18

Is There Anything the Blue Jays Could Do To Get You To Renew Your Season Tickets?

Now there’s a question that’s going to keep some people at 1 Blue Jays Way up at night. But seriously: is there anything they can do?

I know that there are plenty of people who happily keep their tickets through thick and thin, but I wonder about those of us who inflated the numbers over the last two seasons. I wonder just how entrenched they now are as year-in, year-out season ticket holders. And I especially ask, at this point, because a lot my own response to the rebuild-or-don’t-rebuild question has tried to grapple, at least a little bit (and at least as much as I can, as a total layman), with the business aspect of it, as well as the baseball side.

The Jays don’t have to be especially bad next year. They can take some reasonable-enough half measures, continue to build, and not completely alienate their fan base, I think. Plus, fans will be fans, to varying degrees, pretty much no matter what — even if they’re dormant for twenty goddamned useless years. And if they do that and team doesn’t completely fall apart out of the gate next April, they can salvage a whole lot of their TV audience, I think.

Can they avoid alienating their ticket base, though?

It’s funny that I’ve mostly avoided that question, because this year, for the first time, I’ve been a part of that base.

Last year, like a lot of fans, I elected to buy season tickets for 2017 in order to get priority on 2016 playoff tickets. I had been a Toronto Star Pass holder for years, until it was grandfathered all the way out. I briefly switched to Flex Packs, and they were turfed for decidedly less flexible “Game Packs” last fall, at which point, I finally took the plunge.

I sure as hell won’t be doing it again in 2018. For reasons as obvious as the team’s games have become soul-crushing affairs.

That’s not the whole of it, though. I wasn’t under too many illusions when I wrote about some of these issues last fall, as the new “Game Packs” were being announced. A lot of fans feared Rogers taking their money and then going cheap on the 2017 roster — fears I thought were almost certainly unfounded. And say what you will about how they chose to build their roster for this season, they did try to put a competitive team on the field.

I’m not bitter about that part. Like everybody else in the goddamned universe, when camp broke at the end of March, I didn’t expect we’d be sitting here four months later with the Jays having got a combined 1.2 WAR out of Donaldson (+1.2), Tulowitzki (+0.3), Bautista (+0.1), Morales (-0.4), and Sanchez (0.0) — plus less than three wins combined from Devon Travis (+0.7), J.A. Happ (+0.6), and Marco Estrada (+1.6).

In fact, I’m completely willing to watch them try again to be competitive next season — to hope on better health from Donaldson and Sanchez, and better players to fill in the gaps around what’s still a pretty good core. I’ll buy in on whatever hope the front office is going to try to sell me! It just won’t be with that kind of money again. (This is a decision made easier by the fact that I haven’t been in Toronto much to use my tickets this year, but I assure you, my thoughts on it would be no different if I had).

How many people are with me? Because here’s the part of that tweet-heavy piece I wrote last fall that, unfortunately, really gets to the nut:

What should be especially worrying to the Jays is that, at this point, I don’t think there’s anything they can do between now and next spring to change my thinking on this. And the things they could do — go out and spend like mad, blow up the farm system again for big league talent, somehow go ape-goof and make the damn playoffs again this year — make very little sense. (Oh, they should spend more — always they should spend more — I’m just not sure about throwing good money after bad and dealing with the aftermath of whatever massive hypothetical contracts they’d be handing out. They should also make the playoffs this year! But even acknowledging that they still theoretically have a chance feels, at this point, a bit Pollyanna-ish.)

I know that my decision on this has already been made. And I suspect I’m not alone.

So… yeah. Despite all the chatter we’re hearing about trades and rebuilds and the roster and where they go from here, just what the scope of this problem is might be the biggest question of them all. And if the answer is that scope of it is real big — too big to justify continuing to keep payroll as high as it was this season — the question that comes next is maybe inevitable: why the hell not just go and do the fucking rebuild already then?

Part of the argument for retooling, I’ve maintained, is saving as much of the brand, the TV audience, and season ticket base as possible. But if that’s going to erode in a big way anyway…

  • PeterJMoss

    The TV ratings thing is a Rogers owning the Jays issue that most teams don’t have to face. They sign their TV deal and get their money. Jays success feeds revenue to different parts of Rogers (cable/internet subscriptions or upgrades, commercial rates on TV/Radio, carryover ratings to other programs on TV/Radio, website advertising, etc) so really need Rogers to buy in to a full rebuild even if you think its the best move baseball wise.

