Blue Jays Focusing On Five Options For Home, As Baltimore Joins Mix
Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins indicated that the team has "roughly five different contingencies in play" for where it will play its '20 home slate, and the "likeliest scenarios had them turning into the unexpected houseguests" of either the Pirates at PNC Park or the Orioles at Camden Yards, according to Shi Davidi of SPORTSNET.ca. The logistics of how to make this happen with both "minimal disruption to their hosts and strict adherence" to MLB's COVID-19 protocols was a "focal point throughout the day, with how to set up an alternate Blue Jays clubhouse at each facility among the priorities." For that reason, multi-stadium plans were "more problematic, as more temporary clubhouses means more costs incurred." For the Blue Jays, there are "minimal scheduling conflicts" with both the Pirates and the Orioles. The Pirates "certainly appear interested, as president Travis Williams issued a statement confirming 'active' discussions" with MLB and the Blue Jays (SPORTSNET.ca, 7/20).
MAJOR LEAGUE OPTIONS: In Pittsburgh, Jason Mackey reports Williams "let the Blue Jays and the league know that they would at least check it out." The Pirates "did not immediately reject the idea." It also "sounds as though Williams and the Pirates are eager to help." Williams’ statement "did not provide a timeline for when a decision must be made, but it’s likely soon." The season starts Thursday (Friday for the Pirates and Jays), and the latter's first “home” game is July 29. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been "heavily involved in the negotiations, a necessity given the urgency of the situation." The fact that the Pirates are "endorsing the idea of the Jays sharing the stadium also suggests that all parties believe proper safety precautions and social distancing can take place" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 7/21). SPORTSNET.ca's Ben Nicholson-Smith noted Blue Jays players have "expressed a preference for a major-league stadium, and Camden Yards certainly has space and amenities to keep players safe and comfortable." For the entire month of September, the Blue Jays and Orioles are never home at the same time, and while scheduling conflicts exist in July and August, nearby Nationals Park "could conceivably be used as an alternate site for the dates in question" (SPORTSNET.ca, 7/20).
OVERHAUL: In Toronto, Gregor Chisholm writes the schedule "should be easy enough to figure out." But "everything else about two ball clubs using one facility comes with an avalanche of logistical issues, ones most opponents likely want nothing to do with." Areas of the stadium "would have to be reconfigured to pass MLB’s COVID-19 protocols, including shared clubhouses, medical rooms, workout areas and even offices." Almost "every inch of the facility must be examined" (TORONTO STAR, 7/21).
BACK TO THE MINORS? TSN.ca's Scott Mitchell reported Sahlen Field in Buffalo, which is home to the Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, is "still on the table as one of the plans, but the players stating their preference to call an MLB ballpark home and all of the convenience factors that come along with that is driving the club’s decision-making." As such, it is "clear Buffalo is now the fallback plan based on both the work needed to be done at Sahlen Field -- improved lighting, clubhouse changes and baseball infrastructure like cages and weight rooms -- as well as the players’ desire to use a big-league facility" (TSN.ca, 7/20). Still, in Buffalo, Mike Harrington reports Blue Jays Senior VP/Facilities & Business Operations Bryan Blew and Phil Dimino, the rehab coordinator from the club's High Performance Department, have been "on site in Buffalo the last two days." They have been "going over all corners of Sahlen Field to see what has to be adapted for the Jays to use the facility" (BUFFALO NEWS, 7/21).
POLITICAL POINT: In Toronto, Kevin McGran writes the Jays had the "misfortune of trying to get their plan approved at just around the time" Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was "trying to explain the cozy relationship between his family and the WE charity." McGran: "Who can blame a politician for trying to change the conversation." The Jays and MLB "helped the prime minister do just that." Baseball’s plan was "just leaky enough to be unpopular even with local baseball fans." So now the federal government "gets to look tough on baseball teams from COVID-ravaged America" (TORONTO STAR, 7/21).