A fast start could make good business sense for Phillies originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The Phillies will open the 2021 season with 13 straight games against the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets, arguably the top two teams in the National League East.
Getting off to a quick start will be important for manager Joe Girardi’s club.
But this season, a good start could carry even more importance.
It’s not out of the question that fans will be allowed back inside Citizens Bank Park at some point in 2021. It’s important that when/if the gates open, the Phillies aren’t lagging behind in the standings. They have to give fans a reason to want to reach into their wallets and buy tickets.
“I never really thought of it that way,” Girardi said Saturday. “I’ve thought about who we’re playing the first month and how important it is. But I think the argument has a lot of credence, I really do. I think there’s something to that because when we’re allowed fans and when it increases, we want to be in a good position where people want to come. So, it makes a lot of sense. I never thought of it that way, but I will now.
“It’s another incentive to get off to a good start.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer on Saturday reported that the Sixers and Flyers have both proposed to the city plans to have as many as 5,000 fans attend games at the Wells Fargo Center in March.
Surely, the Phillies will be watching where this goes.
“Our season is around the corner,” said Phillies executive vice president Dave Buck. “[The Sixers and Flyers] are asking before our season even gets going.
“We’d love to have fans at some point and we’re going to work appropriately with the city and state to see if that can happen.”
Major League Baseball teams lost significant revenues due to a shortened season and the absence of fans in ballparks last season. Phillies ownership put its club’s losses at “significantly more than $100 million.”
The losses and the uncertainty about whether fans would be allowed in ballparks in 2021 led to questions early in the offseason about how much the Phillies would spend on free agents this winter. Some of those questions were even raised by managing partner John Middleton, who when asked in October about the possibility of re-signing J.T. Realmuto responded, “Can you tell me what the governor and the mayor of Philadelphia are going to allow us to have next year in the way of fans? That will determine our revenues and revenues determine what you can do and what you can’t do.”
By early February, any doubts about whether the Phillies would spend significant dollars on free agents were eliminated. The club re-signed Realmuto (five years, $115.5 million) and Didi Gregorius (two years, $28 million) and added several other free agents for a total cost that could exceed $165 million, depending if veteran relievers Brandon Kintzler and Tony Watson, both signed to minor-league deals, make the club.
In terms of free-agent dollars spent this winter, the Phillies rank in the top 3 in baseball with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. The Phils are projected to once again carry a top 10 payroll of over $200 million.
“It means a ton to all of us, from top to bottom in this organization,” Girardi said of the team’s offseason spending. “You want a chance to win and I think what John Middleton did and the Buck family did by allowing us to spend the money on payroll that we did — they’re making a commitment to winning and telling the fans we’re going for it and I applaud them for that because, obviously, they had losses last year, everybody had losses last year, but they really stepped up and now it’s up to us to reward them.”