Toronto Blue Jays attendance has skyrocketed as the team prepares for their first pennant race and playoff charge in 22 years.
Ray Kinsella was told “if you build it, they will come” in the movie Field of Dreams, causing him to carve a baseball field out of his corn and welcome ghosts of White Sox past to play private games for him and his family. It has long been suggested in baseball that “if you build it, they will come”, referring to the positive correlation between investing in the team and benefiting from increased attendance and revenue.
Toronto Blue Jays
While it makes sense that fans are more willing to support a winning team, is this adage true? Examples are abound of teams that invested, made extreme playoff charges, and still never got the attendance bump they expected. The Rays are the obvious example, who have trouble packing The Trop in September and October. More recently, the Houston Astros have invested heavily in their team, lead their division for much of the year, and have had poor mid-week attendance numbers.
In Toronto, the Blue Jays have seen insane attendance increases throughout September, including mid-week sellouts and four-digit ticket prices on the secondary market. The whole town is wearing blue (which means they’re buying Jays gear from the team en masse) and flex packs, playoff tickets and 2016 season tickets have been flying off the shelf.
Longtime insiders around the club say the 2015 Blue Jays scene is even more intense and spectacular than the 1992/1993 Blue Jays with younger crowds, louder crowds, and more intense crowds. In comparison, the 1992 Blue Jays crowds were very corporate in feel.
The point being, the Blue Jays brass always hypothesized that attendance would increase in proportion (or greater) to the investment in the team, but they’ve never know for sure, and 2015 has proven this hypothesis resoundingly. What that means is that Blue Jays executives have better data to support ongoing and increased investment in the team, with actual sales data to correlate to their investments. This is great for Blue Jays fans, because if the team can actually profit in the short term from investment on the field, they’ll be financially motivated to do so, and won’t rely on investing for straight-up winning reasons.
I feel that a few other interesting hypotheses were tested out and proven this year, which will have implications for the team on and off the field for years to come:
The “treading water” theory:
It’s been said that if great teams can tread water for most of the season, and then get hot for stretches, it’s all they need to do to amass enough wins to win the division. The Jays were 51-51 when the Blue Jays Revolution began, with an ailing bullpen and crappy starting pitching. However, by treading water at .500 and staying within striking distance, the team was able to capitalize on a late season run and amass a ton of wins. Hypothesis: proven.
The “defense and pitching” theory:
They say defense and pitching win championships. They also say the game is 90% mental and the other half is physical (RIP Yogi), so how can you trust what they say? At 51-51 the Blue Jays addressed their glaring holes on defense and pitching. They shored up the bullpen by bringing in Hawkins, Lowe and promoting Sanchez, and their biggest flaw turned into a position of depth. They added David Price to the rotation and got their ace Marcus Stroman back, giving them the best pitching staff in the AL (yes I said it).
Then they addressed their abysmal infield defense by bringing in Tulowitski and Pennington (I still dream about those 2 runs he saved vs. the Yankees) and kept Ryan Goins around. The result is that the offense got a platform on which they could shine, but not need to score 9 every night. Defense and pitching might really win championships. Hypothesis: proven
The “culture” theory:
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Culture is a tricky one, because those who don’t believe in its effect can always say that we have no idea what happens in a Major League clubhouse, so we cannot comment. I never agreed with that, because at the end of the day ball players are humans, and we all suffer from the same human condition and hierarchy of needs, and working with good people has to help. The Blue Jays brass decided to address culture last offseason, shipping off the grumpy likes of Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus and bringing in proven winners – guys with more years of making the playoffs than missing the playoffs – such as Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, Josh Donaldson, LaTroy Hawkins and Chad/Cliff Pennington.
While it’s true we don’t really know what happens in the locker room, it sure looks like a happier, more serious and less divided bunch than it has in the past. And for me, I’m willing to declare the culture theory and experiment an immense success. Hypothesis: proven.
Hopefully this will all translate into playoff success in 2015, and the team can move into 2016 knowing that continued investment in the team will result in an opened floodgate of revenue, and this team will remain competitive for the near future.