The Toronto Blue Jays have flipped the bird to the Vancouver Canadians as an MLB affiliate.
Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday that the Oakland Athletics will once again be the MLB affiliate for Monty’s Mounties. You have to go down all the way to the bottom of the linked story for the bombshell: “…former big-league first baseman Rico Brogna will manage (the A’s) low-level Class A team, which is expected to move from Beloit, Wisc. to Vancouver, according to a source.”
Oakland was the Canadians affiliate from 2000 to 2010 before Toronto took over in 2011.
The Blue Jays and Canadians organizations have not confirmed their parting of the ways but that’s only because both sides are waiting for Major League Baseball to work out a new collective bargaining agreement with Minor League Baseball that will see the number of affiliated minor league teams drop from 162 to 120.
However, it’s a done deal. The confirmation comes from former Vancouver Canadians broadcaster Rob Fai.
The warning signs that this would happen were prevalent over the last few months. One recent hint was the Canadians selling off their 2019 game-worn jerseys that include the Blue Jays shoulder patch. The last time Canadians game-worn jerseys were sold was after the 2013 campaign to make way for the new uniforms that were designed. It’s not known if the jersey design will differ in 2021 but it’s a safe bet that an Oakland A’s logo will be on it.
Another telling sign was the zero amount of speculation of the Lansing Lugnuts future as a Blue Jays affiliate. It was widely believed that the final spot for the Jays’ four full-season affiliates came down to Lansing or Vancouver as Triple-A Buffalo, Double-A New Hampshire and Single-A Dunedin (owned by the Jays) took up the first three slots.
Earlier this summer, Jays/ESPN play-by-play announcer Dan Shulman discussed the likelihood of Canada’s Teams separating with Baseball America‘s J.J. Cooper on the podcast A Swing and a Belt.
Rob Fai and Steve Ewen of The Vancouver Province discussed what the future may hold for the C’s on Rob Fai Nation Radio on TSN 1040 Monday night.
The two raised the possibility that if the Canadian/U.S. border remains closed to traffic due to COVID-19 next spring, the 2021 season in Vancouver could be in jeopardy. If the team cannot play in Vancouver, one option could be Joe Martin Field in Bellingham, Washington, the home of the Bellingham Bells of the West Coast League and former home of the Bellingham Mariners from 1977 to 1994.
A story by Ewen today in The Province wonders what will happen to the Canadians’ Radio/TV deal with Sportsnet, owned by the same company who owns the Jays. The reported multi-year deal was signed prior to the 2019 season and featured six televised games last season.
That Radio/TV deal was one reason why one would think the C’s and Jays partnership would continue as the Jays brand would receive cross-country promotion. Players getting to play in front of packed houses on an award-winning surface at Nat Bailey Stadium would have been two other checkmarks in the pros column. Vancouver may not have the geographical advantage in the Jays farm system but it’s not like players from A-ball get promoted to the bigs everyday, Alejandro Kirk excepted.
Canada’s Teams? Not Anymore!
It was eight years ago when I attended the Vancouver Canadians Open House at Nat Bailey Stadium in the fall. Fans had a chance to look around the ballpark and get a photo taken with the Bob Freitas Trophy as the C’s successfully defended their 2011 Northwest League title in 2012. In the workout area under the stands was a sign that said ‘Canada’s Teams’ with both the C’s and Jays logos flanking the verbiage.
One thing has been made clear. By cutting ties with Vancouver, the Toronto Blue Jays really cannot claim to be Canada’s Team anymore. They’re Toronto’s team only. Jays ownership has made absolutely sure of that. Message received.