Uh-oh. Cue panic in the streets.
It's never a good sign when a bottom-line guy like Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed feels he needs to give ownership of the Toronto Blue Jays a vote of confidence on a conference call with analysts. In fact, it's never a good sign when any CEO of Rogers is paying any attention at all to the Blue Jays because trust me: nothing good can come of it. Especially when most of the people immediately under Mohamed don't appear to like talking about the team publicly.
It was different when Ted Rogers was running the team and could call up Paul Godfrey from his yacht one day and say: "'Hey, Paul. If we're buying the stadium, let's ante up a quarter of a billion dollars in salary commitments. Just for yuks.'" Don't laugh: that's essentially what happened when Godfrey was president and chief executive officer of the team. There are a whack of people in this business who smell a conspiracy theory at the first sign of crisis but, well, I think the only thing we're guilty of right now if we link Rogers' attempt to "bring costs into line" with the availability of Roy Halladay on the trade market is exercising common sense. And that's before factoring in whether interim president and chief executive officer Paul Beeston is searching for a replacement or merely getting a handle on what the books mean before leading an attempt to buy the club. C'mon …. You all know that's what you've been thinking all along.
Does that mean Halladay's definitely going to be traded? Nope. But it does explain his availability and, for me at least, raises the likelihood that Ricciardi's being forced to give more consideration to moving his ace. (And let's throw this out there: can you think of any other executive in baseball not working for the Blue Jays who would know the true financial status of this team than Pat Gillick, the Philadelphia Phillies senior advisor? You think that might be the reason the Phillies are playing hardball with the Blue Jays in negotiations? Geezus … now I'm sounding like some of the other people in this business ….)
But let's take this to the max: are the Blue Jays for sale? Rest assured that we're about to find out. People in the commissioner's office believed going into the season that this was a club that could find itself on the market, even though one of Ted Rogers' ever-lasting gifts to this franchise - and this is something that can't be stressed enough - was that he paid for the team in cash and therefore didn't saddle it with debt. Rather, there was a concern at the game's highest levels that the new corporate reality at Rogers meant the team did not fit quite as comfortably with "core business" as it once did.
Yes, Rogers owns the stadium. Yes, they own the sports network which they sometimes seem reluctant to use to market the team and yes there are still some convergence points between Rogers Communications and Rogers Media, the divison under which the Blue Jays operate. But know this: Rogers' ownership of this team is no longer a given. Are the Blue Jays for sale? My guess is if they aren't for sale right now, they will be.