Photo By: Donna Lay from Unsplash
Well it was certainly an eventful week for the Blue Jays, who currently sit one game back of the second Wild Card spot heading into the final week of the season. The Jays spent this past week in Tampa Bay and Minnesota, where they lost two of three to the AL East champion Rays — though the headline from that series doesn’t have to do with results — before a disappointing four-game split with the last-place Twins to cap off the week.
The whole Kiermaier/Borucki, card-stealing thingamajig is pretty dated by now (of course the initial incident occurred Monday night, mere hours after our articles are finalized), so it’s pretty old news at this point. As such, I won’t waste too much time on it, but here are basically my summarized thoughts:
I’ve always thought it kind of ridiculous that players are allowed to trot out physical cheat sheets with them when they take the field, so I think that’s why I never really felt too strongly about it being “stolen” by Kiermaier. I’d love to have an index card full of notes inside of my hat before I head into an exam to refer to, but alas (maybe that’s why they don’t allow hats in exam rooms). Memory is a skill, you gotta memorize those defensive alignments baby! And if you’re going to plunk Kiermaier, which, again, I don’t really feel to strongly one way or another — yes it was probably warranted but it’s also a free, speedy, baserunner — do it on the first pitch of his first at-bat in the next game, not his very last at-bat in the last game. The timing was stupid and a really bad look for the Jays. Okay, done with that, but more on the Rays in a bit.
A split with the Twins at this time of year is not very good, but the silver lining is that they won the last two, and George Springer has finally seemed to have broken out of his slump while returning to centrefield for the first time since his knee injury.
But perhaps the best piece of news came in the form of an announcement that the Jays will be able to increase the Rogers Centre capacity from 15,000 to 30,000 for the final seven games of the season, which will certainly be a huge boost heading into a season-defining series against the Yankees that will most likely determine whether the Jays make the playoffs or not. The series will see pitching matchups of Taillon-Ryu, Cole-Berríos, and Kluber-Ray. The final weekend of the season will see the Jays play the 106-loss Orioles, while the Yankees will have to play a Rays team who will hopefully still be looking to secure home-field advantage throughout the ALCS.
Okay, so back to those Rays: it was reported on Saturday by the Journal de Montréal that an announcement regarding a potential return of the Montreal Expos would be made later in the fall, a return that would, at this point, see the cities of Tampa and Montreal share the Rays, meaning the team would play half its home games in Florida, and the other half in Quebec.
As great as it would be to have the Expos back, this seems like a really forced way to do it. What player would want to sign up for this? Professional athletes already spend half of their season away from their families, now that’d be whittled down to a quarter. Okay, so there’s probably a few players who’d sign up for this, but a large majority would not want to bother. Go ask any member of the Blue Jays travelling party what this season was like, splitting time between three cities and two countries.
Also, Olympic Stadium in Montreal is a dump and would need to be heavily renovated in order to support an MLB team, so why would the city spend hundreds of millions of dollars to get half of a baseball team? I guess 41 home games is better than zero, but that’s a huge financial commitment to share a team. From a fan perspective, I don’t even know where to begin. Maybe it’s because I’m taking a class this semester about sports fans and we literally spent the last class talking about how geography impacts sport fandom, but this seems like it’d be such a pain to follow.
What would they be called, first of all? The Rays when they’re in Tampa and the Expos when in Montreal seems silly. The best Twitter suggestion so far has been the Montreal Ex-Rays, which is just great. Would there be two sets of broadcasters, one in Tampa and one in Montreal? Where would playoff games take place? What would happen to the franchise history? Would it be like a New Orleans/Charlotte situation where the Hornets moved from Charlotte to New Orleans, but the expansion Charlotte Bobcats kept all the Hornets’ records and New Orleans started from scratch?
I don’t know why I get hung up on points like that last one, but I’ve been mapping that out for a while now. When the original Expos moved to Washington, the Nationals rightfully kept all the Expos’ history. On paper, the new Expos/Rays hybrid should keep the Rays’ history, but how weird would it be to have two iterations of the Montreal Expos with two different sets of history. It has happened before though — the Baltimore Bullets were an NBA team from 1947-1954 before folding, only for the Chicago Zephyrs to relocate to Baltimore in 1963 and take up the ‘Bullets’ nickname. So it’s not unheard of. Weird — very weird — but not unheard of.
Anyways, the full details aren’t close to being revealed, but a shared, dual-city professional sports team is not a great idea.
Unrelated, but Survivor finally returned to grace our televisions on Wednesday after a 16-month pandemic-induced hiatus for their 41st season. It’s always tough to properly evaluate a season after one episode, but I am lukewarm so far. Firstly, chopping the game down from the standard 39 days to 26 is kinda sucky, but given the circumstances they were under — the season was filmed before vaccines were widely available so everyone had to quarantine for 14 days which cut into production time — I get it. The new hail mary die they added seems gimmicky too. But it’s still Survivor, and since Season 23, the first season I started watching, there’s only been two truly bad seasons (35 and 39).
Okay, I see that I have crossed the 1000-word plateau, so I will end here before I turn this into a Survivor column. Go win that Yankees series and I hope to be sitting here this time next week writing a Wild Card preview.