I think there are two problems with the Blue Jays’ ownership. One is with Rogers specifically, and the other is with the idea of a public corporation owning a baseball team.
Regarding Rogers: anyone who has dealt with them or seen them in action has stories to tell. My favourite is Customer Appreciation Day, which is what Rogers announced periodically in the building in which I used to live. When I looked more closely, Customer Appreciation Day turned out to be a Rogers salesperson hanging out in the lobby and trying to sell more Rogers products to the residents. But it sounded really cool.
And then there’s the time that I discontinued my service because I was moving to a place that already had Rogers service. Did you know that you are supposed to give 60 days notice when you want to terminate service? It was news to me, so I wound up having to pay for a month of cable and Internet service for an apartment that I didn’t live in any more. It was in the contract, so they were entitled to do that, but who knew? And, for the final month of phantom service, I received not one but four bills – two of which were sent by Canada Post, even though I had been receiving emailed bills for years. I kept having to log on to my now-discontinued account to reassure myself that, yes, I had completely paid my bill. Were they hoping that I would pay it again? And would they have given me the money back if I had?
So most of us don’t trust Rogers. But part of the frustration that fans feel with the Jays’ ownership and their reluctance to open their wallet is because Rogers is a public corporation. Its primary responsibility is not to win ballgames or pennants – its primary responsbility is to maximize profits for its investors and shareholders. Rogers’ management would be in breach of duty (I contend) if it spent a whole lot of money on baseball players unless they could demonstrably prove that this expense would yield results. And, in baseball, nothing is definite.
I don’t pretend to know Rogers’ plan for the Jays. But if I owned the Blue Jays, and wanted to maximize revenue, here’s what I’d do. (Assuming that I don’t try the lowball route of gutting expenses and making money off of revenue sharing, which I don’t think is even possible anymore.)
Focus on the in-game experience for the casual fan. Lots of contests and scoreboard entertainment and stuff like that. If enough casual fans decide that a day out at the ballpark is a fun way to spend a weekend afternoon, it doesn’t really matter whether the diehards give up on the team or not. Also promote the idea of the Rogers Centre as a good place for a corporate event.
Work hard at marketing and promoting the team. Get the club logo out there. Spend time over the winter on promotional tours and whatnot. Take advantage of the fact that the Jays are the only team in Canada.
Sign and promote Canadian ballplayers whenever possible.
Don’t sign expensive free agents. They’re assets that depreciate rapidly over time. And the number of wins that this expense would generate wouldn’t make much of a difference to the casual fan. Only the diehards would be happy, and it’s not like they’d start going to more games, would they?
This seems to be the strategy that Rogers is following.