The Toronto Blue Jays have been making bold pronouncements that they intend to be a team to contend with heading into the 2013 baseball season.
Team president and chief executive officer Paul Beeston continued the trend Tuesday night, when he proclaimed the baseball team's attendance could eclipse the three-million mark should everything fall into place during the course of 2013.
With the dramatic improvement Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has made to the team's on-field product for this season, Beeston said, from a business standpoint, things are also looking up.
"The ticket sales are dramatically up, sponsorships are dramatically up," Beeston said during the organization's annual state-of-the-franchise shindig for season-ticket holders at Rogers Centre. "Everything's up. But it still comes down to winning. Everything's there. But it still comes down to winning."
He said season-ticket sales have also jumped significantly, but would not provide specifics. But the affable Beeston was a bit more forthcoming when asked if he felt attendance could reach three-million this year for 81 home dates.
"Yeah, depending on how we get out of the gate," he said. "We were 2.1 [million] last year, with a really rough August and September."
The Blue Jays, who finished with a record of 73-89 in 2012, averaged 25,921 fans for their home games. To reach an overall attendance mark of three million in 2013, they would need to average about 37,037 – which would put Toronto in the top 10 in baseball.
Expectations for the Blue jays have not been this high since the early 1990s, when the club was winning back-to-back World Series championships.
The optimism has been fuelled Anthopoulos's extreme off-season makeover that has added 10 fresh faces to the roster.
With the likes of shortstop Jose Reyes, starting pitchers R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, and left fielder Melky Cabrera all coming on board, Las Vegas book makers installed the Blue Jays as favourites to win the World Series.
And spring training doesn't even begin until next week.
The moves were a hit with those gathered Tuesday night – a number that likely surpassed 1,500 and was a significant increase over last year's edition.
They were feted with free beer and finger food before welcoming Beeston, Anthopoulos and new manager John Gibbons with a loud round of applause when introduced by team broadcaster Buck Martinez, who acted as master of ceremonies.
While the game in question is baseball, the questions were definitely softball, dealing with such matters as who will start at second base and when will grass be installed at Rogers Centre?
Gibbons handled the second base query, suggesting Maicer Izturis probably holds the upper hand in the competition over Emilio Bonifacio heading into spring training.
Beeston reiterated it is the club's intention to lay down a real grass playing surface, more sooner than later, as soon as things can be worked out with the building's other major tenant, the CFL's Toronto Argonauts.
Earlier, Gibbons told reporters that, with all things being equal with Casey Janssen and Sergio Santos going into spring training, that Janssen would start the season as the Blue Jays closer.
Santos had the job to start 2012 but didn't last a month before going down with a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery. Janssen took over and finished with 22 saves and a 2.54 earned-run average.
"We'll go with Casey," Gibbons said. "He's coming off a great year doing it. And Sergio missed a whole year, and that's big in his case, especially a guy with the experience level he's had.
"I mean he's only been pitching for a couple of years. That's big."
Gibbons also said he will be watching veteran designated hitter Adam Lind closely in spring training to see how he handles left-handed pitching, which has been a problem in recent years.
"Even though it's spring training, we still want to get an idea of how he's doing and whether we have to go to a platoon or not," the manager said.