A Trip To Imaginationland With Cathal Kelly

Cathal Kelly!

Say what you will about our favouite Globe and Mail columnist, but he’s not afraid to use his imagination — or, occasionally, a feigned total lack thereof — when it comes to his warbling on about the Toronto Blue Jays.

His latest is a wonderful trip between both poles — “I can see the entire 2017, ’18, and ’19 baseball seasons already and they are baaaaaaad!” “The Jays can choose but only one of these one options to avoid being subsumed by the mighty Maple Leafs and shat out the other side of the Golden Horseshoe!” — which I think it would be a good idea to take a closer look at, if only (read: entirely) for our amusement…

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In the piece, Cathal contrasts the current predicaments of the city’s three most major sporting endeavors (apologies to TFC, and people who’d prefer to read a less pretentious sentence). Here is where he really starts to get to the nut about the baseball team:

Two weeks ago, the Jays were theoretically in it. If they still are, it’s more of a palm-reading-type theory than anything math-based.

Uh… with Tuesday’s win, the Jays are now 4.5 games back of the second Wild Card. They aren’t “theoretically” in it. They’re not no longer “theoretically” in it. They are a long way from mathematically eliminated! It’s very much math-based!

And the thing is, mathematical elimination almost always comes long after the palm readers have given up. It’s all palm reading right now. Sure, the Jays have once again put themselves in a big dumb hole, and it’s a whole lot easier to see bad outcomes for this season now than good ones, but a more honest assessment might have setup the next bit of nonsense a little better…

What all these contiguous, seemingly unrelated events suggest is that in the course of a single weekend, Toronto’s sports script has flipped over.

The Jays were on top. Now, they’re headed back to the bottom. It’s either going to be a controlled demolition or a chaotic implosion.

That’s it for the Jays, I guess! One weekend and it’s down the tubes! They’ll either be the Phillies, or they’ll be the Phillies! WHAT OTHER CHOICE IS THERE?

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There are two ways to look at what comes next.

The familiar one is that Toronto has always been a hockey town and will now revert to being a hockey town. Blue-and-white fever will swamp the market for the next five to 10 years, killing off interest in other teams, who might as well give up.

Let’s pause here a moment and ask what I’m finding to be an utterly inescapable question as I stare over and over at this passage: What in the everloving fuck is this? Did the shitty Leafs teams of the mid-2000s make the Blue Jays bad and irrelevant? Are the Leafs going to play in the summer now? What the fuck are we on about here???

Like, literally the only time in the last 50 years that both the Leafs and the Jays were good, hardly anybody gave a shit about the hockey team’s big season-starting winning streak because they were all watching Joe Carter blast Mitch Williams into baseball infamy. Where is this coming from?

Being afraid of the Leafs sucking up all the air in the market and ducking until their run of success inevitably implodes is an option based purely on fantasy. Hey, but I guess it’s at least an alternative! We almost have a binary!

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The better way would be turning into the skid.

Offfffffffffff course it would. OH, BUT THAT WAS THE PLAN ALL ALONG, WASN’T IT?

The Jays have it easier in this regard because they are a demonstrably poor baseball club. There’s now about as much appetite to keep the current band together as there is for a Rolling Stones reunion.

As of 2015, the last three Rolling Stones tours have grossed $401 million. *COUGH*

Which isn’t to say that anybody wants the Jays to be kept together purely as they are, but… uh… — shock of fucking shocks — there may actually be some wiggle room for the club between keeping every single person in place and waiting for 10 years until the Leafs tell them it’s safe to bother entering the market again.

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If we can agree that the time to sell is now, the Jays would be advised to take a page from the Leafs transactional playbook – get rid of everyone all at once.

Yeah, I mean in a sport without a salary cap, and with an ownership group with immense wealth and a desire to put highly-rated content exclusively on their company owned TV network, a team with a bunch of still-very-good-players under contract for next season and beyond, and a bunch of money coming off the books, what possible other path could there be?

The 2018 Toronto Blue Jays can go one of two ways – old and bad; or new and bad.

Horseshit. Go on…

New things are at least interesting. Better to embrace the pain than try to fool people into thinking things might still turn out okay.

Things might still turn out OK.

And if “OK” isn’t a playoff place in 2017 or 2018, it can still be very OK. If done right — i.e. by continuing to do what they’ve done the last two years, focusing resources on the farm system, refusing to trade prospects away or to acquire free agents that cost draft picks — the Jays can be quite competitive in 2018 without doing much long term damage to their prospects for the future.

