I’ll be honest, I really don’t want to write a line-by-line deconstruction of Damien Cox’s latest foray into baseball writing, which has inexplicably been published this week by the Toronto Star.
Granted, a whole lot of that is to do with the fact that for the first half of this piece, I’d be deconstructing how he and his family chose to spend their Saturday. In what is ostensibly a piece about the Blue Jays, Cox has elected to focus a lot of his words on anything but. This actually makes sense, though, I think, because — shock of shocks — his take on the Jays seems to be informed largely by hockey.
After examining the state of his family’s downtime, Cox gets into examining the state of the city’s sports franchises, which is where he gives us this:
The Leafs, by going aggressively young, certainly erased the belief that hockey fans in these parts would never stand for such a thing, and the coming season will be among the most anticipated in years.
The Leafs, of course, with their pre-Shanaplan ineptitude exhausted all other possibilities — a deliciously remarkable feat in a league in which, like, 90% of the teams make the playoffs. The Jays, frustrating as 2017 has been, are hardly at that point. Add real seasons from Donaldson and Sanchez and a few less bullshit meltdown losses and they’re right there!
And yet ol’ Damo seems to conflate the two situations when he really gets down to business at the end of his piece. Here’s the first WTF:
Now, if the Jays go off on another 20-plus years of missing the playoffs, interest will be severely impacted. But if the move is to recalibrate and rebuild the team with an emphasis on youth, and that results in a few 75-win finishes, there’s lots of evidence to suggest fans won’t stay away in droves, but will actively enjoy the process.
Just because losing and extended mediocrity hurt attendance once doesn’t mean the same thing will happen again. Indeed, you could argue this is a very new and different Jays fan culture we’re witnessing that goes to ball games home and away because, well, they like baseball and love their team, and not just when it’s winning.
That would be pretty cool if true! But I don’t know about that. And as strong as the evidence is on the north side of Chicago that fans will “stick around” through a rebuild that turns around a year early and then wins the damn World Series, we might want to think about how well a place like Houston is doing. Or any of those other perpetually rebuilding franchises in the league.
Aaaaand then there’s this:
If the Jays articulate a clear game plan of moving towards youth that will require some patience, their fans won’t abandon them. The more dangerous choice? Mediocrity with an old, broken-down team and few exciting prospects organized by a management team paralyzed by fear of fan rejection.
This is really the line I wanted to talk about, because hooooooooly dumb. First: the Jays have maybe the most exciting prospect in baseball (literally), another guy who is damn close to as exciting, a shortstop they just drafted that everyone loves, Nate Pearson pumping 100 and being untouchable in the Northwest League, Danny Jansen breaking out, Anthony Alford still with loads of potential, etc. Second: a management paralyzed by fear? Does that sound like the management team that rushed into J.A. Happ when David Price was still available, or into Kendrys Morales when Edwin was still unsigned?
This is a lazy description of the Blue Jays’ potential future that feels straight out of Bob McCown’s creeping irrelevancy hour *COUGH*. It offers nothing.
Which isn’t to say that it won’t be risky for the Jays to double down on a sizable chunk of their current core for a couple more years until the homegrown youth movement starts in earnest. But it’s certainly an option. And one that’s a whole lot more attractive than we’re being told here.
Do I even need to explain why?