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Friday, April 16, 2010
Coming soon: the Caracas Blue Jays?

Joe Cowley writes about baseball in Toronto, and some of my Canadian friends -- who still haven't recovered from losing one team -- have been moved to drop f-bombs on Twitter. What's got them so incensed?

I suppose I shouldn't dismiss Caracas out of hand, since I don't know anything about Caracas. I don't imagine getting a stadium built would be a problem, if Hugo Chavez thinks it's a good idea. I'm imagining some pretty hellacious road trips, though, for both the Caracas squad and the visiting teams. If I were going to dismiss the idea, it would probably be because I have never, in 20 years of reading about expansion and relocation possibilities, seen Caracas mentioned even once. San Juan, yes. Mexico City and Monterrey, yes. But never Caracas.

What I will dismiss, at least for the moment, is the notion that Major League Baseball would give up on two huge markets. There are 5.5 million people in the Greater Toronto Area, which would rank somewhere between sixth and ninth in the U.S. But that's not even the half of it. Not close. The Blue Jays are Canada's team, and there are 34 million people in Canada. While hockey is Canada's sport, it doesn't take a huge percentage of 34 million to get you where you want to be, in terms of TV revenues, licensed apparel, etc.

Granted, the Blue Jays play in an awful building for baseball (and frankly, last time I was there the people who run the sound system and video boards seemed bent on driving away anyone who actually enjoys the game of baseball, but then that's true in most of America's ballparks these days). Last year they ranked 22nd in the majors in attendance, which 1) wasn't good, but 2) was better than eight other franchises, none of which are moving to South America anytime soon.

There are definitely some teams that face big challenges, ballpark-wise and attendance-wise and otherwise. Maybe the Blue Jays belong on that list. They're not in the top five, though. For now, let's keep them on this continent.