A Redditor Said Some Interesting Things About The Blue Jays, Rogers, and Finances

OK, let me make something clear up front: you should be able to tell from the title of this post that this information contained within comes with giant grains of salt.

Whose take on the inner workings of the Rogers-Blue Jays relationship am I asking you to consider at least thinking about maybe believing? What that would be Redditor BlueJaysDynasty! And while I must admit that the details in these notes make it feel believable that this person was working (interning, to be exact) in the Blue Jays’ front office, that certainly doesn’t mean we need to take the financial stuff at face value. This person might not have figures right, might not know upper level workings — hell, this person might not even be who they say they are. Maybe this is stuff a friend has told them and they’re posing as them. Maybe they’re just making it all up!

Like I said the last time I passed along unverified information from the dark recesses of the internet — a story that sure seems to have been incorrect, and which I have, in fact, been told was off — I really don’t want to look like an asshole here if anything about it is wrong.

Not that this is exactly explosive information. Don’t get too excited! Just a bit of an interesting tidbit on the financial side, with a couple of anecdotes mixed in.

Everything quoted here is copy-pasted straight from /r/TorontoBlueJays. Check it out:

I have recently found this sub reddit and thought it would be an awesome place to talk about my experiences working in FO for the Jays. I’ll just put everything in bullet point form so it’ll be easier to read lol.

  • On like my 3rd day on the job the Jays were away and I was on my lunch break, I usually take the elevator to get out of the stadium and find a restaurant or whatever. As the elevator door opens I run into Mark Shapiro, and we were the only ones in the elevator. I’m just blankly starring at him and I asked if he was Mark? He then responded, “Yes I am Mark” with a smile and gave me a handshake saying it was nice to meet me. In his other hand he was holding his lunch, it looked like a regular sandwich in a container, I’m just like in my head “You’re supposed to be rich as hell, where’s your gourmet meal?”… I guess he’s cheap when it comes to his lunch also lol (jk). I then ran into him quite a few times, he always greeted me. One day I was walking by the exec offices and over heard him on the phone, the only sentence I could catch was, “No that player can’t hit” I would assume he was looking to acquire a player. Overall Mark was a super nice guy, went about his business and treated everyone as equals.
  • Another awesome person I met was the clubhouse manager Kevin Malloy. It was great getting to know him, he’s easily one of the most hilarious people I know. He’ll screw with your head like no tomorrow. He was generous enough to give us stuff from the club house, like their official team’s hat and their nice ass sweaters that the bullpen wears. One day he gave us a clubhouse tour after the game and It was pretty awesome, got to see and meet many of the players but they were all shirtless (I awesome they came out of the shower). Smoak was looking at me and my co-workers with a confused look, like who the hell are these people? lmao. I was able to see Josh Donaldson eating at their Café, and leading into the café was a narrow hallway which we were kind a blocking and Goins needed to get through so he said “Excuse me fellas” which was kind of cool haha. Also Chris Rowley was lost, so we had to give him directions lol.
  • On game days I usually get something from the concession stands and watch about 3 innings of the game if the jays are home. We get 50% off on all foods which was an absolute bargain, I always got the jerk chicken poutine or spicy chicken sandwich from Muddy York. It was amazing lol. I met a lot of cool fans and also noticed a crap ton of people always getting drilled with foul balls every game which is why I support the extended netting as much as it sucks.
  • This is more on the financial side of things, but I feel like it should come to attention. The amount of times I see people calling the Bluejays or their GMs cheap is ridiculous. Just an FYI, Jays ticket prices are going up not because of minimum wage, but because we are selling our tickets less than par when comparing to other MLB teams. That has to do with our weak dollar. Jays needed roughly $250M to break even last year, which was no easy task. Sending in paperwork to Rogers for more payroll is a god damn mission also. It’s very hard to get Rogers to approve extra payroll and rightfully so. If the Jays are profitable (Which they were last year) why change anything? From a business standpoint it makes sense from a fan standpoint it’s obviously frustrating. I guess you really do have a beef when you call the Ownership cheap, but definitely not the Organization itself.

