R.A. Dickey is noted as a soft thrower, but the Toronto Blue Jays' signing of the Cy Young Award-winning knuckleballer definitely represents hardball in Rogers' attempts to overtake the opposition in the TV and radio business.
The addition of Dickey plus Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Josh Thole – and the relative weakness of the Yankees and Red Sox – has boosted the Jays to an 8-1 favourite in Vegas to win the World Series next fall. That alone should make the suits at Rogers, owners of the team, happy heading into spring training in February.
But the bold trade may have as big an effect on Rogers' broadcaster outlets. Rogers got a taste of just how good the TV and radio ratings can be for the Blue Jays last spring and early summer when the young Jays started fast.
TV ratings, especially among younger demographics, proved that a winning baseball team could help close the gap locally and nationally between Sportsnet and TSN, the top TV sports network in Canada. The early promise from Jose Bautista and his young teammates also boosted numbers on Sportsnet Radio The Fan 590 at just the moment that TSN Radio came looking for a place in the market.
Then injuries to Bautista, Brett Lawrie, Adam Lind and a raft of pitchers sabotaged the promising season. Fans soured on the youth movement when Sportsnet's Greg Zaun revealed an entitlement culture among the prospects. The year ended with recriminations, the departure of manager John Farrell and a dropoff in ratings for TV and radio.
Making it more galling, Detroit made it to the World Series from the American League with a mediocre record, meaning the Jays might have had an outside shot if they hadn't melted down. So management brought out the cheque book to placate fans.
Youth was suddenly out and veterans in for GM Alex Anthopoulos. With no Maple Leafs due to the lockout and a sorry Raptors squad, the Blue Jays are now the talk of Toronto and the country's sports fans.
With a Blue Jays season that stretches into late October, Sportsnet could also put pressure on TSN (which may not have any hockey till that time) to guarantee they get the CFL rights back in the fold past 2013. The CFL is TSN's major team sport in the summer and almost a must-have for their portfolio.
It will also make TSN Radio's daunting task in the Toronto market that much tougher if The FAN 590 can milk its association with the Jays. How well it works five years from now isn't important at Rogers' management. All the chips are in the middle of the table now.
MAY WE HAVE SOME MORE
Last week, when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was contradicted on the New Orleans Saints Bountygate suspensions by his predecessor Paul Tagliabue, the Commish deftly changed the subject. Maybe we should have more teams in the playoffs, suggested Goodell.
We realize Goodell was a little frazzled having his Wisdom questioned (Tags' moves simply avoided legal hassles for the league with the players). But did he watch this past weekend's games before he decided that additional dance partners in postseason was a capital idea?
Monday night's Titans / Jets classic was no beauty, with New York and their inept QB Mark Sanchez still having an improbable chance at one of the playoff chances still available in the AFC. We'd call it bad but that would be insulting bad football.
The Jets and Titans' offences looked as if their coaches left for lunch and didn't come back for the afternoon session. Sanchez was so dreadful even Jets legend Joe Namath mocked one of his four interceptions on Twitte. "@RealJoeNamath Slight overthrow..." When Broadway Joe throws you beneath the bus...
The 14-10 final score for Tennessee had ESPN's Jon Gruden fuming, "4-9 football teams do 4-9 things". ("@dowbboy Perhaps the wisest thing Jon Gruden has ever said.") "That's the way the Jets season should end," growled play-by-play guy Mike Tirico when New York kicked away a fifth turnover in the fourth quarter. "Ugly and a loss."
But teams like the Jets are the calibre Godd ell is suggesting having in the postseason? Talk to me, Roger.
Just asking, but did anyone tell Kent Austin, the new GM / head coach of the Hamilton Tiger Cats, that he was going to a team that doesn't have a home stadium? "Oh, Kent, before you sign that contract... do you have a good suitcase?"
Austin knows the CFL from his Saskatchewan days, and he's been given the kind of power he wanted over personnel. But not having home field advantage is a challenge. The B.C. Lions tried the homeless wanderer routine before B.C Place was revived, playing at Empire Field.
How'd that go, sports fans? Thought so.
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