Thanks to all who came out (ok, more accurately stayed in) for the live blog last night--I had a great time chatting about baseball once again. Can't wait until this becomes a regular occurrence again during the season! So to practice for game recaps, here is a brief summary of what was discussed at the Rogers Centre last night.
In case you missed the broadcast, you can catch the audio here from Sportsnet Radio the Fan 590. The live broadcast started at 6:30 pm, and was only available on the web either through Sportsnet's website or BlueJays.com--there were no other games on tonight so I don't know why Rogers could not have broadcast this on one of their many TV or radio channels. The State of the Franchise is basically a sales event for the Blue Jays, and they don't use broadcast channels that a casual fan may pick up. Weird.
The evening began with the host, Buck Martinez (whom Beeston kept calling "Albert") introducing the three club representatives that evening: manager John Farrell, President and CEO Paul Beeston, and General Manager Alex Anthopoulos. Beeston then had a short speech about how confident he feels about the way the club is going and how he is looking forward to an evening "dialoguing" with fans. He mentions that, even though some fans would want the Jays to "fast forward" on some things, the club must be run in a sustainable fashion. He talked a bit about the change in the logo, the Winter Caravan, and the success of minor league affiliates.
Buck then talked a bit about the different promotions the team is going to be having this season. He said that there are going to be 20,000 giveaways this year, to "make sure every fan [who] shows up gets a promotional item." He'll regret saying that a bit later in the question-and-answer session, which is after the jump.Buck started the Q&A with several questions of his own.
- His first one, which took 94 seconds to ramble out, basically asked about how the team views long term contracts, and specifically about Prince Fielder. Beeston said Prince wanted a long contract, but the Jays' philosophy is to not give over five years in contracts--it wasn't the money, it was the organization's need for flexibility. Will be really reluctant to be flexible and make exceptions for individual players because they need credibility in future negotiations with agents.
- The next of Buck's question was directed at AA and only took 34 seconds to ask, and it was on Yu Darvish. It seems like they knew these questions were going to be asked and decided to get it over with friendly, non-loaded questions. AA repeated what he has said, that there are a lot of players the Jays are interested in, but they must be at the right price point. He also said that there were a lot of trades the Jays could've made, but would've been shortsighted to do so. He foresees that the roster could continue to overturn in the next few years.
- The third question was a 46-seconder, regarding the bullpen, directed to John Farrell. Farrell said that there are more defined role this year than last. Farrell also did a bit of self-reflection on his bullpen management last season: he took the blame for not letting his relievers believe in themselves by sticking by them through their ups and downs. It's awfully nice to see a manager point out his own mistakes in public (and hopefully learn from them).
The fans' Q&A section of the event lasted a little less than an hour. Here are some of the highlights (and some low lights):
- Farrell gives himself a "C" after year one, but learning from his mistakes. Believes that Jays will contend this upcoming year. AA feels that they have built a foundation and can now focus more on the big league club. Beeston believes that the Jays should be in the postseason 2-3 times in the next 5 years. That's called "managing fans' expectations."
- Vizquel will be a mentor for Escobar and Hechavarria, and if he can make the team, will be a backup infielder.
- Third questioner, Jonathan, was an angry fan. Didn't buy a shirt because Fielder's name wasn't on it. Wanted Beltran. Said that AA harped on going the trade route, but he only made one trade! Unfortunately got a smattering of applause. Mentioned some FAs refuse to DH, play on turf, or switch leagues no matter the money or number of years. AA mentioned that offseason will not be the only time they look for players, trades can happen at any time.
- A fan complained about the turf at Rogers Centre, about how "29 of the 30 teams" play on grass, and how now Canada has a reputation of "we play baseball on carpet." Beeston surprised everyone by saying that they are actually exploring bringing grass into the stadium! Another fan asked about why Tropicana Field turf looks better--because Rogers Centre is a multi-purpose stadium.
- The annual question of why Tom Henke is not on the Level of Excellence came up again with the usual answer of he has been considered every time we want to add someone up there.
