J.P. Ricciardi can do or say no wrong in the eyes of his boss.
Less than a week after Ricciardi said the Blue Jays need more money to compete for the AL East crown, Ted Rogers gave a glowing endorsement to the team's general manager yesterday, referring to him as a "brilliant manager" and agreeing with his assessment on the payroll.
"First of all, this guy is a fabulous manager," the president/CEO of Rogers Communications Inc. -- the Jays' principal owner -- said at the Air Canada Centre after a news conference announcing a business partnership between Rogers and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.
"We are so lucky to have him. When he started, the payroll was about $50 million US. I raised it so we would have it at $70 or $75 million for three years (the Blue Jays have committed $210 million for 2005-2007).
"I do think we need to increase the payroll."
Rogers did not guarantee he would raise the payroll, which is $70 million this season and will move up to $78 million next season without any other increases. However, he did keep the door open, putting the onus on fans to continue showing up in good numbers at the Rogers Centre.
"As long as the public supports us, we can afford to do those things (like raise the payroll)," Rogers said, making note of improved ticket sales and television ratings this year.
Ricciardi made headlines last week when he said, "I don't think you're going to win this division on $70 million. I don't think you're going to make the playoffs on $70 million."
But those comments did not bother Rogers.
"I'm never angered when I have a brilliant manager say what he thinks should be done," Rogers said. "That's what Rogers is all about. We don't go around telling people what they can say and not say."
When asked how much the payroll needs to be increased to allow the Jays to challenge for a playoff spot, Rogers said, "I'm incompetent to answer that. Ricciardi is the one who is knowledgeable, so you start with what he says."
Rogers needs one thing to convince him to open his wallet again -- strong sales at the box office. He believes fans will put their money behind the Jays if they show they have a chance to win.
'NOT JUST WINNING'
"It's not just winning, it's doing better," Rogers said. "It's having the anticipation you can win. If you win, fine, whether it's the Toronto Maple Leafs or Toronto Blue Jays. People have to feel it's a great race ... But we need their support. We need people to come out to the games, we need people to watch it. If we're going to make these investments, we need support and help."