NEW YORK — The Blue Jays have long had a coast-to-coast appeal in Canada — a marketing and TV ratings success story for much of the franchise’s history.
But is it time to try to expand that reach to the home of the British monarchy?
With Major League Baseball announcing this week that it is committed to playing regular-season games in London in 2023, 2024 and 2026, don’t be surprised if the Jays find themselves in the running for one of the cross-ocean road trips currently being planned.
The process has begun with the Commissioner’s office soliciting preliminary interest from teams around the league before a schedule is made and participants decided.
The Blue Jays will keep the details of their intentions to themselves at this point, allowing the process to play out, but there already are indications they are interested.
And it wouldn’t be a surprise if the team submitted a detailed proposal bidding to be part of an initiative that has the power to enhance the global appeal of both the sport and the teams involved.
While MLB tends to favour big-market teams for its marquee events, the Jays will bring plenty for commissioner Rob Manfred to ponder. The promotional value of the league’s only Canadian team is strong enough thanks to historical ties, but the emerging star power of the Jays roster wouldn’t hurt either.
Imagine Vlad Guerrero Jr. hitting bombs out of London Stadium?
The Yankees and Red Sox played a pair of games at the venue in 2019 and they put on quite a show, racking up a combined 50 runs. The St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs were scheduled to resume the series in June of 2020 but those games were postponed due to the pandemic.
“All aspects of the inaugural MLB games in London were an overwhelming success,” Manfred said in statement this week when announcing the multi-season series. “It was clear that sports fans in London had a great appetite for baseball.
“We’re confident in making a long-term commitment to to London and are looking forward to returning to the city with more MLB games, special fan events and other opportunities to play and watch the game.”
It will be interesting to see how MLB handles a Toronto pitch for a London appearance. Typically, the team is an also-ran for such initiatives because of the league’s overall indifference to the Canadian market.
But with the natural colonial ties and a team whose recognition is growing around the game, the timing may be right.
Has Jays manager Charlie Montoyo pondered shaking up the top of his lineup to get more out of his team’s offence?
“If you start changing stuff, it’s a panic move,” Montoyo said Tuesday prior to the first of two games against the division-leading Yankees here in the Bronx. “The lineup changes all the time at the bottom, but I have my best hitters at the top. There’s no reason to move it around.”
Much of the reasoning is based on comfort. Leadoff hitter George Springer — who began the game Tuesday with a leadoff home run — doesn’t want to be anywhere else and has proven to be one of the most effective hitters at the top of the order. During spring training, the Jays played Vlad Guerrero Jr. in the two spot for a number of games, but the young first baseman made it clear he prefers hitting third.
“I’ve got the best leadoff hitter in baseball leading off,” Montoyo said. “Bo (Bichette) had a great year last year hitting second. The guy hitting third was almost the MVP and the guy hitting cleanup won a Silver Slugger.”
Starting catcher Danny Jansen, who has missed 28 games because of an oblique strain, is getting closer to a return.
Jansen reported to Dunedin on Monday, and was in the lineup for the class-A Blue Jays on Tuesday to begin a rehab assignment. He had a double in two at-bats in Dunedin’s game against Tampa.
The Jays aren’t putting any timetable on the return, given the delicate nature of the injury. But while he was with the team in Cleveland over the weekend, he was throwing and running the bases.
Meanwhile, in Jansen’s absence, the Jays have been impressed with the continued growth and development in backup Alejandro Kirk, who was the team’s designated hitter on Tuesday.
“I really like (Kirk) behind the plate,” Montoyo said. “Every pitch looks like a strike and that’s good. That’s a compliment to him.
“He’s still a kid. His blocking has been really good. Throwing to the bases has been good.”
AROUND THE BASES
The Jays certainly had a stout assignment again on Tuesday facing a Yankees team that was 13-2 in its previous 15 contests and had an MLB best record of 20-8 … The Yanks, meanwhile, are going through what the Jays just came out of — a stretch of 23 games in 22 days without an off day … The Jays wrapped up a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, going 11-9 in what is their longest scheduled stretch without an off day this season … Though the Blue Jays’ 4-3 loss in Cleveland on Sunday was a no-decision for Jays starter Alek Manoah, he still is tied for the MLB lead in wins with four and has allowed two or fewer earned runs in all six of his starts this season … Jays closer Jordan Romano on his busy opening 30 games, in which he had 14 appearances and 12 saves (both MLB highs): “I held up pretty well physically. When you’re throwing a lot, you do get a little tired, but nothing really out of the ordinary. I got my days off when I needed them and I’m ready to go.”
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