Toronto’s Big Draw

It’s been no secret that both former GM J.P. Ricciardi and new GM Alex Anthopoulos of the Toronto Blue Jays were trying to unload Roy Halladay to recoup some value before he left for free agency after the 2010. After months of speculation, the rumors came to fruition when Halladay was sent to Philadelphia in what amounted to a three-team trade that also involved the Seattle Mariners.

Losing one of baseball’s best starting pitchers is tough, no question, but hopefully the Jays acquire a prospect who may become the next Roy Halladay. They may have done that in acquiring Kyle Drabek from the Phillies, but Roy Halladays don’t just show up at the doorstep (or in a basket in the river, like Moses).

Nowhere is that statement more evident, one would think, than at the turnstiles. The Jays have certainly had some stars like Carlos Delgado, but recently, Halladay has been part of a rather lackluster squad that has seen the status of Vernon Wells and Alex Rios implode. The question becomes: how much of an effect, if any, did Halladay have on the Jays’ attendance figures?

To investigate, I went to old reliable, Baseball Reference and threw attendance figures into an Excel spreadsheet. The following chart will show the Jays’ attendance on days in which Halladay starts compared to when others start.

Halladay has been the bigger draw in six out of the eight seasons since he started pitching regularly in Toronto. The difference on average is about 1,850 fans per game. Halladay has made 116 starts at home in this time span, which amounts to about 215,000 more fans. If we assume the Jays make $50 profit on every fan that walks through the turnstile, then the Jays have made about an extra $11 million in eight years, or about $1,350,000 per year.

This analysis, of course, does not factor in merchandise as Halladay’s number 32 is likely the Jays’ most popular jersey purchase. Nor does this analysis factor in TV and radio ratings, which may or may not be correlated with attendance; and nor do we know the effect of Halladay on advertiser dollars. We can state confidently, though, that Halladay has meant a lot to the Jays aside from his on-the-field performance.

Anthopoulos, in acquiring Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, and Travis D’Arnaud — a much, much better assortment of players than was offered to him last July — certainly came out a winner, but he and his compadres in the front office should be prepared to see fewer and fewer fans buying tickets and jerseys, and tuning into games on television and radio, as well as fewer advertisers looking to peddle products alongside the Jays’ logo.

On the other side of this is the Phillies, Roy’s new team. Should the Phillies expect an increase in attendance? The answer, quite simply, is no.

In 2009, the Phillies sold out 73 of 81 home games after winning the 2008 World Series. Overall, they saw nearly 315,000 more fans in ’09 than in ’08. It might seem natural to expect even more fans, but there are a finite number of seats at Citizens Bank Park — 43,650 to be exact. Therefore, there are diminishing returns for a team like the Phillies acquiring the services of a star player, especially at the cost of another star player in Cliff Lee.

With the waning excitement of 2007′s team reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1993 and 2008′s squad winning the World Series for the first time since 1980, it is reasonable to not only expect Halladay to have no noticeable effect on attendance, but to expect a regression in that area as well. In the balance book, Roy Halladay meant much more to the Toronto Blue Jays than he will to the Philadelphia Phillies.

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11 comments

  1. Dan

    December 16, 2009 08:38 AM

    Halliday increases the odds of the Phillies making the playoffs quite a bit more than he does the Jays making the playoffs. He also increases the odds of them playing more games at home during the playoffs, winning the WS, etc. With or without Halladay, the Jays ain’t gonna do that. Therefore although you are correct in your regular season analysis, taken as a whole I believe you are not.

  2. hk

    December 16, 2009 09:44 AM

    “Anthopoulos, in acquiring Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, and Travis D’Arnaud — a much, much better assortment of players than was offered to him last July.”

    Bill, do you take back your comment that JP erred in not dealing him last July?

  3. Dan

    December 16, 2009 10:05 AM

    FWIW, here’s the result of Lee’s involvement with the Phils:

    Phils got: 1/2 season of Lee, plus an historic postseason
    Ben Francisco – cheap platooner with some pop, under control for another few years.
    Phillippe Aumont (RHP)
    Juan Carlos Ramirez (RHP)
    Tyson Gillies (OF)

    Analysis – of course the production was great, but looking at the minor leaguers, they seem to be, acording to Phuture Phillies, second tier guys, only Ramirez might be higher upside than replacement level or so.

    Phils gave up:
    Carlos Carrasco, RHP
    Jason Donald, SS/3B
    Lou Marson, C
    Jason Knapp, RHP
    None that close to the bigs, none were top prospects.