- A fan--a season ticket holder since 1977--complained that there weren't any Canadians on the Blue Jays on opening day last year, and how it is important to have Canadians on the roster for game one.
- Max called Buck out on his "20,000" gaffe, asking why the Jays are targetting such a low number. Obviously the Jays weren't targetting to just get 20,000 out on those promotional days. Beeston reiterated that the only thing that would get people out was to give them a winning team, and that is the number one and single goal they have.
- Ron made references to Charlie Sheen and Steve Bartman so I tuned out. Basically said that "winning is great but effort is too." Commends AA and Beeston by saying they look like winners, then told Farrell that he is "working towards that." Farrell handled it quite well by laughing at himself. Ron wanted the Jays to get players that show effort and hustle like, and I quote, "Pete, whatshisname, Rose. You know, not the afterwards Pete Rose but the pre-Pete Rose." Farrell said that youth and athleticism brings excitement.
- The next fan, Howard, said that his philosophy at home, with his two kids, is to "not settle for mediocrity," but Jays have been mediocre since World Series. AA said again, that they are going for elite talent and that everyone in the line up has all-star potential--probably won't all be all-stars, but the potential is there.
- The next guy wanted the Jays to scout his baseball academy. AA, with the line of the night said "well you said you were a Blue Jays fan, through and through, but you're wearing a Detroit shirt and I'm wondering why that is." BAM! Sit down, sir.
- Beeston wants to see NL rules played in AL parks and AL rules to be played in NL parks during interleague, when they become permanent.
- Farrell has added former Jays catching prospect as a Major League advance scout, especially for National League teams, to watch teams five days before the Jays play them to hopefully turnaround the Jays' horrible interleague record.
- Buck then asked for "lady fans" to ask some questions in a totally non-sexist way. The first "lady" asked who the Jays were considering in centre and left field. Of course, Centre belongs to Rasmus, but Farrell stated again that there will be a competition for left field between Thames and Snider. Farrell suggests a platoon between those two and Rajai Davis and Ben Francisco. I was surprised that Buck didn't suggest that they play "Travis Thames." The second "lady" had a great question of why there is not a lot of selection in merchandise for female fans and why everything is pink, tiny, and only with the cutest players' names. Beeston gave a very serious promise that it will be fixed.
- AA defended Kelly Johnson by saying he is a "class act and total pro", after a fan called him "indifferent."
- A fan said that AA "paid waaaayyy too much for Colby Rasmus" because the pitchers that were traded for him ended up in the World Series. Then he asked Farrell who he would bat leadoff, and Farrell said that he wants his best hitters leading off, not necessarily a speedy guy. Farrell wants Yunel Escobar to go back to that role in 2012.
- Doug asked about instant replays on close plays. Beeston supports that, but the Umpires' Union is strong enough to fight that.
- On the new CBA, AA conceded that it will be more difficult to hoard high draft picks, but that was never part of the plans to continue to lose free agents to get picks. AA still wants to get a first and second draft pick ever year. When asked about the Jays' inability to sign Tyler Beede, AA simply said that they could have, but it was not for the right amount of money.
- Buck Martinez will probably not be the Jays next President after Beeston's term is over. Personally I think John Tory would do a good job.
- AA mentioned that there were two free agents--speculate away-- that the Jays offered more money and years to who decided to go elsewhere. AA will also consult with team doctors to evaluate players.
- Jordan asked about who would have potentially the same amount of hype as Lawrie did this upcoming season. Farrell suggested Drew Hutchinson--his performance in Clearwater against the Phillies last Spring Training really stuck in Farrell's mind. Also named Gose, d'Arnaud, and McGuire.
- Oh also, Beeston wants you to pick up the phone to call him if you have any problems or questions, alternatively you could also "pick up the email" to email AA. I'm sure AA will hire an assistant (an A-AA?) to read through the extra emails he'll get after Beeston's generous offer.