  • Moose

    I used to be a flex pack holder. I felt that I was forced into a 20 game pack this year just be guaranteed playoff tickets – and a piss poor number of them too. I won’t be back unless the flex pack returns. I’d rather pick up tickets on StubHub below face.

  • lukewarmwater

    The travelling circus of McGregor and Mayweather visited 4 major markets for the farcical press conferences. The four were L.A., Toronto, New York and London. Obviously being the 4th or 5th largest market in North America gives The Rogers clan a tremendous advantage. Opening day a sell out. Boston and Yankees traditionally bring in an exra 8 to 10 thousand and they are close to one quarter of your home games. Throw in July 1st, promo nights, maybe the Dodgers coming to town next season or the Cubs etc. and the bean counters and blue suits of the Rogers empire can reasonably expect close to 2.5 million. The Jays have garnered a significant young fan base, the crowd that enjoys the game, the atmosphere, the over priced beer, admiring the scenery in the stands etc. A lot of parks in baseball these days with great concessions of a variety of food, activities for the kids, novelty items, give aways. Did you get a Grilli apron for father’s day etc. etc. etc. M.L.B. similar to most major league sports is totally satisfied with parity a.k.a. mediocrity where as of July 23rd, only 7 teams in both the A.L. and N.L. are 7 games over 500. The two world series finalists of last year are a combined 11 games over 500. M.L.B. owners have realised that give the fans a game on the field but give also a fun atmosphere in the stands.
    Expect Rogers management to use Gibby as the scape goat to be thrown under the bus. The theme for 2018 will be similar to a lot of clubs, that the kids are a coming. Which in reality is the case with the Jays. Out here in God’s country the merchandise buying might be down slightly but the annual pilgrimage to Safeco field will see the tradional 15 to 20,000 fans from Vancouver and Western Canada to watch Canada’s team perform in the emerald city will continue. No tears for Rogers as they won’t need any car wash fund raisers to rake in the cash. New marketing schemes, especially with the electronic field as well as in Rogers mind, necessary increases in prices. Just the other day the poor Habs season ticket holders found out that they will pay an extra $150.00 if they insist on the old traditional ticket stubs. Yesiree, Sports owners have only scraped the surface on raising extra revenue from the devoted and loyal Jay fans similar to fans of most of the other major league teams.

  • JonShell

    Jays viewership (from public info) recently has mirrored attendance, so you’d expect it to be down if attendance is down. Even if it does come back in early 2018, it will be too late to matter for next year’s budget. They’ll set the budget based at least in part on leading indicators of 2018 attendance, and I’d assume they’d expect a similar change in viewership. So, I would guess your feeling about renewal is similar to a ton of others, and like someone else mentioned (and I spent some time looking into) no one is going to try to make money buying tickets next year. That means that unless Rogers chooses to make less money next year because they hold out hope for a quick return of the fans if they start 2018 well, there is no question at all the player budget will be lower next year. And, unfortunately, there’s lots of evidence that even if they start 2018 well it takes a very long time to get the fans back. Expecting anything other than a lower payroll next year I think is choosing to ignore facts. Which I guess is sort of the trend these days, so who knows…

  • TiminElkGrove

    Numeris (TV Ratings’ top 30 list) has the Blue Jays at 636k for the week of July 3-9, 844k the week before, 681k the week before that, and 752k the week before that. Last year, audiences were at 1.236m, 933k, 967k, and 981k for the same four weeks. That’s a 30% decline year over year but still higher than 2015 numbers (which weren’t on the charts that year).

    So despite the drop in audience there is still a greater audience overall despite the Blue Jays being way out of it and playing some of their worst baseball in many years.

    So, how does that translate to Season ticket holders? I think it will be the same reaction – I expect about a 30% drop in season tickets. Serious fans will assess the Jays’ actions in the off season and will conclude that making the playoffs will not happen in 2018.

    Then again, in 2015, the Jays were two games under .500 when they went through their streak, made the acquisitions, and went for it. I was at the game when Tulo was acquired back in 2015, and was able to secure 100 level tickets about 20 feet from the 3rd base dugout for about 60% of face value. Now I have to pay about a 60% premium for the same seats.