    Bottom line, looking at Lee in a vacuum, we didn’t give up top tier guys to get him, and didn’t get top tier guys when we got rid of him. Throw in Francisco, and it’s hard to say we lost overall in the net of it. No one could have predicted Lee’s postseason, of course, and it’s not a reliable predictor of future postseasons.

    Overall, I’m calling the Lee experiment a big success for Armaro.

  4. JRVJ

    December 16, 2009 02:46 PM

    Bill,

    Could you please explain to me how the 2009 Phillies attendance figures work out?

    A 43,650 seat stadium can hold up to 3,535,650 people over an 81 game season. Since the Phillies had 3.6MM in attendance (according to ESPN – google Phillies 2009 attendance figures), and as you point out above, the Phillies had only 73 sell outs, there must be some standing room capacity out there (or maybe some skybox-type seating is not counted in the 43,650 figure)

    Do you know what gives?

    Thanks (personally, what I don’t understand is why the Phillies didn’t just say, “Hey, you know what, we will add an extra $2 per ticket – about $7.2 MM – and trade away Blanton, but you will get Halladay and Lee together for 2010).

  5. Bill Baer

    December 16, 2009 03:20 PM

    Yeah, the Phillies sell a lot of standing-room tickets. I’m not sure exactly how many SRO tickets they make available.

    Re: $2, I’m assuming you read this article at The Good Phight. Nice fantasy, but not at all realistic. It would set an awful precedent. “Hey, we need free agents — tickets are going up $5. Hey, the stadium needs renovation, tickets are going up another $2.50.” yada yada.

  6. JRVJ

    December 16, 2009 05:58 PM

    Bill,

    Obviously everybody has different opinions, but I figure that the Phillies have a very unique chance to dethrone the Eagles in the race for Delaware Valley dominance.

    I don’t live in Philly and my connection to Philly is that I did my master’s degree there(Villanova, LL.M., 1997)and consider it my U.S. hometown, so the price of tickets is not that big an issue to me.

    HOWEVER, I was always baffled by how Philly did not punch its weight in U.S. pro sports, what with it being either the 5th or 6th largest U.S. Metropolitan area, a pretty wealthy one at that and a sports crazy one with deep fandom ties.

    Realistically, there is no reason the Phils can’t be as good as the Red Sox year in and year out, but to do so entails investing in the product for the long run (one thing you can’t fault the Yankees for is that they invest in their product for the long run).

    WOuld having Halladay and Lee, plus the monster Philly line-up achieve that long run goal. Yes for 2010 (and going to the WS for 3 years would definitely be something), but not so much for 2011 and going forward. Having said that, Lee would surely net a 1st rounder and a sandwich pick if he doesn’t accept arbitration, so it’s not like the Phils couldn’t go for broke in 2010 and then see what happens from there on out….

  7. JRVJ

    December 16, 2009 05:59 PM

    Oh, and I hadn’t seen the Good Phight article when I wrote my original post.

  8. Bill Baer

    December 16, 2009 06:26 PM

    I’ve often wondered that myself — how Philly was never A) considered by fans and pundits to be in the same class as New York, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles and B) able to find the financial means to compete.

    Granted, the Phillies weren’t a big draw in the late 1990′s but I find it hard to believe that they couldn’t have gone higher than 22nd in payroll in 1999, for instance.

    I think the Jim Thome signing was the turning point for the franchise. They went from a $57 million payroll in 2002, to $71 in ’03, to $94 in ’04. I don’t know what inspired ownership to loosen the purse strings — it certainly wasn’t a lively revenue stream.

    Interesting thoughts, JRVJ.

  9. Aaron H

    December 16, 2009 08:35 PM

    To answer your speculation, Bill…
    I’ve always wondered about that question myself, especially considering the seemingly tight-lipped approach of the Phillies’ ownership. But I thought that the turning point was reached when ground was broken on CBP. The ownership realized that the Vet was a dump and wouldn’t attract a whole lot of fans, even if the team was successful. However, they realized that with the new stadium, fans would come if they put out a good showing that they were committed to winning. Ground was broken for CBP in 2001, Thome signed in ’03, CBP was opened in 2004 and payroll passed $100 mill after that. So if you ask me, I think the ownership realized they could make a lot of money by putting together a team that was worthy of our gem of a stadium at Broad and Pattison.

  10. Chris

    December 17, 2009 10:49 AM

    Interesting numbers on Toronto attendance with/without Halladay starting. Not at all what I expected. Based on my personal experiences, I’ve found the crowd size at the Dome had nothing to do with the starting pitcher and had everything to do with the day of the week — Fridays and Sundays appear to do best no matter who’s playing.

    I’m glad to see Toronto fans deserve a little more credit than I’ve been giving them.

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