It was really cool getting close and personal with the organization, the Bluejays really care about their employees. A lot of people I know work for MSLE and the Jays, and they all told me the Jays treat them much better. I’m sure I missed a lot, please ask any questions if you’re curious!

My first thought? I hope this person doesn’t have a non-disclosure agreement he or she is violating here. Or… OK, actually my first thought was about the “awesome” Freudian slip about the players coming out of the shower. But the interesting stuff, I think, is that last point on the finances.

So the Jays made money last year. They generated at least $250 million in revenue, because they need to do so to break even. Their $165 million USD payroll translates at today’s exchange rate to $205 million CAD. Considering all the other expenses (draft and international budget, staff payroll, travel budget, keeping the lights in the building on, etc.) that… probably makes sense?

The ticket stuff? As much as fans like to grumble about the rise, that’s just objectively true. The previous regime just didn’t seem to do a great job of keeping ticket prices in line with the rest of the industry. That’s partly because their predecessors did a poor job at it, and I’d think partly because the teams were not great until the very end. But the club also lost a lot of ticket revenue by being late to the party on dynamic pricing — they’d have made a fortune in the final months of 2015 if they had a system in place that pushed ticket prices up based on increased demand, but they didn’t, and a whole lot of revenue instead went to the secondary ticket market. You also see that they’re now trying other somewhat creative ways to create additional ticket revenue, like the new six game packsI wrote about last week, which in theory will get fans to buy a whole lot of tickets to some of the schedule’s less desirable games by tying them in with some of the real big ticket ones and putting the packs up for sale a few weeks before single game tickets become available for purchase.

And as I noted in that piece about the game packs, the cost of the Jays’ cheapest pack is still less than the cheapest pack offered by Cleveland. In other words: expect more ticket increases in the years to come. Just maybe don’t pin that on the Blue Jays trying to rip you off. They need to keep up with the rest of the industry or they put themselves at a real disadvantage.

Especially when they’re already disadvantaged by the way that Rogers views the club.

The friction with Rogers is perhaps the real noteworthy thing in all this. Which isn’t to say that this person is saying that there’s friction, per se, but combined this with the odd story I’ve heard about grumbling within the front office about their dealings with their giant corporate owner and… yeah… friction is perhaps correct. Stop me if you’ve heard all this before! Like maybe in literally every year ever. *COUGH* But the shitty thing is, I have no idea how the Jays change that relationship, and more importantly, I wonder if they do, either.

Obviously part of their strategy is to maximize what they can do within the limitations placed on them, but the “if the Jays are profitable why change anything?” attitude from the top continues as the prevailing way of thinking, it’s always going to be tough. And that’s not even necessarily just about payroll, but you wonder how it bleeds into other things needed to maximize what the organization can be — stadium renovations, player and staff amenities, etc. etc. etc.

I don’t want to paint too bleak a picture based on what some person is claiming on Reddit, especially when we’re talking about a club that has a very healthy payroll at the moment, particularly as compared to where it was at just a few years ago ($163 million last year, $70 million in 2011 per Cot’s), but it’s interesting stuff here. And I think worth considering — at least, as the Redditor says, before anybody goes off insisting that it’s the Blue Jays that are cheap, or that it’s Shapiro and Atkins that are cheap.

  • Barry

    I have no reason to question that he really did work there. My only question is, how accurate would his information be about the finances? He was an intern … Would an intern have access to that sort of information in a meaningful way, or would an intern only be given the sort of information the office is comfortable with the average fan knowing?

    I think he is quite right that any issues about penny-pinching should be directed at Rogers rather than management … but everything he’s said along those lines is what I would say too, and I have never worked for the Jays. The only things I couldn’t say on my own were the details about the $250 million, and the word that the Jays made a profit last year. And that’s the sort of thing I think a team might tell an intern, whether it was true or not.

    But I’m just thinking aloud. Nothing in what he says makes me say, “I bet that’s not true.” It all sounds legit.

    • DAKINS

      I don’t see anything he’s saying as necessarily untrue, but the way he speaks, I find it hard to believe he was anything more than just that, a random intern. I doubt he was privy to any info that isn’t already public knowledge.

