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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Globe and Mail: How the Blue Jays dropped the ball

In their heyday in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Blue Jays often had the highest payroll in baseball. As the Blue Jays assemble for spring training in Dunedin, Fla., the team’s payroll is ranked bottom third of 30 teams. Of teams operating in the 10 biggest baseball markets, Toronto’s payroll ranks second last with Washington’s – only the rebuilding Houston Astros’ is lower.

“I’m not commenting,” club CEO Paul Beeston said. “You go look it up. And how do you measure it? I tell you what, you’re off on all of this stuff. None of it makes any sense.”

...Scott Moore of Sportsnet is currently negotiating an extension of the television deal with Beeston. There is little evidence from Rogers to suggest that Canada’s baseball team is about to ride the TV rights updraft benefiting U.S. teams.

“I don’t think anything affects team payroll,” Beeston said. “What affects team payroll is our ability to put a team on the field for what we think we can do.”

Asked to confirm the $225,000 figure, Beeston said: “I don’t have to say whether it’s accurate or not. But I don’t understand where [The Globe] comes up with the number.

“The only thing that matters and should matter is what kind of team we put on the field and what type of dollars we have to build our organization. The last time I looked we had the dollars necessary to build a team.”

Thanks to Cal.

Repoz Posted: February 18, 2012 at 08:09 AM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: blue jays, business, television

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: February 18, 2012 at 11:32 AM (#4063983)
“What affects team payroll is our ability to put a team on the field for what we think we can do.”


He does seem to have a sense of what doesn't make sense.
   2. donlock Posted: February 18, 2012 at 11:40 AM (#4063986)
Of teams operating in the 10 biggest baseball markets, Toronto’s payroll ranks second last with Washington’s – only the rebuilding Houston Astros’ is lower.


Washington and Houston are in the ten biggest baseball markets? Seems unlikely.
   3. TomH Posted: February 18, 2012 at 12:03 PM (#4063996)
Not sure if they measured it by metro pop, $, or what.
NY, LA, Chi, Bos, Dal-FW, StL, SD, ... maybe they DO make the top 10.
   4. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 18, 2012 at 12:07 PM (#4063998)
Washington and Houston are in the ten biggest baseball markets? Seems unlikely.
The DC-Arlington-Alexandria metro area is the 7th most populous and 2nd richest in the US. It's a huge market.

Houston is the 6th most populous baseball market by metro area, though its median income is 18th of 27 baseball markets. The idea of Houston being a small market is entirely a function of their terrible ownership and management.
   5. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 18, 2012 at 12:29 PM (#4064007)
Rogers should just plead that Canadians are poor.
   6. Papa Squid Posted: February 18, 2012 at 12:29 PM (#4064008)
I love the last line, which you hear a lot from segments of the Jays' fanbase:

“The Blue Jays are starting to resemble the Montreal Expos...”

You'll hear it a lot in April when the Jays are 12th in the league in attendance or something.
   7. FrankM Posted: February 18, 2012 at 12:37 PM (#4064014)
Since Rogers owns the team, the TV network that carries the games, and the radio network that carries the games, what the team is "paid" for thr rights is irrelevant.
   8. RJ in TO Posted: February 18, 2012 at 02:56 PM (#4064074)
Since Rogers owns the team, the TV network that carries the games, and the radio network that carries the games, what the team is "paid" for thr rights is irrelevant.

It's irrelevant to the overall revenues for Rogers. It's very relevant to the Jays, since Rogers has consistently talked about the need to keep Jays expenses in line with revenues. If Rogers is deliberately underpaying the Jays for TV and radio rights, then Rogers is also deliberately acting in a manner to suppress the Blue Jays payroll.
   9. KingKaufman Posted: February 18, 2012 at 03:59 PM (#4064099)
Washington is the 9th largest TV market, according to Nielsen, and Houston is 10th. All those above are baseball markets, and four of them are two-team markets. If you cut the two-team markets in half -- which is problematic -- two of them, Chicago and SF Bay Area, would fall below Washington and Houston.

Agree that the idea of Houston as a small market is entirely fictional. Remember when Philadelphia -- the largest one-team market in baseball, any way you could measure it -- was a "small market"? Early '00s.
   10. Walt Davis Posted: February 18, 2012 at 04:30 PM (#4064111)
Washington is the 9th largest TV market, according to Nielsen, and Houston is 10th. All those above are baseball markets, and four of them are two-team markets. If you cut the two-team markets in half -- which is problematic -- two of them, Chicago and SF Bay Area, would fall below Washington and Houston.

I don't know that it's "problematic", we just need to do it sensibly. Chicago, currently and for a very long time, is more heavily a Cubs town -- or at least the Cubs draw more from lower Wisconsin, eastern Iowa, drunken frat boys visiting Chicago, etc. So Cubs above Washington/Houston/Toronto, White Sox below.

The Bay Area is a bit more problematic as, historically, neither team has ever drawn consistently well and which team has "dominated" has switched around with team quality. But certainly currently and for the foreseeable future, it's a Giants market which likely puts them ahead of Washington/Houston while the A's languish.

Of course DC is its own question as you've got the O's. I'll leave it to the locals to figure out but I'm considering the O's mid-market until they get new ownership that has a clue.

So, by team, I think it probably goes something like this (a magical mix of historical, current and potential market):

Tier 1: Yankees, Mets (NY metro is just massive by US standards)

Tier 2: Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, Red Sox, Phillies (not sure what order)

Tier 3: Cards, Giants, Jays, O's, Nats, Braves, Astros, White Sox, Tigers, Texas, Seattle, A's

Tier 4: Minnesota, KC, Cleveland, TB, Milw, Reds, Pitt

not sure: Miami, Arizona and San Diego -- I still think baseball should work well in Miami but it sure hasn't so far; not sure if Ariz and SD are tier 3 or 4

and I seem to have only 29 teams which tells you how important #30 is. Oh, the Rox. Lump them with Ariz and SD. There probably needs to be a Tier 3A and 3B but I can't decide how to chop them up.

