Scott Boras blames sharp decline in MLB attendance on too many teams willing to tank, suggesting that the league stop rewarding losing.
Scott Boras, Major League Baseball super-agent, isn’t a fan of where the Toronto Blue Jays are heading.
Boras took aim at the Blue Jays during his annual press conference on Wednesday at the general managers meeting in Carlsbad, California. In particular, Boras pinned the sharp decline in Toronto’s attendance on the team’s unwillingness to invest in top talent.
“Toronto is a wonderful city, it’s been a great franchise, they’ve drawn three million fans,” Boras said. “They’ve lost near a third of their fan base due to the Blue Flu of not bringing attractive players that their fans find interesting to their market.
The Blue Jays finished 35 games behind in the AL East in 2018, a season that saw their attendance drop by more than 10,000 fans a game. In 2017, the Blue Jays led the AL in attendance at 3.2 million; that declined to 2.3 million this year, the largest drop in the majors.
Toronto traded away star players like Josh Donaldson and J.A. Happ during the season, and seem intent on focusing on their young talent like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
The Blue Jays aren’t the only team drawing Boras’ ire, however. He’s also targeting the Miami Marlins, who finished last in the majors this year in attendance. The Marlins drew just 811,000 fans this season, the lowest since the 2003 Montreal Expos. Their average attendance of a little more than 10,000 a game is barely above some Triple-A teams.
“The fans of Florida have certainly brought the M.I.A. to Miami,” Boras said.
Attendance was a big issue across the major leagues this year. The league drew less than 70 million fans for the first time since 2003. The number of teams well out of contention certainly played a role in that figure. Three teams lost more than 100 games, while another five, including the Marlins, lost at least 95.
Boras’ concern for this issue is clear. If teams are willing to field uncompetitive teams, that makes it less likely they will shell out big contracts to the free agents that Boras represents. Last offseason, several Boras clients like Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta and J.D. Martinez went unsigned until spring training was already under way. This winter Boras is looking for a mega-deal for his prized player, Bryce Harper, and wants teams to pay up to get him.
He suggests that the league incentivizes teams to tank by awarding them high draft picks. The Houston Astros are an example of how teams are trying to build a winner. The Astros lost 100 games for three straight years from 2011 to 2013, allowing them to draft players like Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. Now teams are trying to replicate that model. Boras says that, until the league stops rewarding teams that lose, the fans will stay away.
If the fans don’t show up, that will hurt revenue. And if the teams aren’t making money, they’ll be hesitant to pay for the people Boras is really looking after: his clients.