      • Steve-O

        The one small counter to the notion that “he/she is just an intern, how could they know” thing is that even an intern could pick up stuff from overheard conversations in the hallway, random office gossip, that kind of stuff.
        I’m sure the entry-level people in my office know a lot more than they probably should. Loose lips sink ships!

        Having said all that… even if it’s all true, not much in the way of news here, although it would help confirm a lot of what most of us already thought.

        • DAKINS

          That was basically what I was trying to say. He wasn’t hearing anything they wouldn’t have said publicly. Any of the juicy stuff is usually said in closed door meetings.

  • the ‘why change anything’ approach is frustrating, mainly because we all saw what can happen when you DO change – the increase in payroll led (eventually) to a great run, increased interest, attendance, viewership, etc…that they’d fall back to that old mindset would only make sense from a business standpoint if their profits were better with a low-payroll team – if you aren’t moving up, you’re moving down; fans will have patience and continue to come out/watch in good numbers as long as they’re competitive and a realistic playoff contender…for a while. you have 2-3 yrs of the team sticking with an artificially deflated payroll (i.e. one that perennially feels like an additional $15M would make a big difference to the on-field product), and a team that’s competitive, decent, etc., but not an actual legit playoff threat, and fans will lose interest (ask the atlanta hawks what their run of 50 win seasons and nothing to show for it has done).

    • Oakville Jays

      It’s remarkable that Rogers hasn’t realized that the significant increase in franchise value since 2013 is a result of playoff competitive team. The team as currently structured is short of 85 wins on paper. It would only take one splashy signing like Lorenzo Cain or Cobb to get the fans excited again.It’s pretty dumb not to do anything to get fans excited about buying season tickets now.

  • when's dunedin?

    a while ago I heard from someone who worked at Rogers, that the Jays get no (as in zero) annual revenue from Sportsnet for their TV rights. these comments from this intern make me think that’s true. I would love to know what an arm’s length TV deal for the Jays would be., I gotta think it would be massive.

  • sons

    I have defended Anthopolous for a while here based on my feeling that he was going crazy trying to convince Rogers of the big potential in the Jays and their fan base. It’s easy to pick on something like the Dickey trade but if he couldn’t get more payroll and wanted to put a great team on the field, then his heart was in the right place.

    In 2015 he finally proved the Jays didn’t die in ’93.

    • Oakville Jays

      Alex deserves a spot on the Wall of Excellence for outmaneuvering Rogers in 2015. They had no clue what he was planing to do at the trade deadline. He knew he would probably get fired if he failed in 2015 so he took a chance to build a playoff caliber team. The Jays should have made the World Series that year.

        • sons

          Wtf I can’t say that Alex’s heart was in the right place? Or is it that Rogers might be a tough owner to sell on the potential for the Jays in this city? Which of those is absurd?

          Are you saying Alex’s heart was not in the right place and that Rogers is a great owner that totally believed in this fanbase pre-2015?

          You’ve sure flipped. I get it that there are morons all over shitting on the new regime for no good reason. But why even post this, where the juiciest bit is about finances, and then be such a baby if someone comments on that?

  • Oakville Jays

    I do think that the Redditor did work for the Jays. With rspect to increasing ticket prices, I noticed that I was able to get tickets to several games throughout last season at deeply discounted prices to the box office price. Given that they pre sold 2.5M tickets last year, it mean that there were several thousand tickets that Rogers had received revenue for which there was no demand. In other words, there is a ceiling at which Rogers can try to gouge the fan base. I doubt the Jays will reach 2M pre season ticket sales after the poor season last year. The dynamic pricing model will work if the Jays play better than expected next season, but I think attendance will be significantly lower in April & May next year if the team gets off to a poor start.

    • Nice Guy Eddie

      Even in a world of stupid comments this one stands out. So scalpers buy tickets hoping there will be a big demand, and end up discounting them on the secondary market and you conclude that “Rogers gouged the fanbase”. Are you just a flat out troll? If so you better step up your game because when comments are that stupid they just stand out as stupid.

