The Major League Baseball season opens up on Thursday and the Toronto Blue Jays do not have a home. While the Canadian government allowed the team to hold summer camp in Toronto at Rogers Centre – while staying at the hotel attached to the stadium – they denied the team an exemption that would allow them, and their opponents, to cross the border without being required to quarantine for 14 days.
It was the right decision.
It also begs the question: why are 29 U.S. markets okay with their local baseball team travelling around the country and possibly bringing the coronavirus back home with them?
Is Canada the only adult in the room right now? Should they bring more juice boxes to the meetings?
Currently, MLB players are tested fro COVID-19 every other day. Between July 9 – July 16, 10,548 samples were taken, which resulted in 6 positives – 5 players, 1 staff member.
Dare I say those numbers are good? Yes, we all want it to be zero, but to have only six, is a good sign. What happens when teams start travelling from city to city and players leave their hotels? I don’t know. We’ll find out.
As for the Blue Jays, where do they go now?
General Manager, Ross Atkins, claimed yesterday that the team had “well over five solid contingency plans.”
WELL OVER FIVE SOLID CONTINGENCY PLANS.
I love those six words. You can analyze each one, as if they’re frames in the Zapruder film.
That tells me the Blue Jays have options. It also tells me they’re trying to figure out which bad situation is the best one.
Their Spring Training home, and newly-renovated training facility, is in Dunedin, Florida. That would be nice, except for the fact that it’s in Florida. Enough said.
Buffalo is another possibility, as it is the home of their Triple-A affiliate, Buffalo Bisons. However, it is a minor league stadium, complete with lighting that isn’t up to MLB standards – both for the players and the television audience.
There is also the issue of, “This place is small, how are we expected to adhere to social distancing protocols?”
What about television production? The Blue Jays aren’t going to have their usual television crew cross the border to produce the games. Are there reliable camera operators who know how to film, and present baseball games on TV?
Edit: The production teams for the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres would be more than capable.
Will Instant Replay capabilities be available?
I am probably missing a bunch of other issues that would need resolving, but as you can see, there are so many variables that factor into this and make it a lot more complicated than just, “there’s a baseball field in Buffalo, they can play a nine-inning game on it.”
Oh, one more thing – the Jays’ players have informed the front office that it is their preference to play home games at a major league ballpark.
Sure, it makes them sound like a bunch of prima donnas who are being picky, but they should be picky. I mean, if I were in their position and playing in someone else’s major league stadium was an option, I would push for that option.
A minor league stadium is not going to have the amenities these players are used to. Not only that, the feel of the stadium is going to hit them right in the face the moment they get off the bus every day.
They’re going to think, “Aw man, back to our minor league stadium. What a joke.” Or something along those lines.
Heck, when I was a kid playing softball, we played at different ballparks. Just looking at the schedule, I knew when we were going to have a game at one of the better locations. The whole aura is different and it excites you.
When you show up to a rinky-dink field, you know it, and you think about it, if only briefly.
Yes, these are professionals, who get paid very well to play baseball, but if their preference is a major league field, I can understand that.
Also, I’m not a fan of the bullpens being in foul territory in Buffalo. We can’t afford an outfielder to trip over a mound, especially in a shortened season like this one.
Yes, I looked at a satellite map of the stadium.
So, where else could they go? I’ve seen Baltimore and Washington as possibilities.
PNC Park in Pittsburgh seemed to emerge as a front-runner yesterday. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ team President, Travis Williams, even put out a press release saying it would be a “monumental challenge for our staff, but leaning in to help others is what Pittsburghers do.”
If there isn’t a restaurant called Pitts Burgers in Pittsburgh, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
Teams don’t put out press releases just for fun. And, oh yeah, the new General Manager of the Pirates is Ben Cherington, who just spent three years with the Blue Jays as VP of Baseball Operations.
I don’t think “cahoots” is the right word in this situation but, needless to say, the Blue Jays “know a guy”.
Is this viable? Are we really going to have two teams sharing a stadium? Sure, they won’t be there at the same time, but cleaning and sanitizing that stadium is going to be essential, if this is going to work.
Also, is there space? Can the Blue Jays put all of their stuff somewhere and not move it?
I don’t know what the Blue Jays plan on doing to uphold their end of sponsorship agreements that include signage in the outfield and/or around the stadium. Companies pay good money to have their logo featured in places the camera will catch it.
Will the team be rolling into town with signage? Will they be in the form of tarps, that cover the seats? Will they somehow take down the Pirates’ sponsorship signage on the outfield wall and put up their own? I’m not even sure that’s physically possible.
Will all advertisements be done digitally, via the television broadcast?
So many questions and I haven’t even mentioned the fact that the team hasn’t announced who is filling the last three spots in the starting rotation.
The Blue Jays first home game is July 31, so whatever they do, has to be done fast.
Would playing all of their games on the road be an option? As in, if they have a home game against Baltimore, they’d just go to Baltimore and play at Camden Yards, while batting second.
I don’t know if that’s a last resort, or if it’s the simplest solution.
It would require a lot of extra travel and strip the team of any benefit to a homestand that lasts more than one series. Instead of staying “home” for a week, they’d have to hop on a plane every three days.
It’s not like they’re leaving the Eastern time zone at all, but all those extra trips are another layer of annoyance they don’t need. It would also hinder the players’ ability to properly rehab and recover from games.
My only hope is that the team held a meeting before they left Toronto (they play exhibition games in Boston on Tuesday and Wednesday), where everyone in the room realized that they can either embrace this situation and accept it for what it is, or they can look at it as an inconvenience that they’ll never overcome.
In all sports that are about to resume play, I firmly believe the teams that are going to be successful are the ones that are able to embrace the weirdness and not harp on the fact that everything is a nuisance.
The Blue Jays face a unique opportunity where this situation can bring the team closer together because all they have are each other.
This season will either turn into a touching 30 for 30 documentary, chronicling a team’s determination to push on and play for a country, after being left without a home.
Or, they’ll win 25 games and we’ll never speak of this summer again.
Either way, baseball games will be played and we’ll all be reminded of how abnormal this whole thing is as soon as we see the fake fans in the stands. That will get old very quickly, I’m sure, especially if they stand up for the 7th inning stretch.
“There is no place like home” and “Home is where the heart is” are two phrases that don’t really apply to the Blue Jays right now. Perhaps I can offer up a different one.
Round third and go home.
Here’s hoping the Blue Jays are currently getting the wave.