Shapiro Speaks: Rogers Centre, The Future, Osuna, And More …

Mark Shapiro spoke with Stephen Brunt and some Jeff Blair guy about all sorts of things and even took a few questions from the fans. And, as always, he had some pretty damn interesting things to say, so let’s just cut to the goddamn baseball chase and dive into all the juicy stuff.


 The reimagined Rogers Centre…

Well, we’ve spent kind of my first two years here doing a ton of research in stadiums, arenas, and ballparks throughout the world – not just the US. We’ve, I think, done as much fan interaction and fan feedback as we humanly can. And we kind of get to the process of going through with designers and trying to guess what fans would want, ya know, 5, 10, 15 years from now.

I’m pretty sure that we can all agree that we would like better food options, better drink options, and better drink option spaces in the next 15 years, as well as some kind of legends row outside the Dome, a little Blue Jays history-hall somewhere in the stadium, and a couple World Series banners, of course. And the dumb uncle Ted statue gone for good. Anyway …

The underlining premises are still the same: we need to modernize the fan experience. We need to create one that’s not one-size-fits-all, which was kind of the model in the late eighties and early nineties. We made a proposal to our ownership. When it comes to the magnitude of dollars, were talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. Ya know, it’s not something that… in an environment where we’re the only Major League baseball team that’s going to have to completely, privately fund it. We’re going to get no tax– breaks, we’re going to get no source of public funding. We will be the only team that will have to do that. So, that’s one that will have to be balanced and really talked about at the C-level: the CEO, the CFO level, and the board level at Rogers our owner and, ah, that’s an active conversation. And that’s one that, I think, they are very supportive and very engaged, but it’s really not my decision.

Honestly, could you imagine being Mark Shapiro and discussing Rogers Centre upgrades to a Rogers Board room with CEO Joe Natale, CFO Tony Staffieri, and other board members who probably don’t give a flying fuck about baseball? Maybe I’m wrong, maybe they do, but they definitely don’t give as much of a shit as all of us, that’s for sure. And my bet is that the board room probably smells like Vanilla Lattes from Starbucks. I guess there is nothing wrong with that if that’s your thing.

It’s a shitty position for Shapiro to be in since Rogers is a publicly-traded company and it’s all about the cash-rules-everything-around-me-CREAM. But seriously, all you Rogers talking heads, upgrade the goddamn stadium that your company bought from Sportsco for roughly $25 million in 2004 – or just sell it. Or just figure out a way to get the team off your publically-traded books. Sell the team to Ed Rogers, or something – transfer the team to his name –  I dunno.

Obviously I don’t know enough about this stuff to talk about these sorts of things, but when you buy the SkyDome for a bag of peanuts, hang your name on it, and sell the hotel that came with your original purchase for more than you paid for the actual stadium, invest some goddamn money into it and just create a better baseball experience.

About the future and the farm…

We are working with a sense of urgency to build a strong, robust, ya know, player development system; focusing on whenever we can acquire talent. Whether it be internationally, through the draft, through every single trade opportunity that exists, ya know, making sure that we take advantages of those opportunities and, to me, progress is the theme.

And, yeah, sure all this sounds about right here folks, but Shapiro adds this little interesting thought, ‘I can’t remember ever in my career, ya know, 29 – 28 years, not signing a minor-league position free agent – not one. So every single guy in camp is our own guy. And, to me, that’s a good sign.’ So, yeah, that’s pretty cool.

And it’s also pretty cool that the Buffalo Bisons are actually going to be a real AAA team that has actual Blue Jays prospects this year. That is a great reason to make the quick trip to Buffalo this summer, get some awesome wings, have a couple beers, and check out guys like Alford, Teoscar, Tellez, Borucki, Pannone, and company. Bobby Meacham and his Bisons are going to be a fun team to keep our eye on in 2018, that’s for sure

What I like about Shapiro is how he recognizes that the farm is not where it needs to be, as he mentions that they need to have waves of talent in the system. He recognizes that the organization cannot ‘pin their hopes on two guys’ (Vlad & Bo) and that they need to have close to ten ‘impact’ prospects to be excited about. And the truth is, they are probably two drafts away from it being where they want it to be. The future is pretty damn bright folks.

If He Could Roll Back The Clock, Would He Have Left Roberto Osuna As A Starter…

Well, I would say, probably not, um, for reasons that I’m not going to get into right now. But, also I’d say the value of a closer – he’s not a set up guy, he’s not a middle reliever – an elite closer, which he is. He’s not just a closer, he’s an elite closer – certainly can offset, ya know, the value of the guy starting.

It’s damn interesting that he said that there are reasons that he would not have made Osuna a starter if he could roll back the clock. He could’ve easily just left the answer with ‘probably not’. Maybe it’s the Tommy John surgery. Maybe it’s because having an elite closer is king. Maybe it’s reasons that none of us really know. Maybe we can all read into that line a bit too much. Maybe …

Interesting Things He said…

‘Free agency is not the place to get younger and more athletic because by in large free agent players are past their prime by the time they get to free agency – or, at least, right in their prime and they are going to be declining over a free agent contract.’

And with the way that the JD Martinez thing went down with the shitty Red Sox, and with the way that the market has played out this offseason; it’s clear that all the front-offices around the league are done handing out long-term contracts to guys like Josh Donaldson.

So, if Donaldson is looking to sign a deal that takes him into his late-thirties, which the ‘maverick’ Richard Griffin reported, he might not get what he actually wants, nor might any free agent who is in their early-thirties for that matter. It will be interesting to see how the offseason plays out next year.

