Teeing off the Off-season
JMandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE
Now that the season is over and before free agency hits, I thought it would be a good time to look over this year’s attendance and payroll figures. Honestly, I was pretty shocked with what I found. Before looking into it, I knew that attendance was up through 81 games. In fact, the Jays had 2,099,653 customers go through the gates over their 81 home games in 2012.
But, it was the progression in the figures that shocked me. I assumed that given the course of the season that the Jays would have had large attendance figures at the beginning of the season that would have tailored off before they jumped off a cliff at the end. If anything, the attendance figures rose slightly over the course of the season:
10 games: 481,863
40 games: 1,069,469
60 games: 1,663,222
81 games: 2,099,653
Even if I was a few of those people going through the turnstiles over the past 20 games, I can’t believe more fans came out at the end of the season than at the beginning of it. This isn’t the first times that fans completely befuddle me. Then again, there could be underlying economic and cyclical reasons for this.
Next I figured- why not choose an arbitrary point (say the past five years) to compare these figures and figure out the trends:
It ends up that 2008 was the last time that the Jays had over 2 million fans attending games (it wasn’t such an arbitrary starting point). Even though 2008 saw 200,000 more fans attending games than in 2012, the club payroll was also $27 million dollars higher and that is with inflation. The Jays records between these two years is flipped around despite the fact that their ranking in the AL East remains the same.
If you look at these figures you may be a little confused. The Toronto Blue Jays have ranked 4th in the AL East in the past four years with records moving up and below the 500 level and yet attendance figures and payroll figures have managed to fluctuate a fair amount. So either fans are dumb or the narrative is significantly more complicated; It is especially more complicated than the spin that comes out of the Jays front office.
The good news is that attendance is trending in the correct direction and that the Jays are moving towards being the middle to large market sized team that it is. Toronto, is the fifth largest city in North America. It just forgets that it is. At the same time, the money these days is in the television deals and these figures are far more secretive. Nevertheless, the TV market that is the entire Canadian country and the fact that ownership is vertically integrated with its TV partner should lay to rest the notion that the Jays are a small-market team or should operate like one.
At the same time, I think you can see that increasing pay-roll is not the silver-bullet that some like to think it is (those screaming for Prince Fielder last year). You can also see this point if you watched the Yankee’s yesterday or if you looked closer at A-ROD sitting firmly riding the pine.
So, yes. I don’t feel a bit of guilt or pity for the Jays who cry poor. But, spending money just for the sake of spending it is stupid in any business, including sports. Without question it sets you back. As always, A.A.’s free agent pursuit will be about getting value for our dollars instead of just spending our dollars. However, if we can get value for a large contract, it is about time that the Jays sign on the dotted line.
Let’s just hope that it isn’t five years for Kyle Lohse or 8 years for Josh Hamilton……