The hype surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays in one season has gone from overwhelming to barely audible.
And although the Major League Baseball team is faring better in the standing than when compared to the same point in time in 2013, fan support has dipped substantially.
Heading into Wednesday’s game against the Cleveland Indians, the Blue Jays were averaging 24,582 customers after 19 home engagements at Rogers Centre, almost 5,700 less than the average turnout through the same number of games in 2013.
That represents the second biggest per-game decline in the Majors so far this season, ahead of only the Philadelphia Phillies, whose drop is approaching 6,300.
Another slender gathering of just over 14,000 turned out for Wednesday’s game, barely making a dent in vast confines of the 48,000-seat facility where the Blue Jays have already performed before four sub-14,000 audiences this season.
This is significant when you consider that over the course of 81 home games last year, Blue Jays home attendance never once dipped below 14,000. The smallest turnout in 2013 numbered 15,684 on April 17 for a game against the Chicago White Sox.
“We’re coming off a year that had very high expectations and, let’s face it, was very disappointing,” Stephen Brooks, senior vice-president, business operations, for the American League club, said during an interview on Wednesday. “If this team continues to win and play competitive baseball as we get deeper in the season the fans will be back.”
A couple of more absolutely ponderous outings like Wednesday’s and the fan base might dwindle to the point where the outdoor facility at nearby Christie Pits would be a more suitable venue than cavernous Rogers Centre.
At least there you would be able to take the odd gulp of fresh air, something that was impossible at the indoor facility with the stench that the Blue Jays gave off.
Cleveland starter Corey Kluber had his way, allowing Toronto just two runs off four hits with nine strikeouts over seven innings to pace the Indians to a 15-4 laugher and square the three-game set a one game apiece.
All Kluber did was take perfect game into the fifth inning before the Blue Jays were able to ruffle his feathers with Adam Lind producing the first hit.
It was a forgettable outing for Toronto starter Dustin McGowan, who was hit hard and often.
McGowan surrendered four Cleveland runs off nine hits before he was mercifully lifted in the Cleveland fifth where a two-run homer by Carlos Santana provided the Indians with a 4-0 advantage.
Cleveland would go on to pound out 22 hits in the game, the most the Blue Jays have surrendered this year.
McGowan’s record is now 2-2 on the year.
Things got so bad for the Blue Jays that Steve Tolleson, a position player, was brought into the game to get the final out in the six-run Cleveland ninth.
Heading into 2013, the Blue Jays were the talk of the baseball world after a dizzying array of off-season moves.
That included a massive deal with the off-loading Miami Marlins that hooked Toronto a couple of starting pitchers in Mark Buehrle and the then marketable Josh Johnson, along with all-star shortstop Jose Reyes.
Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, fresh from a Cy Young Award effort with the New York Mets, was added as a free agent as was outfielder Melky Cabrera.
Fans were practically mapping out Toronto’s World Series victory parade even before the season started and interest in the team soared.
Pre-sales were strong and, even though the Blue Jays went into the tank early, losing 21 of their first 31 games to fall 10.5 games off the pace in the A.L. East by May 5th, never to recover, fans kept flocking to the stadium.
The Blue Jays would go on to average 31,316 per game, an overall increase of almost 437,000, the highest increase in MLB that season.
Now, a year later and perhaps that much wiser following a decidedly quieter off-season for the Blue Jays, the baseball crowd is being just a bit more fussy when it comes to parting with their disposable income.
Even though the Blue Jays are off to a better start and continue to hover around the .500 mark the fans are obviously not quite ready to buy in to what the baseball team is offering.
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