Opened or Closed?

The Toronto Blue Jays play an afternoon game tomorrow and it has been announced that the roof will be closed for the game at Rogers Centre.

The reason that Rogers Centre is keeping the roof closed is due to the weather advisories in effect for tomorrow and the projected temperature of 37 degrees which will feel more like 47 degrees with the humidex.

I got into a bit of a discussion with someone I follow and occasionally speak with on Twitter on the decision to close the roof for the game tomorrow.

He didn’t agree with the decision to close the roof.  Some of his points were:

  • Other teams play in hotter weather on a regular basis
  • The players are highly trained athletes who can/should be able to handle the weather
  • That baseball is meant to be played outside
  • That many games, baseball and other, have been played outside in temperatures worse than what Toronto will experience tomorrow.

I can’t necessarily dispute his points (though I believe I did), because well other teams do play in worse temperatures, these are professional athletes who could probably handle it, baseball historically is an outdoor game and sporting events have taken place in worse conditions.

I can see his point of view, I can understand it and I can respect it, but I don’t necessarily agree with it.

Other teams may play in hotter conditions on a regular basis, but their trainers presumably condition them for the climate and the weather they predominantly play in. That is not to say that the Jays aren’t well conditions (though at times I have questioned it with some of the random injuries) but they may not be conditioned for this heat and humidity. Heat like this is a shock to the body and it can put a strain on the human body. Thames was already pulled from a game recently due to leg cramp presumably due to dehydration caused by the current heat wave that we are experiencing. If players are playing in extreme heat that their bodies aren’t used to, there is a chance the body won’t respond well and injuries could happen. Toronto is doing well right now and no one wants to see Thames, Bautista, Lind or anyone else on that team go down with an injury that could have possibly been prevented. (Note I no professional background in health science, so while I think I know what I am talking about, someone with such a background may not)

These players are highly trained athletes and might very well be able to handle the heat, but why not, when possible, create an environment that limits the chance of injury or harm to players?  Also with this extremely heat players need to be cooled down and the MLB tends to blast AC into the dugouts, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is hard on the body to go from that extreme heat to the cold AC and back and forth for the duration of a game. Have you ever noticed that in the summer when you go from outside heat, to inside AC multiple times throughout a day you start to feel kind of crummy?

Many games have been played outside in worse temperatures, but there have also been many athletes seriously injured due to playing or training in extreme heat as well. Just because people have played in worse temperatures doesn’t mean that they should. What’s more important? I personally think the health of the athletes is more important, more so than tradition or fan expectation.

Take the players out of the equation though, this (IMO) is a phenomenal marketing move.

Before I get to that, this decision to close the roof, I believe, is not just about the players, it is about the safety of the fans as well. I personally don’t want to see some poor schmuck pass out in the 500s due to heat stroke, or even someone in the 200s or 100s. Now granted the attendance won’t be even close to the same, but I was at a concert at Rogers Centre just over a week ago and the roof was open. The temperature that day wasn’t nearly as hot as it will be tomorrow, but that stadium was a sauna (admittedly because of the number of people). I swear I have never sweat so much in my life, I thought I was going to pass out by the time the concert was over. I know very different situations, there were 60,000+ people packed in there, I’m just saying that ballpark can get hot with the roof open.

Back to why I think this is a phenomenal marketing move. This is a mid-week afternoon game (something fans gripe about, but is a necessity between home and away series). Mid-week afternoon games traditionally have pathetic numbers as far as attendance goes, which is pretty expected, people have to work. So Rogers Centre wants more bums in the seats for the mid-week day game and the city (and well beyond) is going through a severe heat wave. I believe the city of Toronto or it’s health unit has probably issued a heat advisory, I know the London & Middlesex Health Unit has, so I presume Toronto is no different.

Anyways, Rogers Centre, or Skydome, has the ability to close the roof and turn on the AC. If you’re a poor schmuck living or working in Toronto and your office and or apartment/house doesn’t have AC and you are a fan of baseball (or maybe not) and you hear that the roof is closed at Rogers Centre and the place is a cool escape from the heat, what are you going to do? I’ll tell you what I would do. I’d go buy myself a ticket, take in a great ballgame and cool off! Sit in a cool stadium, take in a ball game and have a nice cold beverage and beat the heat and maybe if I’m lucky pick up one of the young single Blue Jays, but I digress.

