Despite "reports" and "sources," the Blue Jays were not willing to go over Daisuke Matsuzaka's previous record fee of $51.1M, and the Rogers Communication executive quoted as being told Rogers gave the order, "Whatever it costs, sign him!" is no doubt astounded.
Jays fans aren't.
With the Yankees and Red Sox looking particularly vulnerable, the thinking is that adding a couple top-of-the-rotation starters would give the Jays a rotation that could capitalize on the club's offensive firepower and start to truly compete for the AL East title. Coincidentally, a young Japanese stud pitcher comes on the market —a power arm and a marketing department's dream—who comes at no cost to the prized farm system, but will cost a boatload of money.
What does Rogers Communication do with this unique window of opportunity? They buy a hockey team.
There will be plenty of apologists ready to explain that Yu Darvish is unproven, that the history of NPB players making the MLB jump is a history of disappointment, that the posting system is an absurd method of player acquisition, and so on. All are true.
Despite these truths, the Jays should have landed Darvish and the they failed to because Rogers is a nickel-and-dime owner.
Consistently ranking in the top 10 in the Fan Cost Index (price for a family of four to watch a game with snacks), being the broadcaster of its own games that reach a national audience, purchasing a $600m taxpayer-funded stadium for $25m and having a payroll that has been in the bottom quarter of the league for the last three years; the Jays have been a profitable investment under Rogers' stewardship.
Yet the cries of poverty from MLB's richest owner ring on.
Particularly vexing for the Jays fanclub is president Paul Beeston's oft repeated refrain that the Jays can support a payroll in the $140m range, with the caveat that the payroll increase will follow revenue increases. Attendance and TV ratings increases in 2011, and the Jays debuted their premium cable channel as well, presumably increasing revenue—yet payroll remains stagnant at approximately $70M for 2012 including expected arbitration raises, $25M less than the league median.
Frankly, Mr. Beeston's statement regarding payroll is galling when an obvious display of parsimony such as the Darvish debacle is witnessed.
Fans who have supported the Anthopoulos rebuild and were excited by the team's potential have become deflated. Darvish was the perfect player for this city and team. The coast-to-coast buzz around the Jays this past week is evidence of that.
That good will has evaporated, replaced by the cynicism that is all too familiar in Toronto sporting circles. The sad thing is that this is still a good, young team, but the PR backlash will likely result in decreased attendance and viewership next year.
It was a good week to be a Jays fan though, as all the water cooler sports talk revolved around them for the first time in a long time. That won't happen again soon.
Yu Darvish may prove to be overhyped, but the posting process proved that this team needed the hype.