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COMMENTARY: Blue Jays are setting records they don’t really want

If the Toronto Blue Jays don’t start hitting the baseball like we all think they can it may not matter how well they pitch this season.

Once again Tuesday night, Toronto failed to get enough clutch hits, and zero big blasts, in a 4-3 loss to the visiting Milwaukee Brewers.

The defeat was Toronto’s franchise record sixth straight home-opening loss.

It’s only the fifth time since 1980 that a Major League Baseball club has lost six consecutive home openers.

If you’re wondering, the Oakland Athletics hold the all-time record of 10 straight home opening defeats from 2005 to 2020.

Heading into Tuesday night’s lid-lifter at the Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays ranked 27th in the majors with an average of 3.33 runs scored per game.

The last time Toronto was in the bottom half of the league in runs per game was in 2008.

The Bluebirds led the big leagues two seasons ago en route to their first playoff appearance since winning back-to-back World Series titles in 1993.

We saw the Jays really struggle at the dish in last year’s ALCS against the Cleveland Indians and their pains at the plate have continued this spring.

One horrible stat this season — catcher Russell Martin is 0-for-18 with seven strikeouts this year.

An even worse statistic is that the Blue Jays are 1-and-6 to start the season for the first time in their 41-year history.

Is Rogers really going to sell the Blue Jays? Don’t bet on it

Social Sharing

Looking past romance of baseball, Rogers wants its shares to reflect value of its asset

The math is pretty hard to argue with. Rogers bought the Blue Jays for a mere $165 million in 2000. Today the franchise is worth more than $1.6 billion. By any measure, that’s a nifty return on investment. Rogers has made a bundle. Why not sell it now?

Speculation hit a fever pitch this week when Rogers’ chief financial officer said this: “We’re looking at ways to better surface values for the Blue Jays,” Anthony Staffieri told a conference in New York. “[The Blue Jays have] become a very valuable asset for us that we don’t get full credit for.”

The quote sent both the business and sports worlds into a tizzy. Who would buy the Jays? What would they sell for? What would it mean for the team’s prospects in 2020?

But it’s worth taking a deep breath and looking at the whole story (or quote) for what it is. First of all, the full quote adds a pretty important caveat.

“To be clear,” he said in the same breath. “There isn’t anything imminent that we’re about to announce, but we’re certainly looking at the alternatives.”

This wasn’t an announcement. Staffieri had been asked directly by a UBS analyst if it still made sense to own a sports team.

Staffieri — who has mused about selling off non-core assets in the past — initially responded that it does make sense. But he added there are other ways of getting sports content (for example, he mentioned Rogers’s 12-year, $5.2 billion deal for the rights to NHL hockey).

Rogers issued a statement once speculation about a potential sale began to spread.

“We have terrific sports assets, including the Toronto Blue Jays, that have performed really well for us. As we have said, we would like to surface value and get credit for these assets in our overall company valuation.”

So, what, precisely does it mean to “surface value”? One obvious way to surface value of an asset is to sell it. But the Rogers statement certainly implies Staffieri was merely trying to say the full value of the franchise isn’t fully reflected in the Rogers share price. The company made it clear there are no plans, processes or timelines in place to sell the team.

Beyond the semantics, there are probably just as many arguments to sell as there are to keep the Blue Jays on the books.

Forbes says the team has annual revenues of $278 million US ($358 million Cdn). It values the franchise at $1.3 billion US ($1.68 billion Cdn). The team may have finished second last in their division, but it has the third best attendance of any team in Major League Baseball.

But these last years have been something of a historic anomaly. The Jays stunk up the American League for years, attendance was way down, and TV ratings were lagging too.

Today, even after a lousy season, the franchise is on a high, and its value has soared.

The Jays make up about three per cent of Rogers revenue, but the team gives the company an outsized halo, at least as long as the team is winning. Everyone loves the Jays when they’re playing baseball in October. But does the corporate owner of a team get much credit for the good years?

