Toronto Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro has been a controversial figure since arriving in Toronto in 2015. Under his watch, the Toronto Blue Jays have turned from a World Series contender into a team focusing on the future. This decision has divided the fan base. Shapiro’s contract is up after the 2020 season and he is looking for an extension now. Although General Manager Ross Atkins has received his extension, there are a number of reasons why the Blue Jays should not give Mark Shapiro his extension just yet. The Blue Jays should wait until after the 2020 season before extending Shapiro’s contract.
One of the best ways of observing fan interest is through their ticket sales. In 2015 the Blue Jays made the playoffs for the first time since 1993. The Blue Jays had an average of 34,505 people at each of their home games. This gives them a yearly attendance of 2,794,891 which is 8th in Major League Baseball. In 2016 the attendance rose to 41,878 per home game. This accounts for 3,392,099 and led the American League in attendance (3rd in MLB).
Following the 2019 season, attendance has dropped to nearly half of 2016’s attendance. Toronto averaged 21,607 people per game. Good enough for twenty-first in Major League Baseball. Not to mention two seasons where attendance has dropped the most in Major League Baseball. Yet the cost of the average ticket has increased by almost four U.S. dollars; including a $3.62 increase following a 73-89 season. Inflation aside, this is a result of Shapiro’s actions as President of the Blue Jays. It is one of the many reasons the Blue Jays should hold off on giving him the extension.
One of the biggest factors of Shapiro and Atkins’ tenure is their focus on rebuilding the team. When Shapiro inherited the Blue Jays after the 2015 season, they were the oldest team in the league. Now in 2019, the Blue Jays are the youngest team in baseball. The Blue Jays hired Shapiro and Atkins for a rebuild, and they have done what they intended to do. It hasn’t been a popular decision among fans who watch the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox hardly rebuild and contend year in and year out. The 2015 Blue Jays were a 93 win team, but now four years later they are a 95 loss team (worst season since 2004).
This comes at the likes of trading away beloved veterans such as; Josh Donaldson, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Russell Martin, Roberto Osuna, Kevin Pillar, J.A. Happ, Aaron Loup, and Joe Smith to name a few. It’s safe to say that veterans under Shapiro felt unease due to a fear of being traded. As a veteran of baseball himself, Shapiro should feel unease during this season.
The Blue Jays in the Public Image
Through a series of Google Trends, it’s easy to see that the popularity of the Toronto Blue Jays has gone down significantly. Looking at Canada as a whole, the peak for the Blue Jays was during the week of October 11-17, 2015. Even when the Blue Jays made the playoffs in 2016, interest for the Blue Jays was down by 34%. Looking at the 2019 season for the Blue Jays, popularity only reached as high as 15%.
Compared to the four most popular teams in Toronto, the Blue Jays were a distant third behind the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors. Looking at the past calendar year, the Raptors who won their first Championship captured the interest of the country. While they won in June, the Blue Jays who were midseason only gained six percent of that interest. Just a little bit higher than the Leafs who were well into their offseason.
Looking at public opinion, even as recent as 2017, the Toronto Blue Jays are by far the team most Canadians are talking about. Within this sudden two year window, this team has fallen out of the top five among Canadian Sports fans. The use of data and analysis show that the rebuilding the Blue Jays is more than just simply building a better ball club. There has to be a revival of intrigue and marketability of players and even fans. The Blue Jays are not as popular as they were in 2015 when Mark Shapiro inherited the team. Going forward the question that has to be asked among Blue Jays fans should be is Mark Shapiro the right man to lead this team forward? Frankly, that question can’t be answered until the next season, where the team he assembled has a chance to perform yet again.
While Shapiro has been responsible for the drafting of Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette the pay off may take a few years to come. Fans won’t know if hiring Shapiro was the right decision for several years. It’s fair to say that the culture surrounding the team has certainly changed since Paul Beeston left. While other teams in Toronto have taken away the interest in the Blue Jays, Shapiro’s job should be restoring the Blue Jays. Now after four years, Shapiro now needs to show progress of this rebuild. Otherwise, it might be time to move on. The Blue Jays will likely extend him just hopefully not this off-season.