Used to be Blue Jays fans, and the organization, would look fondly back upon the championship years of the early 1990s when packed houses of 50,000 or more were all but guaranteed every night.
These days, the good old days that spawn fond memories seem to be 2007 and 2008, at least from a business standpoint. Average attendance of 29,000-plus seemed to indicate local interest was on the uptick.
Now, it doesn't seem that way.
With a shocking attendance figure of 10,658 from Thursday night, the Jays average attendance for this season has dipped a little further to around the 20,700 mark, a stunning 30 per cent drop over the past three seasons. The last time attendance was this low was way back in 2002 when the team average 20,208 per game.
Baseball in general, of course, is down, and has been for two years. This year it appears the overall figure will reflect a league-wide drop in attendance of about seven per cent, while, the Jays will be down about 10 per cent from last year.
The confusing part is that with Paul Beeston back in charge, the disliked J.P. Ricciardi gone, a local boy running the front office and an appealing youth movement, it was expected this would the year GTA baseball fans began to feel more enthusiastic about the team.
Instead, attendance suggests the Jays are less popular now than they were last year, and definitely from three or four years ago.
'Tis a puzzlement.
Wtih Jose Bautista swatting homers at a major league-leading pace, an impressive young pitching staff featuring Brandon Morrow and some exciting prospects on the way, one might have thought there was an opportunity at hand for the Jays to recover some lost ground, not lose more. Generally speaking, local media types have approved of the direction of the team, some suggesting this has been nearly a triumphant season despite a record just about .500. Moreover, its not like any of the other pro teams in town are producing championship-quality teams.
So what's the reason behind the drop? Well, the stadium, of course. The Rogers TV issues haven't helped. Having a caretaker manager doesn't exactly get the masses excited. And, as has been the case for a long, long time, no meaningful games in August, let alone September, kills interest. Playing in the tough American League East continues to be an issue, although another competitive season from low payroll Tampa Bay is gradually taking away the division in which the Jays play as a meaningful excuse.
The season began with some shockingly low numbers, but then there was some recovery. Now, it seems the season may end on a low, which has to leave the Jays thoroughly puzzled as to what it will take - if anything - to bring the people back.