Blue Jays Eyeing PNC Park After Canadian Government's Decision
The Blue Jays have “looked into playing select home games at PNC Park” this season after the Canadian government declined to allow them to play at Rogers Centre, according to sources cited by Jason Mackey of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. It is unknown how many games the Blue Jays might play in Pittsburgh, but there are “surprisingly few scheduling conflicts between the two.” There are just seven times when the Pirates and Blue Jays have home games set for the same day. The possibility of the Pirates sharing PNC Park “makes sense from a front-office standpoint,” as Pirates GM Ben Cherington “recently spent three years with the Blue Jays and is close” with Blue Jays President & CEO Mark Shapiro (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 7/20). In Toronto, Rob Longley notes Pittsburgh is an “attractive possibility on a number of areas, starting with location affording easy travel throughout the Jays’ new 10-team division.” The Blue Jays are “exhausting all options to find an alternate major-league stadium, rather than settling for a minor-league park” that both players and management feel would come with a “competitive disadvantage.” Blue Jays P Anthony Bass said, “I personally feel our best situation to be in is to be playing in a major-league ball park and I think that’s where we’re going to thrive and win. That was pretty much echoed in our clubhouse, that we want to be in a major-league ball park, wherever that is” (TORONTO SUN, 7/20).
OTHER OPTIONS HAVE ISSUES: THE ATHLETIC’s Kaitlyn McGrath noted the Blue Jays’ leading non-MLB options are TD Ballpark, the team’s Spring Training facility in Dunedin, Fla.; and Sahlen Field in Buffalo, which is home to the team’s Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons. The Blue Jays “recently upgraded the lighting system at TD Ballpark to meet MLB standards.” However, with “surging COVID-19 numbers in Florida ... playing in Dunedin presents significant health problems.” Buffalo is “considered the preferred location, from a player-health standpoint.” But Shaprio said that the park has “infrastructure and player facility challenges.” Among those is the ballpark’s lighting system, which “is not up to MLB standards for broadcasting night games” (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/18). In Buffalo, Mike Harrington noted the Blue Jays and Bisons as of Saturday had “spent the last few days working on a plan to move the games here and make upgrades to the ballpark if Canadian officials said no.” Sources said that all timetables, including an upgrade to the lighting, “could be done in time for games to be played here” (BUFFALO NEWS, 7/19).
REJECTION MORE WITH MLB, NOT JAYS: In Toronto, Laura Armstrong noted the Blue Jays “presented a 176-page return-to-play proposal to all three levels of government” -- local, provincial and federal. The club earlier had gotten clearance from the first two levels. The team proposed a “modified quarantine at the Rogers Centre and the adjacent hotel, in hopes of an exemption from the 14-day quarantine that applies to the general public when crossing into Canada” (TORONTO STAR, 7/18). SPORTSNET.ca’s Shi Davidi noted the federal government’s denial is “more a rejection of Major League Baseball’s plan for the summer, than it is about the thorough protocol put together by the club.” Even with “tests every other day, even with an additional test for everyone in Toronto ... the frequent border crossings were an impossible risk variable to resolve" (SPORTSNET.ca, 7/18). THE ATHLETIC’s Andrew Stoeten noted the Blue Jays and MLB “tried to sell the idea as best they could,” but the “frequent border crossing the Blue Jays would undertake during the season was by far the biggest flag in the plan, and it’s not hard to understand why.” Stoeten: “The current situation south of the border has many of us alarmed and in no rush to open the border to unfettered travel” (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/18).
DIFFERENT FROM NHL'S PLAN: YAHOO SPORTS' Mark Townsend noted the Blue Jays' denial comes at the same time the NHL "was granted an exemption for its reopening on July 30," but that is because the circumstances "are completely different." Edmonton and Toronto will house the NHL, and teams "will only leave once their season is over." The Blue Jays "would have come and gone multiple times during MLB’s 60-game season" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/18). ESPN's Jeff Passan noted public sentiment in Canada was "strongly against the idea of having people coming back and forth, no matter how much you were going to bubble them" at Rogers Centre. Passan: "They simply did not want to open the border and make their citizens more susceptible to contracting COVID-19" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/18). ESPN's Dan Shulman, who also calls Blue Jays games on Sportsnet, said, "People up here obviously are very happy with the way the curve has been flattened and they want to maintain the health. Even if you do a poll of Blue Jays fans, the majority of them say they agree with this decision" ("Yankees-Mets," ESPN2, 7/18).
PART OF POLITICAL GAME WITH U.S.: In Toronto, Gregor Chisholm wrote this was “never about the sport itself,” as the Blue Jays got “caught up in something much bigger than a game.” Chisholm: “This is about Canada wanting to continue to distance itself from a dysfunctional neighbour who seems to have lost touch with reality” (TORONTO STAR, 7/18). Also in Toronto, Rosie DiManno wrote, “This is entirely a political decision. Doesn’t have squat to do with communal safety.” To that point, it is “difficult to see how much more the Jays organization could have done to appease political and health authorities” (TORONTO STAR, 7/18). USA TODAY’s Gabe Lacques wrote under the header, “Canada Said No To MLB And The Blue Jays -- And We Only Have Ourselves To Blame” (USA TODAY, 7/19). In Pittsburgh, Ron Cook writes under the header, "Canada's Decision On Blue Jays Is Completely Justifiable." He writes, "They are laughing at us in Canada" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 7/20). The GLOBE & MAIL's Cathal Kelly writes, "You almost feel bad sending the Jays down there to reckon with a situation that will be more fraught by the time the baseball season ends" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/20).