“Everybody hates the owners,” says Howard Bloom of Business Sports News. “If the team wins, everyone loves the players. If the team loses, everyone blames the owners.”

Bloom says if that irrational sporting maxim makes even a handful of customers choose a competitor over Rogers, it’s an issue. Especially so when the Jays make up such a small fraction of the overall revenues.

On the other hand, he says Rogers needs content. Live sports is one of the very last bastions of traditional television. A large part of the value of the Jays is tied up in the fact that Rogers owns the whole enchilada: the stadium, the team and the broadcast rights. Individually, Bloom says the team isn’t worth nearly as much.

“The Blue Jays [alone] can’t make money,” he told CBC News. “But it makes sense if you own the broadcast rights and everything else. Just to sell off one without the other? Good luck to Rogers.”

Besides, Barry Schwartz, chief investment officer at Baskin Wealth Management, says live sports isn’t just a buffer against changing consumer habits. He says sports programming is no longer just about watching a live game. “We’re looking at sports as a brand where there’s all sorts of ancillary forms of content that are emerging — you know, pre-game shows and fantasy sports,” he told CBC News this week. And that gives broadcasters a firmer grip on TV and media not just today but in that unknown future of digital and over-the-top television consumption.

Baseball is a funny game though. The famous Billy Beane is quoted saying, “It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball.” Even the business side is touched by the romantic, ethereal, almost irrational sentiment tied up in the game.

Rogers’s struggle is to tap into that sentiment, convert it into customers and count the money.

Like any asset, Rogers will most likely sell the franchise — once the gains to be had from selling the team outweigh what it’s worth to the company’s bottom line. Sure, there’s more romance in a manager tinkering with the lineup or going to the bullpen in a late October game. But the owners deciding when to make their own moves is just as big and just as important a part of the game.

Follow Peter on Twitter @armstrongcbc

With files from the CBC’s Meegan Read and Paul Haavardsrud

Blue Jay Life History


Blue Jays are found in all kinds of forests but especially near oak trees; they’re more abundant near forest edges than in deep forest. They’re common in urban and suburban areas, especially where oaks or bird feeders are found.Back to top

Blue Jays glean insects and take nuts and seeds in trees, shrubs, and on the ground; they also eat grains. They also take dead and injured small vertebrates. Blue Jays sometimes raid nests for eggs and nestlings, and sometimes pick up dead or dying adult birds. Stomach contents over the year are about 22 percent insect. Acorns, nuts, fruits, and grains made up almost the entire remainder. Of 530 stomachs examined, traces of bird eggs and nestlings were found in only 6 stomachs, although a search was specially made for every possible trace of bird remains. Blue Jays hold food items in feet while pecking them open. They store food in caches to eat later. Back to top


Nest Placement

Blue Jays build their nests in the crotch or thick outer branches of a deciduous or coniferous tree, usually 10-25 feet above the ground. Male and female both gather materials and build the nest, but on average male does more gathering and female more building. Twigs used in outer part of nest are usually taken from live trees, and birds often struggle to break them off. Birds may fly great distances to obtain rootlets from recently dug ditches, fresh graves in cemeteries, and newly fallen trees. Jays may abandon their nest after detecting a nearby predator.

Nest Description

Open cup of twigs, grass, and sometimes mud, lined with rootlets.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size: 2-7 eggs
Number of Broods: 1 brood
Egg Length: 1.0-1.3 in (2.5-3.3 cm)
Egg Width: 0.7-0.9 in (1.8-2.2 cm)
Incubation Period: 17-18 days
Nestling Period: 17-21 days
Egg Description: Bluish or light brown with brownish spots.
Condition at Hatching: Naked and helpless, eyes closed, mouth lining red.


