Over at Sportsnet, Shi Davidi spoke with Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred about the impressive season put together by the Toronto Blue Jays of Buffalo this year.
While Manfred commended the impressive job that the Blue Jays’ organization and the City of Buffalo did in making Sahlen Field a pseudo-MLB park at literally the last possible second, he said that the league wants the Blue Jays back in Toronto come 2021.
My concern when the decision was finally made about Buffalo was, No. 1, timing. It wasn’t just where they were going, they didn’t have a heck of a lot of time to get organized. No. 2, look, no rap on minor-league facilities in general or Buffalo in particular, our major-league facilities are really, really nice and players are used to a certain level of facility to go to work in.
I was really concerned about our ability to deliver that,” said Manfred. “On both of those topics, the Toronto Blue Jays management team, Mark [Shapiro], Marnie Starkman, what they accomplished – and I did go to Buffalo, I saw it myself – is unbelievable, literally unbelievable.
Not only was [Sahlen Field] playable, and serviceable, but the work they did actually created that feeling of this is the Blue Jays’ home, which I think is really important to the psyche of the team and the ability of the team to perform, and an unbelievable accomplishment given the tight timeframe
The one thing I can say is that we will do everything humanly possible to convince the government that the Blue Jays should play in Toronto next year.
That last line is obviously the important one to take away here.
The Canadian Federal Government, of course, rejected the Blue Jays’ request to play its home games in Toronto this season as it would have resulted in the team bypassing the country’s regulations on coming in and out of the Canadian-American border without having to do the mandatory two-week quarantine.
While the National Hockey League was allowed to host its playoffs in Edmonton and Toronto, the difference was that these games were behind held in a tightly-regulated bubble. If the Blue Jays played in Toronto, they and a bunch of other teams would be coming in and out of Canada for two months, which was obviously a massive public health risk.
The 2021 Major League Season seems to be on pace to start in late-March or early-April, as usual, so it’s obviously incredibly difficult to project how things will look at that time. But, unless there’s a vaccine by then, it’s difficult to imagine the Canadian government suddenly budging on allowing the Blue Jays and a bunch of other teams to bypass the closed border.
As much as Manfred might want the Jays back at Rogers Centre, why would the government feel differently about this situation in March than they did in June?
Besides, we saw multiple teams break protocols, like the Marlins when they opted to play despite having somebody test positive for COVID-19, and we saw players like Mike Clevinger disobey team rules in leaving the hotel while on the road. If anything, the government might be even less inclined to trust MLB players in Toronto than they were before the 2020 season happened.
If I had to venture a guess, I would assume the Blue Jays aren’t in Toronto to kick off the 2021 season. I don’t know if that means they’ll be in Buffalo again or in Dunedin or what the plan will be, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on an immediate return to Toronto.