In 2016, Marcus Stroman wrote in The Player’s Tribune about how Toronto is a baseball city. At the time, it was; the Jays average attendance in 2015 was 34,504, 8th in all of Major League Baseball. It continued into
Throwback to April 7, 1977, when 44,649 fans were in attendance for the first ever Toronto Blue Jays game. At the time, Labatt held 45% ownership in the club, and we’re extremely proud of our ongoing partnership, which is now in its 43rd season! #LetsGoBlueJays pic.twitter.com/Fs7klZba1L— Labatt Breweries (@LabattBreweries) April 4, 2019
However, the good times ended quickly for the Jays. After back to back ALCS appearances in 2015 and 2016, the team managed only 76 wins in 2017, followed by 73 wins in 2018. The explanation for the dip in wins is obvious; the glory teams of 2015/2016 fell apart rather quickly. David Price left for Boston after the 2015 season, Edwin Encarnacion left after 2016 and many more important role players such as Chris Colabello were no longer part of the team.
This, coupled with core pieces like Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki vastly under performing and struggling with injuries led to a Jays team that was a shell of its former championship level self in 2017. Donaldson was traded last August to Cleveland, while Tulowitzki was released in December after missing the entire 2018 season with bone spurs in his right ankle.
As a result of the lack of talent on the club, the Rogers Centre has gone back to having its infamous nickname, “The Coffin.” The Jays saw their Opening day attendance decrease by nearly 3,000 from last season, as they sold 45, 048 tickets in comparison to 48, 115 sold for Opening Day in 2018. The egregious numbers start after Opening Day, however. The next day, the Jays’ attendance was a measly 18, 054, down more than 15, 000 from last year’s second game. On April 1, the Jays had their lowest attendance since 2010 with just 10, 460.
Blue Jays attendance for series against Orioles— Brian Swane (@BrianSwane) April 4, 2019
Monday – 10,460
Tuesday – 12,110
Wednesday – 11,436
As far as I can tell, this is the first time since the SkyDome/Rogers Centre opened in 1989 that the Jays have had 3 consecutive home crowds less than 13,000
The Rogers Centre is an intriguing venue in how there are vast differences in the building atmosphere. On a sunny day in the summer when the Jays are contenders, there’s nothing better than the sold out “Skydome” with the roof open. But when the team is bad and nobody goes to games, it’s as quiet as a church. While this season will feel really long for Jays fans, it’ll feel even longer for Jays management when they look into the stands and see a bunch of empty seats.
The problem isn’t advertising or promotions. It’s the lack of
Bring Up The Kids
So what’s the solution? Lower ticket prices? More promotion nights? The answer is simple: Call up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The top prospect in all of baseball has been torching the minor leagues for long enough and Jays fans are ready to see their golden boy.
When he gets called up, “The Coffin” will be resurrected, at least partially. Vladdy represents hope for the future, and right now the future is all the rebuilding Jays can sell. He can flat out rake, and what baseball fan doesn’t want to see that?
Bisons Opening Day Roster includes infielder Bo Bichette, the #11 overall prospect of the Top 100 according to MLB Pipeline. Bichette is rated as Toronto’s 2nd overall prospect behind only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Outfielder— Josh Reed (@4JoshReed) April 1, 2019
The reality is, stardom, or at least the possibility of stardom is what will bring Jays fans to the ballpark. If Vladdy is called up, should the other highly anticipated Jays prospect, Bo Bichette also be called up?
Bichette hit for a .417 batting average in spring training and just debuted in AAA at the age of 21. If he dominates AAA (which isn’t an easy feat), some will certainly want to see Bichette as an August or September call-up. By then, Jays management and ownership may be tired of empty seats and could consider it. If it makes sense for his development, then why not? Jays fans need something to be interested in, after all.
Thankfully for fans, management won’t overreact to the empty seats and try to forge a trade just to drive up ticket sales. They may, however, use call-ups such as Guerrero Jr and Bichette to increase fan interest. Hey, if it makes sense, go for it. Management just needs to be sure that they’re bringing young prospects up for the right reasons.
After all, Toronto sports fans always come back. The nostalgia of the summers of 2015 and 2016 will never leave their memories. For now, it’ll be a tough few years before “The Coffin” gets resurrected in this city.