      • Oakville Jays

        Rogers was able to convince fans in August 2016 that they needed to buy season tickets in 2017 in order to get playoff tickets for 2016. A lot of pre season ticket sales were dumped on the secondary market in 2017 due to the poor team performance.

        Rogers has increased ticket prices again for 2018 by a large amount for some seats. Rogers could not try and convince fans to pre buy 2018 tickets based on getting 2017 playoff tickets.

        Rogers cannot secure as many pre season ticket sales for 2018 season, which is why they are trying new flex pack options. Stoeten wrote an article a few months ago complaining about not renewing his season tickets in 2018 in part due to the price increase.

  • vic

    The only way to “outmaneuver” Rogers is to not need them. Build a team of young, cost controlled players and spend efficiently when signing free agents, and you won’t need Rogers in order to compete. The time Rogers MUST come through is if Vladdy needs to be extended at age 25. Then pay the man what he wants. But aside from that, build a team that doesn’t require Rogers to even be relevant aside from setting the payroll for any given year.

    • that last part is kinda key tho; in a given year, if they feel like they’ve taken too big a loss in some other area, what’s to prevent them from just cutting back in other areas – including the jays – regardless of how they’ve done either on the field or with respect to revenue generation?

    • Oakville Jays

      Rogers controls how much the Jays get from broadcast revenue. The FMV of the broadcast revenue should be much hiher than $38M. Look at what Rogers pays for NHL broadcasts.

  • Regulator Johnson

    The economics of relying more heavily on highly win-elastic revenue sources (box sales) rather than win-inelastic ones (TV deals) does not bode well for the franchise’s ability to sustain a winning team. The most successful teams in MLB do not rely on dynamic pricing to sustain payroll; by getting paid commensurately with the number of local TV viewers they draw they are able to safely make long term commitments. Wonder if the variability of revenues was behind Beeston’s infamous 3/5 year rules?

    Also vis-a-vis Jays tickets being priced below market, a 2016 Fortune article listed Toronto as the 4th most expensive stadium to watch a game at ($13 above 5th). Without commenting on their methodology, it’s at least interesting: http://fortune.com/2016/04/03/mlb-ballparks-tickets/

    • Nice Guy Eddie

      I read that. My methodology is simple. Look up the ticket prices for each team. Today you can buy a season’s ticket online at bluejays.com, 3 rows behind the visitors dugout, for $5517 USD ($6,894 CDN). In a real big market, like Chicago, you can’t buy that seat at all, because they have a waiting list of over 64,000. Last year, that season ticket at Wrigley, cost $29.086 USD, according to the Chicago Tribune. You won’t find teh seats for sale online, because of the waiting list. Even down the line at the Bullpen, the seat 3 rows in cost over $16,000 USD, in the bases area where Blue Jays tickets go for $4832 CDN. http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/ct-cubs-ticket-prices-spt-1206-20161205-story.html

      As for the Toronto internet fallacy about wild TV contracts just waiting for Blue Jays games, all games were taken in house in 2009 when CBC refused to pay $150,000 per game for the broadcast rights. Over a full season, that works out to only $19,440,000 USD, not some fantastical amount that floats around Toronto internet, and far less that the Blue Jays receive from Rogers. And at that rate, CBC said they were losing ‘significant’ amounts because advertisers wouldn’t pay. Here’s the article. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/blue-jays-strike-out-with-cbc/article1146687/

      That’s why the Blue Jays ‘partner’ with companies like TD, and Westjet and Honda. Major league baseball has revenue sharing which requires disclosure of all earnings. It’s humorously silly that people on Toronto internet think they have uncovered billions of dollars of unrealized TV income that is not being found by MLB auditors. For most of this century, Blue Jays games fell behind CFL games, where there is a $5 million CDN salary cap per team, in viewership. Do you really think advertisers who wouldn’t pay $150,000 a game in 2009 are now going to sign contracts for many times that amount?

      Until Rogers took the game in-house in 2009, they didn’t even bother to broadcast all of them because the advertising revenue was so low.

  • “Smoak was looking at me and my co-workers with a confused look, like who the hell are these people?” That seems legit. Also, Josh Donaldson eats food in the cafe is probably also true.