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Guide to the Toronto Blue Jays Stealing the AL East Title

One thing that the Toronto Blue Jays have shown this season is that they are consistently inconsistent.  On occasion they have looked like a team equipped to raise their play to a new level—only to follow it up with disappointing stretches against teams they should beat (teams worse than .500) or fall short against teams they are competing with for a playoff spot. 

They also haven’t been able to get on a roll.  As of May 23, they have gone on five winning streaks of two or more games followed by losing streaks of two or more games.

They began their season alternating wins and losses two at a time—splitting their first 12 games. They then swept the Kansas City Royals (April 20-24) but then lost their next four—bringing them back to .500 (10-10) after 20 games. 

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5 Benefits Vladimir Guerrero Could Provide the Blue Jays in a Pennant Race

The signing of Vladimir Guerrero comes as a low-risk/high-reward move for the Toronto Blue Jays.  He was signed to a one-year deal worth $1.3 million, which will be prorated based on his time with the club this season. 

At 37 years of age, it remains to be seen how much Vladdy has to offer.

He is probably Hall of Fame bound as he is a career .318 hitter with 449 home runs and 1,496 RBI. 

Adam Lind will likely be most affected if Guerrero can play his way onto the Blue Jays’ roster.  As of May 15, he is batting just .184 with three homers and 11 RBI in 31 games.

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Toronto Blue Jays: Do They Need a New Stadium South of the Border?

The Toronto Blue Jays are a team on the rise and appear to be on the verge of taking the next step in arguably the toughest division in baseball.  

They boast one the best hitters in the game in Jose BautistaMLB’s 2010 and 2011 home run champion, their rotation is led by 2011 All-Star Ricky Romero and they also have budding superstar and Langley, BC native Brett Lawrie to showcase.    

If the Jays are to contend this season and beyond, then they will need larger crowds at the Rogers Centre.

They were the first team to draw over four million fans and accomplished the feat three consecutive seasons (’91, ’92 and ’93). 

In 1993, they averaged 50,098 fans per game for a season attendance of 4,057,947—the sixth most in MLB history, trailing only four New York Yankees seasons (2005-2008) and one Colorado Rockies season in 1993 (4,483,350).

Unfortunately for the Jays, those days are long gone. 

In fact, they haven’t averaged more than 30,000 since 1998.  

Last season, they finished 25th in league attendance with 22,445 and as of May 1, they rank 21st with 24,628 fans per game—a figure that’s likely inflated due to their home opening series with the Boston Red Sox, which combined to draw over 100,000. 

On the flip side, 1996 and 1998 was the last time the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox averaged crowds under 30,000 respectively.  To take it further, the Yankees have averaged more than 40,000 since 2001 and over 50,000 between 2005 and 2008. 

The Yankees’ rise in attendance beginning in 1996 should come as no surprise as that season marked their first AL East title in 15 years. 

Since 1995, they have failed to qualify for post-season play just once (2008).  During that time they have won the AL East 11 times, which includes a remarkable run of nine consecutive division titles from 1998 to 2006.   

Similar to the Yankees, the Jays routinely drew large crowds when they were competitive during the mid-80s straight through their 1992 and 1993 World Series championships. 

Just how much revenue are the Blue Jays losing out on? 

Consider this:

If the Jays improved their attendance by 5,000, multiplied by an average ticket price of roughly $20, then they could increase their revenue by $100,000 per game, and provide the club an additional $8.1 million in ticket sales. 

If concession and parking revenue are also factored, then that total could possibly double.     

Should the Blue Jays play part of their schedule south of the border if their attendance maintains their bottom-third standing and millions of dollars in potential revenue are lost? 

In 2010, the Blue Jays-Phillies series set for June 25-27 was moved to Philadelphia due to security concerns as Toronto was also hosting the G20 Summit. 

Although it was played like a home game with the Jays wearing white, batting in the bottom of the inning and with the DH rules in play,  the Phillies clearly had the advantage by playing at home. 

The series was a success from a financial point of view as the three-game set drew a combined attendance of 130,073 (43,076, 44,426, and 42,571).

The Blue Jays did not consider a neutral site. 

“I guess that was an option, whether we’d go to Cleveland or whether we’d go to Detroit or whether we’d go up to Ottawa and play in one of those places,” stated Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston. “At the very conclusion of all our deliberations, the easiest was just to go to Philadelphia.”

They also worked out a financial agreement with the Phillies.

“As it became a little bit more definitive that it was happening, we kept him [Phillies president Dave Montgomery] informed as to what was happening. He’s got costs of putting on the games, so we’ve worked out an arrangement that hopefully will make us both revenue neutral.”

In 2004, the Jays met the Montreal Expos for a final time (July 2-4) at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Although the stadium seats roughly 18,000, the series averaged just 8,443 during their three-game set.   

Ironically, MLB’s intention to increase attendance by playing in San Juan attracted a smaller turnout than the series had drawn in Montreal the previous year.

If the Jays believe they are not generating enough revenue, then playing their ‘home’ games in big market cities could definitely help, but what if it meant playing in Boston or New York?

Is it ethical? 

Perhaps from a financial standpoint, but the rich would get richer and it would compromise the integrity of the game. 

Former New York Mets catcher Rod Barajas did not like the idea of the Jays playing their series in Citizens Bank Park.

“I definitely don’t think it’s fair, regardless of if they’re hitting first or hitting second,” he said at the time. “They still have their whole crowd there.”

It is doubtful that the Jays would consider playing a portion of their games south of the border given that they are backed by media giant Rogers Communication Inc. 

Winning will bring the fans back as the city is starving for a winner given the current state of their other major sports teams (Maple Leafs, Raptors, FC and Argonauts).   

If they can build a steady title contender, then their attendance could return to the levels they reached during their glory years. 

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