Now maybe this won’t happen, but I have a funny feeling at least a couple of people who weren’t planning on taking in the game tomorrow will be now! The Jays organization played this right. They made the call early, this afternoon, and they publicized it throughout the broadcast of the game, as well as on twitter and I believe on their website and presumably on the radio. They are making sure people know that the roof will be closed and that taking in the game will be the coolest way to beat the heat tomorrow in Toronto.  So in my mind this has the potential to mean, increased ticket sales, increased beverage sales and maybe even increased merchandise sales for a typically poorly attended mid-week day game. No only does this help the team pocketbook, but it’s a good PR move because from my perspective it is a good deed that is deserving of a write-up in at least one major paper, magazine or blog.

I’m sure that the safety of the players was a huge consideration when deciding to close the roof. I’m also sure that fan safety (and venue liability) was a factor in making this decision. As a marketing person, I hope Marketing & PR had a hand in this at some point, before or after (I know I’d be screaming “Hey our attendance sucks for mid-week day games and it’s hotter than Satan’s living room, let’s close the roof, cool off this place and give Torontonians a break from this heat!”).

So those are my thoughts on the decision to close the roof tomorrow. I get both sides, but I think it is better to err on the side of caution and protect the fans and players when possible. I also think it is a good idea to leverage a situation to increase attendance on a day bound to have low attendance numbers.

What are your thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Correction on something I’ve written? Comments welcome!

* You don’t have to agree with me, feel free to disagree. I just ask that you be respectful of the opinions expressed by others on this blog, including myself.

** Also I would like to thank the individual that sparked this blog post with the conversation we had on Twitter, if you are reading this, you should know who you are. Thanks for the discussion!

The Toronto Blue Jays – R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention today is Social Media Day.

The MLB has adopted social media probably better than any of the other major sports leagues and today they are leveraging social media to get fans involved with their teams.

One way they are embracing social media today is the caption contest where fans are asked to come up with the best caption for a picture of a player from a specific team.

I found a link this morning that took me to a picture of JoJo Reyes during a post-game interview after he broke his 28 game winless streak. In this picture JoJo Reyes is receiving the standard Blue Jay treatment for any Blue Jay who achieves something great during a game and is awarded the post-game interview; in this case JoJo Reyes is getting a bucket of Gatorade (presumably) dumped over his head by his catcher JP Arencibia.

I thought that this was a great contest and a great way to get fans involved. I added my caption and was ready tweet it when at the bottom of the Caption Contest page was a disclaimer stating “By Filling out this form, I agree to the rules of the MLB.com Twitter Caption Contest.” 

Having entered a lot of contests recently, I always read the rules to make sure that I am eligible. I figured that since I’d found this contest link through the @BlueJays twitter account and it took me to a page on the Blue Jays website that I would be eligible for the contest.

I clicked on the link to view the rules and regulations, while reading the eligibility though, this is what I found:

For anyone who can’t read the print above, it says “The Contest is open only to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and Washington D.C. …”

I was on the Toronto Blue Jays page, looking at a picture taken at Rogers Centre (Skydome) in Toronto Ontario, that was featuring a SportsNet Report, and two Toronto Blue Jays players JoJo Reyes and JP Arencibia, yet I was not eligible to participate in the Caption Contest because I do not reside within on of the fifty States or Washington D.C.

My first reaction was: “Wow a major #FAIL by the @MLB with their Caption Contest, Jays have a pic, but look at the rules #jays”, which I tweeted from my @Sadie_Liz twitter account.

The Toronto Blue Jays have been a part of the MLB since 1977, a span of 34 years and yet the Blue Jays and their fans are still often treated as second class citizen by the MLB and sports media.

This MLB run contest was only open to Americans, despite there being a Canadian team that is support by million of Canadians from East coast all the way to the West Coast. I am sure this is not the first MLB contest like this, nor will it be the last.

It is not all that surprising though, outside of Canada the Jays and Jays fans get very little respect or recognition. If the Yankees beat the Blue Jays, the Yankees are said to have “Destroyed the Jays”. If the Jays beat the Yankees though the “Jays Get Lucky in Win Over Yankees” or “Yankees stumble in loss to Blue Jays”.

When Toronto loses, the other team is said to dominate, or crush. When the Jays win though the Jays are said to have gotten lucky, or the other team is said to have stumbled. Toronto is rarely said to have ‘destroyed’ or ‘outdone’ their opponents, even if that is precisely the case. They Jays rarely see top billing for new articles on their wins on sites like ESPN or even MLB.com.

Despite 34 years in the MLB and back-to-back World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993, the Jays are the forgotten and looked down upon team of the MLB (not to say that there aren’t others). The Jays are in the hardest division in the MLB. They currently have arguably the best play in the MLB in Jose Bautista; In years past they arguably had the best pitcher in the MLB in Doc Halladay, but the Blue Jays still don’t see the coverage or praise that other teams do by sports media and even the MLB, (though the MLB had improved greatly thanks to their use of social media this year, there have been a number of video tweets showing plays and hits by Blue Jays).

