Naylor: Jays' blockbuster deal significant in Toronto market

Dave Naylor
11/14/2012 10:26:39 PM
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Perception, they say, is everything.

Which is why this week's blockbuster deal between the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins is so significant in a market where skepticism has been growing like weeds.

Asking for patience and trust is standard operating procedure anytime new management takes over a team that has stalled on the road to success.

But it's hard to think of any one city where that card has been played as often by every sports franchise as it has in Toronto, but with so little to show for it.

The fact is -- the Argos' recent success reaching this weekend's East Division Final notwithstanding -- that the message has started to ring a little hollow across the entire spectrum of Toronto teams, with results consistently failing to back up the promises of better things to come.

No wonder there has been an overall erosion of faith. No wonder there has been widespread doubt that the people in charge have the resources and authority to do what needs to be done. Or that if they did, would they even know what to do?

All of which has turned Toronto into a kind of professional sports embarrassment, where the best players in a particular sport appear to have as little faith in the city's teams as do the fans.

The stars in other cities don't want to come. And those few who do wind up in Toronto often wind up looking for a way out.

Meanwhile the losing continues.

The farewells for Roy Halladay and Chris Bosh could not have been more different but both represented the very same thing: premier athletes in their respective sports who left town because they'd decided their aspirations for a championship could not be met in Toronto.

The brief hope last July that Steve Nash was coming to Toronto, the clouded attempt to land Yu Darvish last winter and the inexplicable absence of the Leafs from being able to land marquee free agents in hockey are all examples of how marginalized the city has become when it comes to professional sports.

Yes, the Argos managed to stem that tide last December by bringing quarterback Ricky Ray to town, but the fact is it's been a while since the local CFL team has been able to shift the sports culture of Toronto in a significant way.

The Blue Jays acquiring three front line bonafide major league players in Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes doesn't guarantee the Blue Jays anything. (Just like, say, Buffalo Bills fans have come to realize that signing Mario Williams didn't guarantee them one of the NFL's top defences.)

And bold moves - such the Maple Leafs acquisitions of Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf - do not in themselves mark the imminent arrival of a winner.

But what the Blue Jays did this weeks is, at the very least, an act of good faith backed up by the willingness to spend money.

And an approach that marks a departure from the manner in which most Toronto teams have operated in recent years, including the Blue Jays, where it's been about developing prospects, finding diamonds in the rough or being the home of second chances -- essentially the only ways you can operate when you're afraid to spend money and-or good players won't chose to come here on their own.

Did the Blue Jays just become a better team this week? Probably. But no one will know for sure for a few more months and then some.

But the fact is for once this wasn't a move about the future, about for what someone is projecting years down the road when all the dominoes fall the right way.

This time it's about now.

And finally the Blue Jays are a part of a kind of conversation that's been had in Toronto far too rarely of late.

A conversation not about winning someday, but winning now.

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