This common, large songbird is familiar to many people, with its perky crest; blue, white, gray, and black plumage; and noisy calls. Blue Jays are known for their intelligence and complex social systems, and have tight family bonds. They often mate for life, remaining with their social mate throughout the year. Only the female incubates; her mate provides all her food during incubation. For the first 8–12 days after the nestlings hatch, the female broods them and the male provides food for his mate and the nestlings. Female shares food gathering after this time, but male continues to provide more food than female. Some individual nestlings begin to wander as far as 15 feet from the nest 1-3 days before the brood fledges. Even when these birds beg loudly, parents may not feed them until they return to the nest; this is the stage at which many people find an “abandoned baby jay.” If it can be restored to or near the nest, the parents will resume feeding it. The brood usually leaves the nest together usually when they are 17-21 days old. When young jays leave the nest before then, it may be because of disturbance. The jays are usually farther than 75 feet from the nest by the end of the second day out of the nest. Young remain with and are fed by their parents for at least a month, and sometimes two months. There is apparently a lot of individual variation in how quickly young become independent. Blue Jays communicate with one another both vocally and with “body language,” using their crest. When incubating, feeding nestlings, or associating with mate, family, or flock mates, the crest is held down; the lower the crest, the lower the bird’s aggression level. The higher the crest, the higher the bird’s aggression level; when a Blue Jay squawks, the crest is virtually always held up. Blue Jays have a wide variety of vocalizations, with an immense “vocabulary.” Blue Jays are also excellent mimics. Captive Blue Jays sometimes learn to imitate human speech and meowing cats. In the wild, they often mimic Red-shouldered and Red-tailed hawks, and sometimes other species. Blue Jays are disliked by many people for their aggressive ways, but they are far less aggressive than many other species. In one Florida study, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Florida Scrub-Jays, Common Grackles, and gray squirrels strongly dominates Blue Jays at feeders, often preventing them from obtaining food, and Northern Bobwhites, Mourning Doves, White-winged Doves, Northern Mockingbirds, and Northern Cardinals occasionally dominated them as well. Sometimes Blue Jays mimic hawks when approaching feeders. This may deceive other birds into scattering, allowing the Blue Jay to take over the feeder, but most birds quickly return after the jay starts feeding. Blue Jays carry food in their throat and upper esophagus—an area often called a “gular pouch.” They may store 2-3 acorns in the pouch, another one in their mouth, and one more in the tip of the bill. In this way they can carry off 5 acorns at a time to store for later feeding. Six birds with radio transmitters each cached 3,000-5,000 acorns one autumn. Their fondness for acorns and their accuracy in selecting and burying acorns that have not been infested with weevils are credited with spreading oak trees after the last glacial period. Despite being common, conspicuous birds that have been studied by many researchers, much about Blue Jays remains a mystery. This is the only New World jay that migrates north and south, and large flocks are observed flying over many hawkwatch spots, along shorelines, and at other migration overlooks, but their migration is very poorly understood. Some individuals remain year-round throughout their entire range, and at least some individuals depart during spring throughout their entire range except peninsular Florida. Migrating flocks can include adults and young birds, and recent analyses of movements of banded jays indicate that there is no age difference between jays that migrate and jays that remain resident. The proportion of jays that migrate is probably less than 20 percent.Back to top


Blue Jay populations decreased by about 28% between 1966 and 2020, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 13 million, with 87% living in the U.S. and 13% living in Canada. The species rates an 8 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and is not on the 2020 State of North America’s Birds’ Watch List. The most frequent cause of death associated with humans comes from attacks by cats and dogs.

Backyard Tips

Blue Jays prefer tray feeders or hopper feeders on a post rather than hanging feeders, and they prefer peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet. Planting oak trees will make acorns available for jays of the future. Blue Jays often take drinks from birdbaths. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.


Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 1019 Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.

Partners in Flight (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2020.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2020). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2020. Version 2.07.2020. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2020). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

Smith, Kimberly G., Keith A. Tarvin and Glen E. Woolfenden. (2020). Blue Jay ( Cyanocitta cristata), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

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