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The Loonie, The Turf, and The Blue Jays

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The Loonie

Congratulations to all our non-Canadian (and non-Russian) readers: you did not lose a chunk of your wealth today! The Bank of Canada announced a cut in interest rates this morning, causing the market to plunge the Canadian dollar to depths not seen in the past several years. Canadians may have to get used to the 80-(American) cent loonie going forward.

The 20% loss of value of the Canadian dollar compared to two years ago will affect the Blue Jays' finances going forward, as Blue Jays ticket stubs are received (mostly) in Canadian dollars while player salaries are doled out in American greenbacks. However, there are several factors that contribute to the club cushion the volatilities of foreign exchange rates.

The Blue Jays do take in a good portion of their revenue in U.S. dollars, probably a much larger portion than the last currency crisis around the turn of the century with the 60-something-cent dollar. Shared merchandise licensing money come from Major League Baseball in USD, as they did before, but now the Blue Jays also enjoy shared revenue from league TV rights, MLB Network, and MLB Advanced Media. (It's an internal transfer, but the dollars the Blue Jays get from Sportsnet are in Canadian dollars, for the record.)

Additionally, Rogers is a large publicly-traded corporation that holds U.S. dollars as well as long-term currency exchange forward contract agreements to hedge rate fluctuation risks. Plus, the fall of the loonie was not particularly sudden nor surprising. Both Rogers and the Blue Jays plan for these things, so I don't believe there would be a sudden pullback in the amount of money they are able (or willing) to spend on player payroll this year because of what has happened in the past three or four months.

There won't be an immediate effect, but will this affect the profit margin and spending ability for the ball club going forward? You betcha. But hopefully it will not get as bad as the early 2000s.

The Turf

Among Colby Rasmus's first comments upon signing with the Houston Astros was about the artificial turf at the Rogers Centre. Matt English noticed a little change in Rasmus's tune from last season:

I think the two statements don't really contradict each other, they can both be true.

Last Thursday at the Bisons' Hot Stove Luncheon, I spoke with Steve Tolleson about playing on the Rogers Centre's AstroTurf. He said that it takes some getting used to, especially the way the ball bounces in the outfield, but he views that as an added home field advantage for the Blue Jays. Opponents coming in, especially those from outside the American League East, would come out for early practice before every series while the Jays' defense already known most of the kinks, although he did mention that there are subtle but noticeable changes that happen every time the field is re-laid after the Argonauts play. He mentioned that even a filled-in dirt infield at the stadium--like the one found at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay--will feel different than dirt on a grass field.

The one big downside of the turf, which Tolleson believes causes most of his aches and pain, is actually not how hard the turf (and the concrete underneath) feels. He feels that the turf  "slides" a little whenever he steps down and pivots, kind of like an area rug on top of tile or hardwood flooring. The sliding causes stress on his ankles all the way up to his lower back.

Chad Jenkins, the other player at the event in Buffalo, chimed in to say that the turf affects pitchers too. He reminded me that even though pitchers spend much of the game standing on the mound, they do a lot of running and fly ball shagging before games. He mentions that the hardness is a problem for him, as he does feel more aches after running on turf than on grass.

It would be interesting to follow-up with the players after the 2015 season to see if the new turf improves things at all. The one good thing learned from this is the mentioned that the turf is beneficial for home defenders. I wonder if anyone has taken a look at the advanced fielding numbers from games at the Rogers Centre to see if there was a significant difference between home and visiting fielders (although there are probably too many confounding factors to get anything conclusive).