Yawning Crowds Speed Up Vlad’s Ascent To Toronto

A couple of weeks ago I listed some of the reasons why the Blue Jays probably should resist temptation and not call young Vladimir Guerrero Jr. up to the big leagues right away, as impressive as he’s being in AA New Hampshire. And impressive he has been- so far in 46 games there, he’s swatting an incredible .433 average, with 10 homers, 50 RBI and an unwordly 1.194 OPS. And no one’s writing headlines about his defense, but he’s only commit 5 errors at third so far, not bad for about a third of the way through the year.

It would make sense to let Vlad mature a little more, send him for a couple of months to AAA Buffalo and see how he fares at the next level before calling him upto the majors. Not only would he benefit from developing more and not being thrown into the spotlight at age 19, but the club would as well by those factors as well as saving money down the road. The sooner he’s called up, the sooner he starts clicking towards big arbitration cases and free agency. Seems like there’s little upside to having him come on up to Toronto right now with the team seemingly all but done for the year anyway (in terms of making the playoffs.)

Nevertheless, I think we’ll see him at Rogers’ Centre before Canada Day, and this is why: indifference to the current team. USA Today noted pointedly today that the Jays lead the majors in an undesireable category this year- drop off in attendance. So far in 2018, the team’s drawn 320 000 fewer fans through the gates than last year at this point. At the current rate, they’ll only barely break 2.1 million, compared to 3.2 million last season. That’s a big drop, and a big dip in revenue for the team and Rogers.

It’s also a bit of a head-scratcher. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team draw less than 2016, when they were coming off their first playoff appearance in two decades and were riding high. And indeed, it is down by a long shot. But we’re comparing it to last year’s sadsack team, which waited until the final weekend of the year to escape the AL East basement. It really makes little sense.

True, the Jays have looked weak of late. But they started strong, in stark contrast to last year. Remember last year’s 3-12 start? This year they clipped 10 wins in their first 15 contests. Indeed, by May 8 last year, they were 10 games behind, and sitting at 11-20… but they still drew over 40 000 to the Rogers’ Centre for a game against Cleveland. This year not many times have 30 000 shown up.

Perhaps the weather? Well, Toronto did have a rather nasty, cold April and as we remember, one game ended up postponed due to ice breaking through the stadium roof. So, perhaps people didn’t feel like going out in the inclement weather? Maybe, but now it’s turned to summer-like weather and the allure of an open roof and warm skies hasn’t boosted the turnstile business any.

Could it be the Raptors and Leafs great seasons digging into the fan base? After all there is only so much ticket money to spread around. This would make sense … if the attendance was rebounding now that both the hockey and basketball team are done. Or if the Maple Leafs didn’t tank entirely in the NHL playoffs.

People disgusted by Roberto Osuna’s arrest? Doubtful given that the team did nothing to protest his suspension by the league (no matter what wording MLB uses for it) and no players really jumped up to voice support for the pitcher’s actions. Besides, one again – attendance was way down when he was on the job and doing it well. It must be something else.

Which makes me think it comes down to the lack of Jose Bautista. Or, more accurately, the lack of any real iconic Jays player the crowds relate to and cheer on for better or worse. And, no, I don’t see Josh Donaldson falling into that category, which is all the more reason why almost everyone in the game asserts he will be traded before the All Star Game, even if only for a few sacks of baseballs and a dumping of his salary. One might suspect the casual fan- not you, dear reader, or anyone else who really follows the sport, but the “nothing else on TV” type fan – wouldn’t be able to name a single Jay this season. And that’s a PR problem.

Which brings us back to Vlad. More and more by the day the Toronto baseball headlines are being dominated by a teenager two levels below the majors. We’re given updates on how he’s dominating his league like no other and being assured (perhaps a wee bit worryingly) that if Shoehi Ohtani is the “next Babe Ruth”, Guerrero is the “next Ted Williams”, the Moses for the team that will lead Toronto to the promised land. A lot to put on his shoulders, as I’ve said before. But, with the buzz about him, the Jays may well see the way to save the season, monetarily at least, is dumping Donaldson and his monster contract and get the youngster the fans are clamoring for onto the artifical turf sooner than later. I figure he’ll debut around Canada Day.

While we’re at it, another famous name is making waves alongside Vlad in New Hampshire. Another Hall of Famer’s son is tearing it up- Cavan Biggio, who plays second like his dad Craig did for a number of years with Houston. Cavan is hitting .312 but leads his team with 12 homers, has 40 RBI and a lofty 1.089 OPS second only to Guerrero. If Devon Travis continues to struggle, Cavan is likely the team’s 2019 second baseman.

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