Blue Jays and the bandwagon – has it left the city?
In 2014, the Toronto Blue Jays finished their season 17th overall in attendance, averaging just over 29,000 people per game. They ended the season in third place and out of contention, yet again. This was something that Jay fans were used to; watching their mediocre team, play in a mediocre ball park, finishing the season with a mediocre record.
Former Blue Jays General Manager, Alex Anthopoulos, who probably knew he wasn’t going to return in 2016, decided to finish the 2015 season out with a bang. And that he did; throughout four days in July, Anthopoulos made such impactful and significant moves that not only did the city come alive with Jays fever, but the country as a whole exploded in support, excitement and anticipation of what could finally happen.
In those four days, the Jays welcomed the additions of Troy Tulowitzki, LaTroy Hawkins, Mark Lowe, Ben Revere and, of course, David Price. Within hours of acquiring Price et al, tickets started selling faster than before. Game attendance started to rise. TV viewership saw their numbers increasing. People were proudly displaying their Jays’ gear and getting excited for the upcoming playoffs.
The Jays were defeated in the ALCS by the Kansas City Royals in six games, ending their fairy tale season. It was a disappointing end to a surreal last half of the season, but the fans were consistently there to support, scream, and cheer for their team on a nightly basis. The season might have started off somewhat quietly, but attendance numbers finished out strong, jumping to eighth in overall attendance.
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2016 couldn’t come fast enough and when it finally did, crowds came out in droves. With sell out after sell out occurring, the Jays ended up third in Major League attendance while finishing first in the American League. The team rewarded these faithful with a spectacular walk off win in the Wild Card game against the Baltimore Orioles to advance to the ALDS – their second trip in two years.
To say 2017 has been a bit of a disappointment is an understatement. Since Opening Day, the Jays have seen their share of injuries, losses, and unfortunate circumstances occur. However, the fans still supported, still cheered, and still showed up to the games for the first several months of the season. Surprisingly, attendance per game in April and May was higher than April and May of 2016, even though the Jays had a losing record.
Then something shifted this past summer. Attendance slowly started to drop. Lines to enter the stadium didn’t take 10 minutes anymore but four or five at most. And tickets were available for every game at a reasonable, if not hugely discounted price (via third party sites). This showed me, quite literally, that the bandwagon was leaving town. I know there are people who will disagree with what I’m suggesting but consider this: out of the last 25 home games (July 27 – September 11), attendance has been lower in TWENTY ONE of them compared to those dates in 2016 (http://www.crowdhitter.com/blue-jays-home-attendance-stats/).
Last Saturday’s attendance was 44, 218 which appears to be a great number. However, one needs to realize that the figure represents paid attendance and not how many people are actually at the game. Therefore, if the attendance was counted based on actual presence at this game, this number would most likely be lower (in my opinion as I was there). I was also at this past Monday’s game where the attendance was announced at 28,401, the lowest it’s been in 2017. Yet looking around at the thousands of empty blue plastic seats, I couldn’t help but think that number would be quite lower if we were counting the people actually present there.
Next: Blue Jays MiLB attendance totals for 2017
Maybe it’s because the Jays had a disappointing season and are in the last place in the AL East. Maybe it’s because in the two years that Jays’ President Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins have been at the helm, things haven’t gone according to plan (including the failure of re-signing Edwin Encarnacion). Or maybe it’s because Rogers has announced price increases for season ticket holders, a motivating factor not to spend any more money on a losing team. Whatever the reason may be, it appears as though the bandwagon is slowly leaving the city.