‘We are with a sense of urgency, aggressively trying to build a sustainable model, but we are also trying to maintain a level of championship competitiveness of this Major League team.’

And, there are reasons to have hope for this season. There are reasons to be optimistic about 2018. Last season was a complete year of dogshit and dogshit things happening. And even with all the shitty blisters, injuries, Barney and Goins at-bats, and Bautista’s terrible production, the team still managed to remain in the wild card hunt up until August. Sure, they never actually hit that goddamn .500 line, but somehow they managed to hang around near it, even after that shitty April and all the shit that followed.

So, if all the ifs play out in the good Birds of Summer’s favor this season, there isn’t a reason that they can’t be a wild card team. There are three tiers this year. Tier 1: Houston, New York, Cleveland, and Boston. Tier 2: Toronto, the dumb Angels, and the Twins. And tier 3: all the other shitty teams.

‘He’s (Troy Tulowitzki) not on the field. He’s going to have to, ya know, see how his body recovers from the various foot and ankle injuries that he’s been fighting through. We’re better with him out there, but right now we’re planning, ya know, as if he’s not out there until we can progress to the next stages and see him on the field.’

Honestly, I don’t know if you listened to this interview and I’m not a goddamn psychologist, but Shapiro’s tone dropped a bit when he answered this question and it sounded to me like he knows it’s not good. And the thing is, it’s really hard to watch a player with so much talent quickly lose the awesome skillset that he once had. I hope to hell that Tulowitzki can come back from these bone spur issues and play the game he loves and that we love watching him play, but ugh something just doesn’t seem right here folks. I hope I’m wrong…

Nate Pearson is a guy that, ya know, um… not many times that a guy who pitches 20 innings kind of ends up on top 100 charts in all of Major League baseball. This guy, I want to temper, ya know, getting too excited about a guy who has only pitched 20 innings, but he did hit 100/mph in every single start last year.’

Even Shapiro gushes over Big Nate and why the hell not gush… Let’s try not to get too excited because pitching is a fragile position, but holy shit, he could end up being one of the elite players to come out of the 2017 draft.


And that’s pretty much most of the juicy bits from Shapiro’s interview with Brunt and some Blair clown. At this point in time, I just want to get this damn season going. We are only a few beers away before the dumb Yankees come to Toronto and the best damn season begins. But, holy shit, this will be a fun year of baseball throughout the entire organization, from Vancouver to Lansing to Dunedin to New Hampshire to Buffalo and Toronto. Now, let’s just get this thing going, amirite?

  • The Humungus

    Cross-posting a comment from Stoeten’s article on the top section on The Athletic:

    I mentioned this when the coaches comments came out, and it seems like Shapiro has elaborated it in a way that confirms what I thought about the sales mix being the problem more than ticket sales.

    People see things like the CBS study someone mentioned (or a similar study WSJ did) and think those numbers are the gospel. They don’t get that there’s no weighting applied to those averages. So, the “average” ticket price may look high, but it’s because people in other cities aren’t paying what Toronto is for baseline and OF tickets, not because ticket prices are high in Toronto. Tickets to a Dodgers game in the RF corner on a baseline were about 20-25% cheaper than in Toronto last year, that’s a bit different now due to dynamic pricing and decreased demand in Toronto. The revenues are the same or greater, though, because sitting behind home plate at a Dodgers game costs more than double what it does in Toronto – $1,152 for front row behind the plate based on full season ticket prices and a $1.27 exchange rate at Dodgers game vs $540 for In The Action at a “premium” Jays game.

    With that in mind, it makes significantly more sense to, in a city as affluent as Toronto, improve the stadium in ways that can improve the revenue mix. At least, for the team.

    For Rogers, however, who already has billions tied up in infrastructure improvements to Telecom, it makes a lot less sense. This is why it may make sense for the company to spin the Jays off into a company like MLSE, or something similar, in which they didn’t have to justify the spending to the board and they could also go into the debt market with bond issues to raise the capital, rather than having to foot the bill out of the parent.

    Addendum: Ryan, Marriott already owns the hotel.

  • Marcelo Silva

    I’m Old School! Honestly I prefer the original name of Stadium, it has history!!! On the other hand, a lot of money to invest in improvements for Blue Jays, it’s not bad. But, all must to be worth it. (Good job again, Ryan!!!)

  • Winfield Seagulls

    Well written Ryan…. don’t be afraid to speak the truth. Blair is ok and some puppets are just programmed to avoid saying the wrong thing. Nice to read many of these articles and I always look forward and value many of the comments. Even the bitch sessions.
    IMHO Wilner is painful to listen to and sincerely glad I’ve discovered this nation. If you’re a Jays fan….we’re all in this together
    I can translate for the those not fluent in English.

  • Paul Beestons Grass Surface

    One thing I don’t really read much about, why would Rogers want to pour 100’s of millions into stadium upgrades, and instead look at building a new stadium? I know there will be quips about the location and other things, but why reinvest in a 30 year old stadium, that will never have grass, when they could put the same money…perhaps less, perhaps more….but for the sake of argument, the same money into new diggs, where they can design it to have the better fan experience (ie, make me want to spend more money there), and the revenue streams (luxury boxes, better food, etc etc).

    I don’t know, I really don’t know the economics, but wouldn’t something new, be better than propping up a 30 year old stadium for another 30 years?