TORONTO - God bless Blue Jays fans.
This is a team that hasn’t made it to the post-season since 1993 and has finished in fourth-place in the AL East the past four years in a row, yet the majority of fans — at least the season-ticket holders who showed up at the annual state of the franchise gathering Monday night — seem to be in some sort of happy daze.
Here’s an example of the types of “questions” directed at GM Alex Anthopoulos, manager John Farrell and president Paul Beeston on Monday night: “Hi. I’ve been a season-ticket holder for 32 years and I continue to be a Blue Jays supporter, and I thank the Blue Jays for a night such as this. And for the past 32 years you’ve been terrific!”
Finishing in fourth, four years in a row, and missing the post-season for 19 straight years is, apparently, terrific.
Can you imagine a New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox fan uttering that statement after 19 straight seasons for playoff purgatory?
Another season-ticket holder complimented Beeston on the fact that he was wearing slacks.
It was all very strange. Rod Serling would have felt right at home.
Astonishingly, the majority of questions directed at Anthopoulos, Beeston and Farrell were gushy and complimentary — questions about inter-league play, Tom Henke not being on the Level of Excellence, the lack of a grass field, even one lady asking for more Jays merchandise designed for women.
To be fair, a few fans expressed disappointment and angst, but they were in the minority. And when one fan did express his anger and said he was losing patience with the organization, he was actually booed. One guy told him to sit down.
It makes you understand why Rogers, the owner since 2000, is in no hurry to spend a lot of money on this club.
Still, I refuse to believe that Blue Jays Nation is happy with this organization, or more specifically, the club’s owner, Rogers — despite the love-in on Monday night at the Rogers Centre.
When I wrote a rant last week dumping on Rogers for not spending the money needed to seriously, consistently, compete in the AL East, the response was overwhelming, the vast majority supporting my stance.
At Monday’s meeting, before the Q&A session began, a number of fans approached Sun writer Dean McNulty and myself to express their disappointment and anger with Rogers. Not with Anthopoulos, Beeston or Farrell, with Rogers — for not giving Anthopoulos the ability to go out and sign big-time free agents, or make a blockbuster trade for a player who might cost big money.
One gentleman, who claimed to be a season-ticket holder since 1977, said that if the Jays don’t make a “serious” run for the post-season in 2012, he was finally giving up on the team.
“We’ve been forced to eat lot of garbage,” added his buddy, as he, ironically, chowed down on a Rogers Centre hotdog.
But when asked if he was going to convey that disappointment to Anthopoulos, Beeston or Farrell during the Q&A session, the gentleman replied he would not, admitting that he was too “scared” to do as much.
And that’s a shame, because if you were Rogers bigshot walking away from Monday night’s event, you’d have the impression that all is well with Blue Jays Nation.
Understandably, most Jays fans like the direction Anthopoulos is taking the team. And they should. But recent history has proven that to make it into the post-season in the AL East on a consistent basis, money is a big factor — unless you’re the Tampa Bay Rays and you had the benefit of a lot of high draft picks after years of dwelling in the basement. The Yankees have qualified for the post-season 11 out of 12 years since 2000, the year Rogers purchased the Jays, winning two World Series. The Red Sox have made it into the playoffs six times during the span and also won two World Series. Both have been consistently in the top three in spending in the Major Leagues.
The Jays are close, but Rogers has to open the vault to take that next step.
Beeston threw the fans a bone when he said that he fully expects the Jays to make it into the post-season, two or three times in the next five years. It’s a nice sentiment. But, really, nobody’s going to hold him to it. When your fan base is that passive, you can pretty well say anything you want and get away with it.