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?
Baseball is failing in Muddy York, as it was once called, and failing miserably. And while Major League Baseball has more than a few issues that need addressing, somewhere in that list should be getting a team out of Canada.
Forget the obvious in failing attendance and a shrinking Blue Jays payroll. You can flip on the hotel television and skim through the stations to get the pulse of what's going on. It's NHL, junior hockey, college hockey, high school hockey, Justin Bieber, Canadian Olympians, and more hockey.
Somewhere between celebrity Texas hold 'em tournaments and MuchMusic videos, you might, just might, get a Jays highlight.
After Tuesday's game, a fan asked a local talk show host if building a new stadium would help. Even the host -- Canadian, I'm guessing -- admitted that no one would care after a year.
But is it really on the fans to have a sport forced on them that isn't their own? It would seem like it's up to Major League Baseball to move the product to a place that really wants it.
That brings up the argument of South America.
Baseball already has shown it won't play in Puerto Rico, but the Dominican Republic is an option. The best option? Caracas, Venezuela.
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.