It's not Jays fans' fault they don't show up

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:52 PM ET

TORONTO - When Blue Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow strolled off the mound after recording a one-hit victory over the Tampa Bay Rays last Aug. 8, the 22,313 fans at the Rogers Centre gave him a nice standing ovation.

It was a masterful performance and the home fans responded accordingly.

Yet, if you listened to some media guys and “baseball insiders” afterwards, the ovation afforded to Morrow wasn’t loud or long enough.

Blue Jays fans were scolded for not being “true” baseball fans. A one-hitter like that, these baseball snobs suggested, deserved much more enthusiasm, a Red Sox-type response, with slathering, hero-worshipping fans swinging off the rafters, or something along those lines.

But that’s been a common theme over the years. Jays fans have been routinely dumped upon for not being loud enough and for not coming to the ball park enough.

According to those in the know — those annoying baseball people who apparently understand the game much more than the rest of us — Toronto baseball fans are derelict in terms of supporting this franchise.

They should be coming out in droves. They should be satisfied with a “respectable” team year after year — they should be happy that the club can compete with the top teams — not beat the top teams, just compete.

And now, with another season beckoning, Blue Jays fans are supposed to sit back, show up in huge numbers and accept yet another season of rebuilding.

Forget the wasted years of the J.P. Ricciardi era. This is the Alex Anthopoulos era, so get out your wallet, come to the ball park and be content about another fourth-place finish. Actually, it might even be worse. The general consensus is, despite Friday’s impressive 10-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins in the opener, the Jays are probably going to take a step back from their 85-77 record of last season — largely because the Red Sox appear to be a dynasty in the making, the Yankees are still very good, the Rays are still dangerous and the Orioles are improved. (Sports Illustrated picks the Jays to finish last in the AL East).

Being a Jays fan is like be a peasant farmer during the era of Soviet collectivization. It always seems to be Year 6 or 7 of some great plan. Well, it’s now Year 2 of the Alex Anthopoulos plan, and that’s super. But it’s also Year 18 of post-season doldrums, and I don’t blame the fans if they don’t flock to the ballpark like a bunch of lemmings.

Look what this team has done since winning its last World Series in 1993. One second-place finish, nine third-place finishes, four times in fourth — including the last three seasons — and three times in fifth.

Yet the fans are supposed to stay patient and keep buying tickets.

Fans have stopped flocking to the Rogers Centre — not because it’s a cavernous warehouse or because it costs a car payment to get a hot dog and beer — because they don’t feel this team can legitimately compete for a post-season spot late into the season.

The problem with playing in the AL East is that even an extended winning streak by the Jays doesn’t excite a lot of people in this town. Many ball fans figure it’s just a matter of time before the Yanks and Sox and Rays pull ahead for good.

Jays fans are sick and tired of waiting. They’re tired of being lectured about how they should show up at the ballpark and told not boo that guy and cheer that guy. Hey, when you’re starved for playoff action, it’s tough to get enthusiastic.

The Jays have to start spending money if they want to compete in the AL East. Yet for some reason, the owner of this under-performing franchise seems to get a mulligan year after year. Rogers seems to be given the benefit of the doubt when they say they’ll spend money at the appropriate time, but not before then.

The Jays’ payroll this season is about $65 million.

But look at Detroit, a dying city, where the population is about the size the Mississauga, or less. The Tigers are spending over $100 million.

Minnesota’s half the size of Toronto and their payroll tops $105 million.

If the Jays are not going to spend the money, then they should lobby hard to get out of the AL East.

It’s been far too long of a wait. Fourth place isn’t good enough anymore.


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