Apathy Killing The Blue Jays




That’s the attendance at last night Toronto Blue Jays game. 11,598- think about all the events held at the dome, and try to come up with a smaller crowd. Seriously.

Rib fests, Wiggles, Tractor pulls, fishing shows, ARGO games, all have had more than that. The only team to draw worse than that is the Phoenix Coyotes in the exhibition game the other night!

What’s worse, baring a total and I mean total PR campaign, it isn’t going to get better any time soon.

The baseball guru’s are all writing about it now, and it’s good reading. Consider:

“If an observer had wanted to count the actual number of people in the seats at this game, it would have taken two or three innings, but only if you really, really took your time. When they opened the roof in the second inning, one press-box wit noted that it was probably so they could count people watching from the nearby condominium towers. To get a foul ball, you generally had to walk, not run. It was, in a word, depressing.

And that’s the season, in a nutshell. Or, in manager Cito Gaston’s words, “I mean, our pitching went down, and then our hitting went down, and then our whole team went down.”

The building holds 50. A number we will never see again. From 50 to 11. From the most respected franchise in baseball to this….. The Leafs have sucked for years….The Jays have caught up quick. The difference, Leaf fans like me are delusional. We still go. We still care. Jays fans….crickets….

“Or maybe it was just the end of hope, illusory as the hope peddled around here has been. Maybe it was a realization that this team has no clearly defined plan, no credible long-term leadership, and a largely absentee owner whose CEO, Nadir Mohamed, was quoted last week as saying Ricciardi “has been a great leader … He is somebody who has helped us and will continue to help us.”

Not everyone will agree. Ricciardi is identified with everything bad about this team, and it is just wrong to suggest otherwise. Meanwhile, Rogers Communications seems to be indicating that payroll could decrease – there are whispers that it will drop from US$80-million, though who knows how far – as revenues fall. Which would be a hell of a way to try to turn around the attendance.

“If you win, they’ll come back,” says Cito, the walking reminder of the long-gone golden years. “And that’s just the way it is. If you win, they come back. And if you don’t, they don’t.”

No, Cito- it’s not that simple. As many have pointed out, when they were winning earlier, they weren’t coming back. The mistrust runs deep. We families of four aren’t going to shell out the dough. This will be the first time since year 1 that I haven’t been to a game. Not one. I just couldn’t do it.

“And nobody is buying it. It’s amazing, really – this team operates in the fourth-largest market in North America, and it owns the building, and it feels like the Jays are closer to the Kansas City Royals than they are to L.A. or Anaheim, to Boston or New York. And at some point, doesn’t this franchise risk losing a generation of fans who only know the Jays as an also-ran? As Cito puts it, “You know, people forget.” That, or all they know is hopeless baseball. Rogers Communications has proclaimed its commitment to the team, but it sounds like empty corporate talk. What is this team selling? What, exactly, is there to believe in?”

Not just the franchise- the sport Bruce. My kids could care less. Not once did they ask to go to game. Adam Lind was at little TSM’s summer camp. He signed an autograph. He took photos. My son got a hat. He’s never thought of wearing it. He’s never asked about the Jays. Not once. He’s asked about TFC. He’s asked about the Argos. Not once about the Jays. They are dead to him. I take him to school in the morning. Not one Blue Jays hat, not one Blue Jays jersey.. He goes to a big school. All potential attendees. Not one sign of baseball.

“The Toronto Blue Jays must be sold this winter. Not in terms of changing ownership – the recent words of Nadir Mohamed and Paul Beeston ought to have eradicated that concern in all but the grassiest of knolls – but rather in the sense of selling the public on a pursuit that too often seems pointless: chasing the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Impossibility. Catch The Fever!”

Actually Jeff, I will settle for a pulse. It used to be a plan. Now I just want proof of life!

“The intriguing question, frankly, isn’t general manager J.P. Ricciardi. It’s Gaston. Ricciardi can be dealt with easily enough. Beeston has his replacement as president and CEO, it seems (Beeston is out of town on vacation until the middle of next week), and it’s pretty clear the new president could give the fan base its pound of flesh by simply firing Ricciardi before the expiration of his contract next fall. I’m concerned about any plan that would get rid of Ricciardi just to bring in somebody new and have that person’s first responsibility be trading Halladay. (“Congratulations on the new job! Now go trade the best pitcher in franchise history! Don’t worry that everybody in baseball knows you have to do it!”) But it is a quick and easy way to mollify the masses.”

Stand in front of a microphone, look your fans and the media eye to eye and say, in fan speak, not business talk that you actually care. Don’t talk about it being a sound business. Don’t talk about bottom lines. Try, and I do mean TRY to be passionate. Show a friggin PULSE. If you want my money, make an effort, hell fake it!

“If the Blue Jays want a plan to follow, they might look to the Toronto Maple Leafs. True, the fan bases are different: One is deeply skeptical, the other … oh hell, we don’t have enough time or space. Just work with me on this, okay? At any rate, the Maple Leafs made it pretty clear to anyone last year that they were going to stink. That was especially the case when Brian Burke was finally extricated from the Anaheim Ducks to become president and GM of the Leafs. And while that was being finalized, Leafs senior adviser Cliff Fletcher helped carry out some of the trash. It was a plan: tough love, to be sure. But a plan nonetheless, and one of the key tenets of that plan was the knowledge that, whatever the fallout, the guy who was going to be head coach when it was all settled was Ron Wilson. This is what the Blue Jays must now do. It’s not enough to have interim CEO Beeston saying that ownership is prepared to raise payroll to $120-million (U.S.) when the time is right. Off-the-record nudges and winks and corporate-speak are no good any more. ”

Exactly! Don’t stand in a nice corporate suit and speak nice talk about commitment. I say it again. I won’t buy a single ticket. I won’t buy a hat. I won’t buy a beer. I won’t go. By the looks of the stands of late, neither will too many others. Don’t sell me on the kids. Don’t feed me stats. I don’t want to hear it. I want to know what your going to do to earn my business back. In Florida the Panthers offer parking, food and all sorts of goodies. In Arizona, it was Vodka. What are you going to do????????? Free blackberries and iphones???? Something. Get up infront of the 11,000 on the last game and say, “we are really sorry. This is our mess, we screwed it up. We will make it up to you.”

“Change must be complete. It can’t be half-assed. The Flashback Fridays stuff? A generation doesn’t care any more. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. ”

No, the good old day chips have been spent. We are way beyond that. With the price of gas down, I would sooner drive to Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee to see a game then go down the street from my office. Baltimore, Boston and New York are nice spring, summer and fall destinations. You want my money, you are going to earn it.

“The Jays aren’t the Leafs, but they need to show their fan base that the imminent change will be properly managed. The road map is available just down the street.”

First there should be signs of imminent change. Right now there are no signs of anything.

So, all you out there, resist the urge to go. Let’s see how low we can go. Show the suits at Rogers that we actually care and we aren’t going to spend any more money.

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