Garton says …

Guest columnist Rich Garton wants ‘more bleacher creatures’

Last night’s crowd at the Rogers Centre was treated to a 5-4 victory as the Jays knocked off the slow-starting Tigers for the second night in a row. But it wasn’t the story on the field so much as it was in the bleachers.

Monday night’s “loud and proud” mob of 48,027 got so rowdy that the announcer, under Paul Beeston’s watchful eye, had to tell the Blue Jays faithful that the team would be forced to forfeit if the unruliness continued. After ejecting a few of the perpetrators and clearing projectiles off the field, the game went on.

Then there was Tuesday night, where a whopping 16,790 paid to watch B.J. Ryan blow his first save of the season, only to be saved by the Jays’ bats in the bottom half. Wait, 16,790? Wow. That’s sad, even for Toronto.

But apparently there were more than a few factors at play. First, the Rogers Centre was serving a penalty for license violations handed out by the provincial government. Then there’s the Tuesday factor. It’s statistically the least attended night in professional baseball, even with the cheap-seats promotions. The Rogers Centre is also only going to announce its paid attendance this year, rather than the number of bodies that marched through the turnstiles.

But 16,790? Ouch. Is that indicative of the product and the prices? So I decided to crunch some numbers, because that’s what I do best. The Blue Jays attendance was dismal early in the 21st century, according to data from the Major League Baseball website. Figures went from 20,208 in 2002 to 24,876 in 2005. Then, in 2006 the attendance spiked to where it currently sits after the 2008 campaign, around 29,626.

So after looking at the numbers, the Jays have seen a gradual rise in attendance over the past seven seasons. Does that seem right? Maybe Torontonians really do love their Blue Jays.

I don’t know the answer. I’m no marketing expert, but the numbers look good. The Rogers Centre’s cavernous confines are tough to fill, and the organization relies heavily on plenty of Red Sox and Yankees games to juice the stats. And with the new stadium in the Bronx, even more Yankees fans will flock to T.O. because of a lack of available tickets in Yonkers. It all bodes well for the suits upstairs.

Unfortunately, I think this is giving management the wrong message. It’s like the fans are saying, we’ll give you a gradual rise in attendance, and you cut the team’s payroll by $20-million. Do we have a deal? How about you bail on every free-agent too? NICE!

Yes, Jays fans have seen some good baseball over the past few seasons. But honestly, does the team deserve the numbers? The stats say yes, but I’m not totally convinced.

The Jays have two wins, no losses. Their average attendance for 2009 is 32,409. If the former numbers hold up, the latter ones only have one way to go. But too many no-beer nights and a damning economic recession come out to play, those numbers may slide.

No team wants to go the way of the Expos. Thankfully, I’m an optimist. Just like the Rogers Centre’s attendance, I’m keeping my glass half-full.

One Response to “Garton says …”

  1. Jay B Says:

    the 2nd home game is always a piss poor showing in terms of attendance…i’m assuming that’s why it was chosen as one of the ‘dry’ days, and i think last yr’s 2nd home game was in the 12-14K range, but i can’t remember for sure…it’s really nothing to be alarmed about, it seems to be the norm…

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