I was talking to Blue Jays president Paul Beeston on Friday, and he’s a helluva guy.
He even asked about Bubba.
And after we chatted for a few minutes, he almost succeeded in knocking the rather huge chip off my shoulder.
I called to ask the million-dollar question ... a question that’s probably been asked a million times.
I wanted to know when EXACTLY the Blue Jays are REALISTICALLY going to be able to compete in the super-competitive AL East.
Because frankly, like many Blue Jays fans (at least the ones who aren’t brainwashed) I’m thinking — enough is enough.
This run of mediocrity has gone on for far too long.
Last night's win aside, it has been 18 seasons, if you include this one, since the Blue Jays qualified for the post season. And for 18 seasons, the fans and the media in this town have been told by the Blue Jays brass that:
1. They have a plan.
2. Things are looking up.
3. The ownership will spend the money when the time is right.
But I’m sick and tired of hearing that.
Gord Ash, who succeeded Pat Gillick, had a plan.
J. P. Ricciardi had a plan.
And now Alex Anthopoulos has a plan.
Of course, now we’re being assured that Anthopoulos’ plan is the real deal. To which I say, bully for Alex.
I’m sorry for being cynical.
But I look at it this way. Unless the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox suddenly hire complete dimwits for general managers, the Jays are always going to be behind the eight ball in terms of competing for a playoff spot in the AL East.
And I don’t buy this bull about how small-market teams — if they do things the right way — can compete against the big boys.
Yeah, maybe in the AL Central or NL West.
But when you have no salary cap and two teams in the same division spending $100 million more than the others, you’re almost always going to be on the outside looking in.
And spare me Tampa Bay lectures.
Even Beeston acknowledged that the Rays, while earning full credit for good management and great scouting, benefitted greatly from years of ineptitude which enabled very high draft picks.
But you watch, when Tampa’s good young players become free agents, most of them will jump ship to the rich teams.
Since 1993, when the Jays last made it to the playoffs, the Yankees have qualified for the post-season times 15 out of 17 times. And have won five World Series. The Red Sox have qualified for the playoffs nine times in the same span and have won two World Series.
So what’s that about spending not making a big difference?
It makes a huge difference, unless your GM is Larry the Cable Guy.
Perhaps if the Jays played in another division, they might be able to contend on half of what New York spends. But they play in the AL East.
I have to add, though, that I’m actually amazed that fans in New York and Boston still get excited.
It’s like the kid who gets everything he wants.
After a while, the thrill is gone, is it not?
“Yay, our $200-million team has won again. What a life-changing moment. Now hand me the Glock.”
But that’s Major League Baseball, a league that has allowed the agents to call the shots in terms of salaries. And there will be no salary cap, rest assured.
The most frustrating part of the Jays’ 18-year-long slump is the constant mantra we’ve heard from the Jays’ ownership, Rogers Communications ... about how “We will spend the money when the time is right.”
In other words, when the club is on the verge of real contention.
I look at that as a cop-out.
Rogers Communications is not some guy with a couple of soup cans joined by a wire.
Last I checked, it’s a billion-dollar corporation, one of the richest owners in Major League Baseball.
There’s no excuse for them not spending more money over the years — if they were serious about winning.
If they don’t want to spend to win, then sell. It’s that simple. Don’t keep feeding us that “when the time is right” crap.
The bottom line is this, if the Jays are not going to push for realignment or a salary cap — and apparently they are not — Rogers has to spend more money to compete against the Yanks and Red Sox.
Yes, Beeston made the point that Anthopoulos — who was hailed as a genius in this town before he actually did anything — has made some shrewd and smart moves and is stacking the farm system.
That’s all well and good.
But there are no guarantees the kids on the farm are going to develop into great major leaguers.
In the Jays case, they’ve either got to start spending big, or push hard to get out of the AL East, or, at the very least, petition MLB for more playoff teams.
Beeston said that has been talked about, but who knows if and when it will happen.
In the meantime, you’ve got these radio dudes lecturing Jays fans for not buying tickets.
Yeah, we get it that you love baseball.
But fans aren’t as dumb as all that.
They know that the Jays aren’t going to qualify for the post-season anytime soon.
That’s what fans want.
They want the sense that this team can make it to the playoffs.
Cheaper hot dogs and dancing girls on the dugouts are all nice. But it’s winning that matters. The time for excuses and promises is over. The wait has been way too long.
And Paul, sorry for being such a grouch.