefully as the Jays management proposed deals and negotiated contracts.
"I can tell you he's been integral – he's been as much a part of the transformation that happened in the off-season as anyone in the organization," Beeston said last February.
Despite the losing record, the team is still pulling in decent crowds.
Through mid-August, it was average more than 31,000 fans per game at the Rogers Centre, an improvement of about 5,000 from last year. If the numbers hold up, it would be the best season for ticket sales since 2007. Television numbers are also above last year's average, giving the CEO hope for a stronger 2014.
"The average fan wants a competitive team," he said. "What they have seen is Rogers stepping up to invest more in the club, and I think that will be healthy whether that leads to a winning club today or tomorrow. The path has been set, and to me that is very exciting.
"I'll tell you one thing – I started out as somebody with a casual interest a few years ago, and I can honestly say I'm now a big fan."