I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a fan of the Blue Jays.
I started watching games at the tender age of five or six. That’s 35 years of being a die-hard loyalist; a considerably long time. I can recall the highs and the lows, the cheers and the jeers. It all comes expected with every new season – 2019 is no different, but there seems to be substantially more jeers this season than ever before.
Really, it started in 2018. Changes are a part of Major League Baseball and all professional sports, but the Blue Jays overhauled it all. They now seem to be a team undergoing a silent mutiny. They have a new captain at the helm, the decks have been swept clean of most of the old crew, they’re on a completely uncharted journey, and the navigation system seems to be a little wonky.
To a fan like myself this is both frightening and fascinating to watch. The team started the season strong; only a few weeks ago they were back to .500, hopes were high and spirits were surging. Vlad Guerrero Jr. was coming, the anointed hero – the one to save us all. Charlie Montoyo was the man to guide this ship, steer it past the pending storm and into calm waters. Now the inevitable slump has arrived and fingers are being pointed. The team is down in the basement once again with few signs of improvement. The pitching has struggled, the offense is depleted, and demotions have begun in earnest. More trades seemed destined on the horizon, and this team is now comprised of new players and only a few veterans from the past.
I think every fan has been left asking: “is there an actual direction?” – are Shapiro and Atkins making moves to better this team, or are they simply fooling us by making money and sitting upon a golden throne while fans struggle to justify paying for tickets?
A recent poll by ESPN showed the Blue Jays ranked as the 19th team with the lowest attendance in baseball – averaging a little over 19,000 per game for the 2018-2019 season. That’s an absolutely brutal 33% drop from their 2017 season, according to USA Today.
The question now remains: “what will bring back the fans?” We know it hasn’t been the aggressively discounted hot dogs or beer, and it certainly hasn’t been their performance of late. Even the recent hype over Vladdy Jr. has seemingly cooled as fast as it began with trolls on social media mocking his slow start in the majors. So are the fans annoyed that even the concept of a rebuild is now unacceptable and unbelievable? Is this entire experiment failing, or does it still hold legitimate promise? I know most of the faithful yearn for hope, but the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be dimming and quickly.
We also know there’s a good chance that Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins will be long gone before this team reaches a level where the fans are back and the team is competing again. There’s still a lot of work to do and a long road ahead that requires patience and unconditional support, but I think fans just want to know where exactly this ship is headed and if it will ever truly get back on course – because this navigation system needs to be fixed and fast. This isn’t the kind of journey worth writing home about.
So as we continue to watch the carnage unfold, the uncertainty will continue to eat away at our core but we’ll still pine for brighter days – like we always do. And as any seaworthy baseball curmudgeon will tell you: living below deck is never a sweet deal, but living below .500 is much worse.