Canada may only have one team across the entire nation, (after the Expos got moved to Washington and renamed the Nationals). That team though has the support of the entire nation and will not be silenced by the naivety of the MLB and sports media. This is our team, and we are proud of them. We will stand behind them and fight for them as hard as we can and if you won’t talk about them we will. We will blog, we will tweet, we will podcast, we will write, we will sing, we will promote our Jays.  We can and we do make a difference, you need proof, look at who is leading the All-Star Balloting this year. I would hazard to bet a number of those votes came from north of the border. Toronto is a good team, with good players, who fight yearly against the hardest division in the AL. After 34 years I think it is time for a bit more respect for the team and fans from Canada, don’t you?

Blue Jays Drafting

So the 2011 MLB Draft has come and gone and the Blue Jays have  drafted a number of new prospects.

Over the years the Jays have traded away draft picks and prospects, who have later popped up in the majors on opposing teams. Fans have cringed and grumbled over the way Blue Jays management have handled prospects and draft picks. With the exception of a couple over the last while (Arencibia, Snider, Romero, Hill), the Blue Jays team hasn’t appeared to be built from the draft but rather a series of (occasionally ill-advised) trades. I know this is common for a lot of teams, but given that the Blue Jays have acquired some less than stellar players, and cannot afford the top players in the league, I as a fan cannot help but hope they draft and cultivate some young talent (like the Tampa Bay Rays did).

Toronto had a number of picks in the 2011 draft, thanks to a number of compensation picks received for players that were lost to other teams during the off-season. I haven’t found a list yet of all of their draft picks, but I would assume there was somewhere around 20 or 30 picks for the Jays.

I have read some stats, tweets and articles on the Blue Jays 2011 draft choices and I can’t help but wonder if they made the best decisions.

Now I know next to nothing of the players that they drafted, but on the surface it appears possible that some of their draft picks could have been made for the wrong reasons.

Toronto Blue Jays, as everyone knows, are the only remaining Canadian MLB team. Due to that fact, the Blue Jays seem to have this unspoken mandate to support and foster baseball and baseball talent across Canada. In the U.S. each team is only responsible for its city, at most its state. The Canadian team though, especially since Canadian prospects are often forgotten about,  is responsible for recognizing an entire nation of prospects (not that there is an alarming number of MLB caliber Canadians, comparatively speaking).

In the 2011 draft 18 different teams drafted at least 1 Canadian prospect. A couple of teams drafted 3, a couple more drafted 2, and a number more drafted only 1. The Blue Jays lead the way though, drafting 8 Canadians.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the Canadian team signing Canadian talent. I am like all the other Canadians who love seeing a Canadian dawn the Jays uniform and wish all the Canadians would gather in Toronto and make a run for the pennant. I can’t help but wonder though if it was the right decision to draft 8 Canadians, or if it was done out of a sense of duty.

It is entirely possible that one or more of those players could become the next Matt Stairs, Erik Bedard (Mariners), Jason Bay (Mets) or a Russell Martin (Damn Yankees), but it is equally (if not more) possible that they will never see life past the minors.

So I wonder, did the Blue Jays draft these players out of a sense of duty and national pride for the country that calls the Jays their own? Or did they draft them because they were the best potential players left to be drafted?  I am all for supporting the Canadian kids, someone needs to take notice of them, but did we miss out on some great talent, because the Toronto team felt required to draft some homegrown players?

This thinking extends to two other draft picks, neither are Canadians, but both are tied to the Jays team. But John Farrell and Don Wakamastu’s sons were drafted by the Blue Jays in the late rounds of the 2011 draft. Again I can’t help but wonder if they were drafted because they were the best players left  who were available, or if they were drafted out of a sense of duty to and respect for the current Jays’ Manager and Bench Coach.  I am sure these kids are talented and deserve to be drafted, but were the Jays just being polite and considerate to their new coaching staff?

Then again this could be a good move. The Canadian kids probably grew up dreaming of playing for the Toronto Blue Jays (or Montreal Expos) and playing for a team in their own country. Maybe these kids will be more determined to stay in the Toronto system and not search for trades should they make it to the big leagues, or even before. They may want to bring a championship back to Canada for the first time in nearly 2 (or by the time they get called up 3) decades. Maybe the same can be said for the sons of the Farrell and Wakamatsu, but then again, who knows how long the current coaching regime will stay in power.

