Tuesday, November 18, 2014
The most successful film produced by Disney's Pixar is Cars. It isn't the best movie the animated house produced, instead it's probably the worst of their 14 features. But it's the most successful in that it's the most profitable. Cars moves merchandise, and sequels and spinoffs put more money in more pockets than the quasi-progressive Wall-E or The Incredibles aka the Best Pixar Film.
It might not be high-minded Oscarbait or making a timeless classic, but Disney's prestige arm understands the value of doing more than making a great movie for a great movie's sake.
Signing Russell Martin makes the Blue Jays a better baseball team for the 2015 season because of the things Martin does on the field. Yet Martin signifies the importance the baseball industry, and the Blue Jays in particular, place on soft skills. On the field, Martin is regarded as an elite pitch framer and game caller, which doesn't absolve all sins but it cannot be ignored. It opens up the range of options for his bat to make the whole operation hum.
Leadership -- the eternal moving target and fall back excuse for old, bad players -- is a soft skill that doesn't count well but it cannot be dismissed just because the idea is unpalatable for those of us on the outside. It matters. Only up to a point, but it matters.
His passport matters. Rightly or wrongly, adding a Canadian star matters to a great number of folks. It moves the needle the way other signings would not. It inspires consumer confidence and results in bilingual press releases and that isn't worthless. Building a winning baseball team matters most but if you can dip a toe in both pools, you do it, right?
Pursuing postseason baseball is a dicey proposition. If boosting a few other revenue streams helps the price of a fifth year go down a little easier upstream at Rogers Baseball Operations, what's the harm in doing it?
If you're making the largest free agent signing in franchise history, there is no shame in looking for ways to minimize risk. To make it an easier sell to the suits upstairs. The soft skills, the non-baseball card stuff, it's part of a package. Russell Martin checks all those boxes.
The Jays aren't a big market team but their current inability to develop their own cheap talent forces them to behave as though they are. Defacto in-house guys like Encarnacion and Bautista help but the Jays aren't going to be an "efficient" team until they start seeing some real benefit from pre-arb guys. Paying market price on a catcher in his thirties makes this worse, not better.
Enter a framing and grooming pitcher whisperer to help coax results and improve process out of Stroman and Sanchez and Norris and anybody else who stands to benefit from Martin's soft skills. This feels a little bit more like getting your money to work for you, rather than the other way around.
If "overpaying" now means reaping benefits in terms of young pitchers, in terms of team interest and season ticket sales and all the things that might result in more positives down the road, get on board. Literally nothing else has worked for going on 20 years, maybe it's time to shake things up a bit.