    From a baseball perspective and cost perspective, the Jays are paying 64 million next year in Tulo, Martin, Morales, and Happ. Josh is under control. Pearce and Smoak are additional 10m. 7 different players are in arbitration (Stro, Zeke, Loup, Pillar, Osuna, Devon, and Sanchez). So next year you hold camp for the #4 and #5 starters and possibly acquire a FA in the off-season, dump JoeyBats and hope for the best in your bullpen and starters.

  • Nice Guy Eddie

    Here’s the thing. Do you have any idea how many people in the history of the Blue Jays bought seasons tickets when they were in the playoffs and then bailed as soon as they were out? You’re one of thousands who now play golf and follow hockey. That’s baseball in Toronto. One commenter here says he’ll buy sub-face tickets on Stubhub. There was an article quoting secondary market prices for Blue Jays tickets. They’ve been below face all year. Since opening day. Has as much to do with the excitement having waned and the fad fizzling after making the playoffs two years in a row. Who cares? Baseball was so yesterday. That’s the Toronto baseball market. So don’t renew your seasons tickets. The good thing is there’ll be a real fan with seats behind you who gets to move up. That’s baseball in Toronto.

    • Jeff2sayshi

      Season tickets are a major investment. One of the major points of the piece was the front office decision to remove more cost effective options for people who can’t afford to pay for 81 games up front.

      The thing I’m curious about (and I suppose I could just go check myself) is with dynamic pricing in effect, what are single game ticket prices looking like? Anybody who’s been to stubhub on a game day knows you can get a plethora of $6 seats. What will it look like next year when all these season tickets aren’t being sold off.

  • TGreg

    I’m not sure the question is as straightforward as it has been posed. Ultimately ownership has to recognize that it’s impossible to maintain the season ticket numbers that have been established with the success of the past few seasons indefinitely. So what would you prefer as ownership – retaining the highest possible season ticket base for 2018 knowing that it will lead to 2-3 years of declines after that, or 1-2 year of declines to get back to competitive – i.e. rising season ticket numbers – quickly. I’d think that minimizing the down years as much as possible should be the priority from a business perspective, as opposed to retaining the numbers for one more year.

    • Jeff2sayshi

      Except you’re forgetting corporate philosophy of this year HAS to be bigger than last year or you lose market value. The market cares not for your long term plans.

  • STH

    Very interesting post. At the beginning of the Season I had a similar back and forth with my season ticket account manager. The effect of it was:

    You’re raising prices
    You’re making it harder to exchange seats with the advent of the “categories”
    You’re cancelling nifty perks like the state of the franchise
    You’re raising the price on the giveaways
    Last season they severely limited the amount of playoff tickets compared to 2015 (2015 I got 3 sets of solid tickets, 2016 just one)
    You’re making the payment plans way less flexible

    This is all fine and dandy if you have a World Series contender. I will sustain that, but I warned him these are major mistakes if the team stops winning. I think that the value proposition for st is not just the seats themselves but everything that comes along with them.

    For the life of me I don’t see the reason that they penny pinched so many of these benefits that really cost them very little but engender loyalty.

    Truth is many of us sth split the seats with a group of buddies, so the main upside are these perks otherwise I can just go and buy a bunch of games or even a flex pack for myself. To say nothing of the fact that when you have st you get the shit games along with the good ones. So I can just go out and buy whatever spend plus or minus the same dollars for the ten to twenty games I go to a year and not be on the hook for some non competitive September games that I bought way back in March.

    Unclear what I’ll do next year but as a group if two or three people in my group don’t see the value in keeping the seats it’s going to be pretty hard to renew based on the fact that we won’t be able to sell the excess seats and the perks just no longer make it worth it.

  • Oakville Jays

    Rogers decision to increase season ticket prices for 2018 by 13% is absurd unless they plan to increase payroll in 2018 by a similar amount. They will probably lose several thousand season ticket holders that tried to resell tickets at a higher price on StubHub. It’s a dumb move by the team.

  • Nice Guy Eddie

    Toronto has the 5th lowest ticket price in MLB. Toronto fans like to claim that they’re ‘big market’, but when it comes to ticket prices they want the children’s admission price. I expect the Front Office is going to move the ticket prices up to towards the norm – not the Boston, New York and Chicago prices for actual, not pretend, big market teams. But more toward Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, where Toronto fits in.