So while it is possible these Canadian kids will be superstars and the American kids who were also drafted will refuse to sign,  I can’t help but wonder if the picks that brought 8 Canadians and 2 coaches sons, were a little less strategic and little more “Canadian” (polite/respectful).

Twitter Jays – Arencibia Under Attack #jays

I just read an interesting/infuriating comment on Facebook regarding the Blue Jays rookie catcher JP Arencibia. There was a post from the Blue Jays organization regarding the auctioning of one of JP Arencibia’s game used broken bats (a bit odd, but hey someone will pay good money). One of the comments (not that different from some others I have seen) said ” … [Arencibia] blocks followers on Twitter whose comments he doesn’t like. The young man is childish and immature.”

I’m sorry, but that comment is ridiculous. I’ve followed a lot of the chatter towards Blue Jays players and the people who have been blocked, aren’t really innocent, so I don’t blame Arencibia for his actions.

One, there’s probably a mandate about that kind of situation in the league’s social media policy. The whole act in the best interest of the team and of the league, do nothing to negatively represent the MLB … so on and so forth.

Two, I think that Arencibia’s actions are completely respectable. Let’s think about this, say you’re on your twitter account and someone follows you only to mention or message you talking trash about you or your family, what exactly are you going to do? Personally I would block the person, wouldn’t most people? I would not bother engaging with them, because honestly that would do me no good. Engaging would only feed the troll and bring me down to its level. Now some people would bite back at someone who is taking pot shots at them or their family, but based on what I’ve seen I think JP Arencibia is a pretty classy guy. Also Arencibia is a professional and a role model. There is a time and place to defend yourself and there is a time to walk away, and Arencibia blocking trash talkers to me is the same as walking away, which I respect. Engaging could do serious damage to his career and his personal brand, not to mention the team, league and charitable brands he’s a part of.

Three, Arencibia is a professional baseball player, with huge expectations on his shoulders. It is his job to come to the ballpark everyday and do his very best. Again lets look at this in a different context. If you got up and went to work everyday and were berated by people (who really have no first hand understanding of your job) telling you that you’re no good at your job and are worthless as a person, how do you think that would make you feel? How do you think those comments would impact your attitude or your ability to do your job? Now you can sit there and say you wouldn’t let it affect you, or argue that JP Arencibia is a public figure and a professional athlete making millions of dollars a year, but the heart of the matter is that he is still just a man not impervious to the sticks and stones people throw at him. I don’t care who you are, if people are telling you day in and day out that you’re a screw up and not worth it, it’s going to start affecting you. As a professional athlete things happen; professional athletes make errors and go through slumps and they beat themselves up about it, more than anyone else possibly could. Athletes have to work hard to keep their confidence, because if they go on the field without it, their opponents will capitalize. The best way for anyone to keep their confidence is to block out all of the negative comments, only leaving room for the positive ones.

So people can sit there and call Arencibia immature for blocking the negative nellies out in the twittersphere, or he can be commended for having the maturity to do his job and have some class while doing it.

As fans we tend to think we have the right to complain when our team or a player screws up and Twitter has made it easy for us to take our complaints directly to the players. Players like Arencibia are CHOOSING to be on twitter, are choosing to give fans access, are choosing to engage. Players don’t have to be on twitter with clearly identifiable verified accounts, but they choose to do that for their fans and for the sport. I applaud players like Arencibia for putting themselves out there in that way and I give them credit for handling the naysayers in a mature and professional manner. Furthermore I thank Arencibia for not letting the actions of a few ruin it for the many. He could have easily said ‘screw it’ and cancelled his twitter account when hundreds of people laid into him over a base running error, but he didn’t.

Fans forget that these professional athletes are still only humans. Humans who make mistakes, humans who have emotions and humans who are making huge sacrifices. These players are hard enough on themselves when they aren’t living up to their potential. Anyone who’s been watching this season has seen how hard this year’s team is on itself. I don’t know that I have seen this much passion in a Jays team in a long time and it is something I can’t help but respect. I feel bad for the players when they are so hard on themselves, but I am so proud of them for caring that much about the game, about the team and about the fans.

I will continue to watch all of the Jays games and support the Blue Jays til the bitter end. Sure I will be frustrated at times over bad plays or missed opportunities, but I will always support my team and believe that they will triumph. I will continue to follow them on twitter, and make them trend nationwide whenever possible. I will continue to hope that people will realize that their idolized players are only human and that words hurt and they make an impact. We are fans and we are here to pick up our team when they are down. We are here to have faith in our boys of summer, when they have lost faith in themselves. We are here to talk trash of the Yankees and Red Sox in honour of our boys in blue.

