The president of the Vancouver Canadians is still holding out hope there will be baseball played at Nat Bailey Stadium in 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the sports world on hold but Andy Dunn talked to TSN 1040 in Vancouver about when the season could start if things are under control.
“We’re not on hold yet. We’re supposed to open up in June. We’re going to have to wait to take the lead for what’s going on at the big league level before it decides what’s going on at the minor league level. We hope to have some baseball this summer.
One of the things we’re looking at right now—if we are delayed or the big league guys don’t actually break (camp) until July—we’re in a situation right now that we’ve already have discussions and approvals potentially if we have to push the start of our season back, we could play up until the end of September for a time frame.”
Dunn also called the Vancouver Canadians “as stable as franchise as there is in Minor League Baseball strictly because of the great fan support.”
The future of the C’s has come into question after it was reported late last year that Major League Baseball is seeking to eliminate 42 teams, most of them at the short-season level.
Baseball America recently reported Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball will apparently agree to MLB’s demand. It appears the pandemic played a huge role in MiLB granting this concession after previously vowing to go to bat for the franchises affected, calling on political support to prevent this from happening.
Minor League President Pat O’Conner did not divulge on the specifics of the current MLB/MiLB negotiations but admitted in an interview on Sportsnet 590 The Fan that the status quo is a no-go.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a secret that the landscape of Minor League Baseball is going to look much different under this new vision and view of the commissioner and the owners of Major League Baseball.”
For the teams on the chopping block hoping for a reprieve, O’Conner admitted, “It’s a bright line in the sand. It’s whatever MLB wants.”
The Vancouver Canadians have not appeared the list of 42 teams (which is not necessarily the final list according to Baseball America) to be cut loose from MiLB but fellow Northwest League teams Salem-Keizer and Tri-City are on it. According to Ballpark Digest, the C’s would join a full-season league of West Coast teams with the other NWL franchises in Everett, Spokane, Eugene, Hillsboro and Boise.
Steve Ewen of The Vancouver Province suggested in a recent article that the Canadians could have a new MLB affiliate if the proposed changes go through.
Dunn told TSN 1040 that the C’s and Jays are on solid ground.
“Our affiliation and our partnership with the Toronto Blue Jays is as strong as it’s ever been so I really, at this point, don’t have any thought process or anything that that would change whatsoever.”
Each of the 30 major league clubs would have four full-season affiliates and a Rookie-League club under the proposed set-up. The Toronto Blue Jays have their current affiliation agreements with Triple-A Buffalo, Double-A New Hampshire, Single-A Dunedin and Lansing along with short-season affiliates Vancouver and Bluefield.
One thing to note is all the current Player Development Contracts the Blue Jays have with their affiliates expire at the end of the 2020 season, save for Vancouver as the deal between Canada’s teams runs until the conclusion of the 2022 campaign.
In a game of musical chairs, one of Buffalo, New Hampshire, Dunedin, Lansing or Vancouver would be left standing. One scenario could see Lansing leave the Jays nest or another could see Dunedin become the Rookie League affiliate, serving as the de facto Gulf Coast League squad.
On Sportsnet 590 The Fan, Blue Jays columnist Shi Davidi had this to say about the future of the Vancouver Canadians’ affiliation with Toronto (at the 1:56 mark of the linked audio).
“It serves a wider purpose for the Blue Jays beyond just being a player development affiliate. (Vancouver) is in a strong geographic location within the league that it’s in… (Nat Bailey Stadium) is a good quality facility for that level of baseball.
Is this team just serving a wider purpose? And for the Vancouver Canadians, it certainly is. When you think about the Blue Jays trying to establish a reach across the country and making sure there is a connection with fans out west.
Certainly there’s a strategic value there but it’s also a place where there is good community support. It’s one of those minor league teams that is a bit of a model especially with the way they’ve been run by the ownership group there. I think Vancouver is probably safe.”
The collective bargaining agreement between MLB and MiLB is set to expire at the end of the 2020 season. What would happen if there is no 2020 season? Could the CBA go until 2021 instead? Legalities aside, it may not matter because the pandemic could see some teams go out of business with no fans coming through the gates to buy tickets, concessions and merchandise.
It’s bad enough that the Bluefield Blue Jays and its fellow Appalachian League teams were already facing the possibility of extinction heading into the year before the pandemic. Now it’s possible those teams have already played its final game as an affiliated minor league team. MLB has floated the possibility of a “Dream League” for the teams that lose their major league affiliation to allow undrafted players to keep playing but that is not a certainty at this point.
One silver lining in the proposed set up for Blue Jays prospect watchers in Vancouver is getting a chance to see more of the top prospects make a stop at Nat Bailey Stadium. Current Blue Jays who never saw time in Vancouver include Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Danny Jansen and Markham, Ontario pitcher Jordan Romano. Current Jays prospects not to set foot in YVR include 2018 first-round pick Jordan Groshans, catchers Alejando Kirk and Gabriel Moreno and Brazilian hurler Eric Pardinho.
Dunn also told TSN Radio in Vancouver that Canadians ownership is committed to supporting full-season ball should it come to pass.
“Our organization will move forward in the Northwest League whether it’s 130, 140 or 110 games. Our main goal is to provide a great night of entertainment, a value night of entertainment for people who want to come out and enjoy baseball in the city of Vancouver. We’re committed to that whether its 76 games or 130 games.”
Dunn says the full-season league the C’s could join will still be known as the Northwest League.
The C’s president rules out the possibility of indoor baseball for the minors due to expenses, adding “the minor league situation with no gate, no fans, just really from a financial standpoing does not make any sense whatsoever.”
Dunn also confirmed that C’s co-owner Jake Kerr is part of the negotiating committee for Minor League Baseball. Kerr and Jeff Mooney assumed ownership of the Canadians in 2007.
Here are some of the tweets about the Vancouver Canadians that made the grade recently.