Historically speaking, I think this makes the Cards the best-run franchise in history. They pioneered and wildly succeeded in creating a regional market; they're consistently good (the Cards have not lost 100 games since 1908; lost 90 only 3 times since 1916; last in their division/league only once since 1918).
   11. Ron J Posted: February 18, 2012 at 07:02 PM (#4064158)
#9 Best evidence is that markets don't split 50-50, more like 75-70 or 80-65.

Per capita income is also a statistically significant part of team revenue.
   12. Jim Wisinski Posted: February 19, 2012 at 01:46 AM (#4064266)
I still think baseball should work well in Miami but it sure hasn't so far


I would love to see an alternate universe where the Marlins don't tear down the 1997 team and instead keep trying to compete. One problem the Marlins always had was that outdoor games in Florida can be pretty unpleasant with the summer heat and high humidity even at night and they were also at the mercy of plenty of rain; that has to hurt attendance to some degree, especially because it makes it less likely that the casual, just going to the ballpark for something to do, fan will show up. So attendance will probably always be a bit less than expected, especially in bad performance seasons, but I strongly doubt that would have been a significant factor for a team that was successful on the field.

I took a look at their yearly average attendance:

1993: 37,838 - 5th in NL
1994: 32,838 - 6th
1995: 23,950 - 8th
1996: 21,565 - 10th

So they started out strong and maintained a good following in the second season (by comparison the Rays attendance started out 7k lower and dropped nearly 12k in the second year) then fell off as the team failed to be successful in its early seasons. Nothing shocking there, maybe it dropped off quicker than you'd expect but overall things seem pretty normal.

1997: 29,190 - 5th

After a solid 1996 (80-82) they start off strong in 1997 and maintain it all season, boosting attendance considerably as you'd expect. In a normal situation you'd expect they'd increase again the next season because everyone knows they will be competitive from the beginning and there would be a post-WS win high among the fanbase. Of course, when you demolish the team....

1998: 21,363 - 13th
1999: 17,118 - 15th
2000: 15,041 - 15th
2001: 15,765 - 15th
2002: 10,038 - 15th

Yeah, that's about what you expect when you royally piss off and disappoint the fans after the first success in team history. Everyone gave up and stopped caring.

2003: 16,089 - 15th

Compared to the previous season and considering the team's history that's a pretty good boost, especially since they got off to a bad start.

2004: 21,539 - 14th
2005: 22,872 - 15th

Hey, look at that. You don't blow up the team after winning the World Series and the fans start coming back despite you not being able to repeat the playoff run.

2006: 14,372 - 16th
2007: 16,920 - 16th
2008: 16,482 - 16th
2009: 18,075 - 16th
2010: 18,826 - 16th
2011: 18,942 - 16th

I wondered why attendance cratered after 2005 so I compared the rosters for '05 and '06. That was the offseason that Beckett, Pierre, Lowell and Castillo were traded, Burnett departed as an FA, Delgado was traded after the cheap year of that strange contract, and the payroll dropped from $60 million to 14. It must have looked like the same old Marlins to the fans, going cheap again. It turned out that those moves for the most part benefitted the team and that probably explains why attendance went back up, fans realized the players acquired in the trades or brought in to replace lost players were good and might result in a good future team.

I'm with Walt on this, baseball should work in Miami and there's good reason to think that it can with a well-run team and no more cheap ownership. It looks much more like a market tired of being ###### over than a market with no willingness to support a baseball team. Whether there is no more cheap ownership in the future remains to be seen of course, considering the refusal to offer NTCs to the big free agents it looks like Loria is going to give big spending a try with the new stadium but if attendance doesn't come up fast enough or to the levels he wants then Fire Sale #3 is probably going to happen.
   13. Squash Posted: February 19, 2012 at 02:28 PM (#4064310)
Per capita income is also a statistically significant part of team revenue.

This is a huge component, particularly with the A's/Giants in the Bay Area. The question is "How much are sponsors willing to spend to advertise to your fans?" Not only is the Giants fanbase bigger, but they have the right fans in the eyes of advertisers: San Francisco, the Peninsula/San Jose, Marin, the nice parts of the valley. Those fans are much more likely to buy a new Kenmore than the good people of Hayward and Richmond.
   14. donlock Posted: February 19, 2012 at 06:13 PM (#4064414)
DC market is tricky. Not a lot of fans actually live in DC - many low income residents. Anything north of DC is shared with Baltimore. Big income sponsors have many choices for spending on sponsorships, skyboxes, etc. In a relatively small area (40 miles apart) you have 1 NHL Hockey, 2 NFL football, 1 NBA , 2 MLB teams, One major university (U. of MD) in Football and Basketball , each with a stadium/arena.Lots of colleges that play basketball - Georgetown, Loyola, George Washington, etc. Many of the sponsor's products that are advertized are in both markets- same banks, stores, etc.

Why pay for name recognition twice? In many ways the situation is similar to two-team cities.TV markets overlap; many fans get both sets of stations and ads.

Lots of money south of city which pumps up DC's market status but these fans are an unknown as far as allegiance, attendance.There are lots of rich folks in many markets but do they go to the games?
   15. TerpNats Posted: February 19, 2012 at 09:22 PM (#4064490)
The X-factor for Washington is that no one knows how the market will react to a team that's a contender, much less one that makes the postseason. Until D.C. has a team that actually does those things, it's a Tier 4 market, no matter how big or affluent it is.

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