So with that, LETS GO BLUE JAYS! Time to get the Rays back on their losing streak and give die-hard Jays fans something to really cheer about!

Blue Jays – Francisco and Litsch

This morning the Blue Jays announced that they have activated RHP FRANK FRANCISCO from the 15-day disabled list and optioned RHP JESSE LITSCH to Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League (AAA).

We all knew that when Morrow came back either Litsch or Reyes would be going back to AAA Las Vegas.  I have to say though I am a bit shocked that Litsch went down, he had a rocky start to his starts, but he usually locked things down a couple of innings in, and last game his team picked him up. I suppose though, the Jays don’t want to risk those a couple rough innings as they come up against some teams who aren’t so easy to come back against.  Regardless fans, a bit thrown by this move given that it is a starter for a reliever,  have suggested possibilities that a bullpen arm such as Rzepczynski (a former starter) will be moving to the starting rotation and Reyes will still be going down when Morrow returns.

I do not think this is a case. Francisco is a closer, he will be going into the bullpen. Having sent down Listch, the starting rotation will be down to four. I assume this means that Morrow will be back within the next couple of days and the only reason they made the moves the way that they did was because of where they were in the rotation. They’re only on starter number 2, Drabek. Given the short outings some of their pitchers the Jays are just trying to keep as many rested arms in the bullpen as possible. Morrow will come back up and take the 5th starter slot and when he does he will knock someone out of the already overloaded Jays bullpen.

Many analysts have already commented that the Jays are carrying an uncharacteristically large bullpen and a short bench. They have commented that the team balance has been a bit off, but that it would return to normal once some of the individuals on the disabled list were re-activated.

No matter how the moves play out, I hope the shake-up will provide a spark to the Jays and help them get back to their winning ways on their home stretch.

Twitter Blue Jays – part 2

So last night I wrote a blog post about the benefits of Blue Jays being on twitter, which can be found here and I thought about it more today and thought of one more reason twitter participation could be beneficial to the Blue Jays, it’s actually an extension on the point I made about the players being ‘imports’ and fans not really knowing them.

Not only are the players imports, but they’re celebrities.  They make big bucks, play a game for a living and are in the public eye. When players are celebrities, fans tend to forget that they are people too and often feel free to be angry and mean when speaking of them, because well the players are celebrities and really what are the odds that an average persons comment is going to get back to a celebrity baseball player and really affect them.

Well previously that could more or less be assumed. Sure you’d have hecklers at the game, but players have learned to more or less tune out the negative in the middle of the game or when dealing with the media.

But now thanks to twitter, not only do the fans have access to the players, but the players are now open to the comments of the fans in a more real way. This became evident today when some individual in the twittersphere attacked a Blue Jays starting pitcher  for his rocky performance and fellow starting pitcher Brett Cecil stepped up to the plate to defend his teammate.

It is going to take some time for players and fans to adjust to this new level of accessibility, but I think in the end the Jays presence on twitter can help eliminate some of the ‘Haters’ if you will. If fans get to see more that these players are just regular guys, guys like the ones I went to school with (yes most of them are my age), then they will feel more compassion for them and want to support them. And I have to say I have been guilty of it. While I completely support and cheer on the Blue Jays sI have referred to Encarnacion as E5 a couple of times due to his frequent errors at third, which upon reflection, I now feel bad about. He is a real person, working hard at a job that is a lot harder than it looks and he is a person who is making sacrifices to live his dream and entertain the fans. So for my E5 comments, I apologize. When I played I had my own difficulties at 3rd, after playing 1st most of my years, it is not an easy position.

But yes there will still be the jerks out there who run their mouths, but I think fans will start to realize that these players who have been untouchable for so long are now touchable and can be affected by what is said. Fans will realize that these million dollar athletes are just your average guys.

In the mean time though, I can’t help but wonder if the Toronto Blue Jays organization/marketing team has thought about doing some social media training with their players or if they have. Yes it is the players personal choice to be on twitter (I assume so at least), but they are at all times representing the organization. They need to be aware of trolls and haters and how to handle and deal with those people effectively. Cecil did fairly well today, but you could tell he was getting a bit hot under the collar (which I understand why). But I think some social media training might not hurt for athletes, if they aren’t already getting it (though I am sure there has been some form of orientation on the topic.

Again though I want to commend all of the Blue Jays who are sacrificing things in their lives to reach their goals and commend them for the hard work they put in day in and day out in an attempt to bring a championship back to Toronto and the fans . Further I commend the Blue Jays who are on Twitter and making an effort to interact with players and bring fans back into the fold. You are doing a commendable job and the true Blue Jays fans are behind you and believe that you are going to succeed.