There is one player, Josh Donaldson, who is in danger of leaving, will bring back a huge haul of prospects, and not is under contract beyond 2018. He’s the tricky one. But he’s also the one most likely to get you MLB-ready talent back, too. The reality otherwise is that the obvious trade pieces currently on the roster — Estrada, Bautista, Happ, Smoak, Pearce, etc. — probably won’t at this point bring back players good enough to form the core of the next great Blue Jays team. They’ll bring back some OK prospects and some potentially useful guys, but let’s not overstate their value here. And if you’re trading guys like Stroman, Sanchez, or Osuna — which, if you’re getting rid of “everyone,” I guess you are — you’re not just giving up on 2017 and 2018, but 2019 and 2020 (through which all three are under club control), too. You’re also probably a moron.

Continue to build, continue to try to be competitive. These don’t need to be mutually exclusive concepts. And taking the opposite path, selling everyone and crossing your fingers, hardly provides guaranteed success, either — all that’s guaranteed by that is instant cratering of your rather lucrative TV market and attendance.

That was the mistake of just about every Jays’ team from 1994 until three years ago.

You mean when there was only one Wild Card club per league, the CBA encouraged (rather than discouraged) teams like the Jays to spend low to receive revenue sharing, the league’s TV contract and MLBAM revenue didn’t provide clubs nearly as much per season as now, and the Jays were routinely being outspent by $50 to $100 million by two teams in their division?

If the thing must be done (and it must), it should be done quickly and resolutely.


  • Oakville Jays

    Good analysis Stoeten!. I think the key for Shapiro is to convince Rogers to keep the payroll stable while the “pivot” is taking place. I suspect that Shapiro is more likely to trade Donaldson than keep him after the 2017 season. However, I would be happy if Donaldson agreed to a contract extension.

  • dolsh

    Seems to me like the trade deadline action we need is more “Fernandez and McGriff for Alomar and Carter” than “Halladay for Garbage that will never make it.”

    The team doesn’t need more talent. It needs a spark.

  • Seguaro

    Cathal aside, does anyone have the inside scoop on Shulman quitting Sunday Night Baseball and returning to Toronto next year? Is he going to take over from Buck? Jeez, we might have something to look forward to.

    • RADAR

      He’s getting married and cutting back on his workload. He has publicly stated that he was the one who requested the change. He will still be doing a lot of stuff at ESPN, including the baseball playoffs. Also he will be doing some of the games for the Jays on SN but not taking over for Buck.

  • lukewarmwater

    Poor Cathal is still trying to figure out the difference between Charles Oakley and Charles Barkley. All teams suffer injuries but the key injuries to Sanchez and Happ, Travis and our M.V.P. were huge losses to the club. Father time has slowed up some of the veterans and as one of the broadcasters recently we are getting killed by speed some evenings. As you state Stoeten the new management is restocking the barren cupboard left by A.A. It will indeed take some time before that future short stop, left fielder, catcher etc. will be ready for the bigs. I use to waste $22.00 per month on the Globe and Mail, but the paper founded by George Brown, a father of confederation has become bird cage lining whether it be its pathetic sports section or news coverage.

  • Terry Mesmer

    That could be a sketch:
    Panicky dumb guy Andrew Walker climbing out onto the ledge after a Jays loss, only to look down to see Cathal Kelly on the floor below, pushing everyone and his uncle out the window. Meanwhile, Ben Ennis is on the sidewalk below with a megaphone, into which he laconically says, “Let me know when you guys are done.”
    needs a co-writer to coax him off the ledge, just as the FAN paired :

  • Oz Rob

    Maybe, maybe…this year is just an anomaly. Look at the Diamondbacks who lost 93 games last year. Maybe we sort of stand pat, make some minor tweaks and some more in the off season and the old, slow guys turn it on next year and the bruised knees and blisters disappear. Maybe? Baseball is so crazy in it’s unpredictability. I can see it now….Rowdy Tellez becomes the next Aaron Judge and Tulo wins the MVP. Maybe?

  • 1) 4.5 games back of the second wild card. So, yes, it’s ridiculous to say that they’re “realistically out of post-season contention.” Your argument seems to rely on these “teams that have better performing roster,” which, of course, is just about everybody right now. Wasn’t everybody in June. Won’t necessarily always be everybody. There are lots of teams ahead of them, sure, but also all kinds of season left where all kinds of things can happen. 4.5 games isn’t a lot. Baseball’s funny sometimes, you should try following a season!

    2) First off, yes, it would be entirely shocking if Sportsnet sold early season games to TSN. Secondly, in what universe is anybody suggesting the Leafs won’t take some attention from the Jays if the Leafs are good and the Jays are not?

    3) Sorry… what were these cutbacks? Which staff were let go? Rogers has cut a bunch of media jobs over the years, but that has nothing to do with the Jays. I know and speak with plenty of Rogers people, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what you’re talking about here.

    4) I have season tickets, and can confirm that it’s been difficult to sell this year. Not sure what this has to do with anything written above, though.

  • Knuckle Balls

    The change in upper management at Rogers it as mentioned in the media that it was recommended by internal management to sell all the media sport franchises and focus solely on telecommunications. Would this be a good thing it the Jays once again became privately owned?