The Toronto Blue Jays logo—located on the right sleeve of Joey Murray‘s uniform—will adorn the Vancouver Canadians uniform once again.

“Now’s the time to redefine the first arrangement again.”

That’s a line from Steely Dan‘s song The Second Arrangement, a song that was supposed to be on its 1980 album Gaucho before a junior engineer accidentally destroyed most of the original recording. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker tried re-recording the song again numerous times but they felt it was not up to their exacting standards and decided not to put the song on the album. Thankfully, demo versions of the song can be found on YouTube.

The Second Arrangement is about a man going through a break-up/divorce and figuring out what to do next. It definitely looked like the Toronto Blue Jays wanted a second arrangement by divorcing the Vancouver Canadians in favour of the Lansing Lugnuts as part of the restructuring of Major League Baseball’s plan for Minor League Baseball. However, the Blue Jays have announced it is extending an invitation to Vancouver to become its High-A affiliate.

Under the new arrangement between MLB and MiLB (a.k.a. “terms of surrender” for MiLB) the 30 MLB teams are limited to four full-season minor league affiliates with short-season baseball being eliminated.

As part of the restructuring, the Northwest League is now a full-season High-A league, moving up two levels from Short-Season A ball while the Midwest League has been bumped up from the Low-A level to the High-A circuit. That meant Toronto had to decide between Lansing and Vancouver as to which city would host its High-A affiliate and it looked like Lansing was the preferred choice due to geographical considerations.

Last-Minute Audible

It was nearly two months ago when Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle first reported that the Oakland A’s were to take over as Vancouver’s affiliate again after having the affiliation previously from 2000-2010. The story also mentioned nine-year major league first baseman Rico Brogna—who played for Detroit, the New York Mets, Philadelphia, Boston and Atlanta—was to become the C’s news manager.

Rob Fai of TSN 1040 Radio in Vancouver and former Canadians broadcaster confirmed Slusser’s story with Athletics officials that Oakland was moving ahead with its plans to team up with Vancouver again.

That looked to be the way things were shaping up before Slusser tweeted at the end of November that the Lansing Lugnuts were going to be an Oakland affiliate instead.

Slusser suggested that the Canada/U.S. border restrictions due to the pandemic played a role in the decision.

On the November 30 show of Rob Fai Nation, Fai dismissed the COVID concern raised by Slusser and believed “a last-minute audible was called”.

“There is no way the Oakland A’s organization—who is usually right near the bottom of wanted affiliations by minor league teams—would turn their back on Vancouver and a decade-long potential relationship because of this year and the fact that in the next couple of months, it might not be able to get across the border. … So to be honest with you, I think the Oakland A’s—as a matter of fact—I know that the Oakland A’s were thinking that they were on their way to Vancouver for this coming season.

Having spoken with a number of people (Monday, November 30), that report that initially came out… about a month, a month-and-a-half ago, that’s enough time for somebody to get that information, contact Major League Baseball and say ‘Uh-uh!’ So you wonder now hearing that Lansing could become an affiliate of the Oakland A’s if that wasn’t the audible. That somebody in Toronto caught wind of the fact that they weren’t going to be with Vancouver, that they were going to be sent to Lansing and that Vancouver was going to go to Oakland? No shot.

And I can tell you this, Player Operations in Toronto maybe wanted to have Lansing instead of Vancouver but there was not a sales or marketing guy (from Jays ownership) that would’ve wanted that. A national relationship, a national brand. I mean when I first heard Oakland, I thought it was crazy but I still did my due diligence and I still went out and made the calls. And yeah, there were some in Oakland who were told that Vancouver was where they were going to be going in 2021 so do the math on that.

You got the Oakland A’s telling certain people within their minor league staff that they’re going to Vancouver for 2021 and now all of a sudden, a report comes out that they’re going to Lansing. Well, if you’re going to do a last-minute switch, at the 11th hour, the only team that you could trade is now Lansing with Vancouver. Trust me, Oakland wasn’t looking at Lansing, Michigan to have their ‘A’ affiliate there.

Bottom line is it sounds to me,  the story that came out a month-and-a-half ago, somebody in Toronto said, ’Oh-no! We’re staying in Vancouver!’ And so Major League Baseball, once they had a chance to fix it, simply made the switch. Because you gotta remember, Minor League Baseball teams don’t pick their affiliates now. Major League Baseball picks it for them. And basically you can see the one-for-one switch.

So the A’s, instead of coming to Vancouver might be going to Lansing, and Vancouver gets re-upped with Toronto. That might not be what the baseball operations department wanted but you can bet your bottom dollar that (Jays ownership), that they found out, caught wind and wanted to make that change and could get that change done which would be awesome.”

Fai expanded his thoughts on his radio show two days later.

“Everybody saw my tweet where I said the Canadians are going to become an affiliate of the Oakland A’s and end a nine-year relationship with the Toronto Blue Jays. It made its way all the way to Toronto. Mark Shapiro, the president of the (Blue Jays) organization, was asked about it in a scrum to which he said there was absolutely no truth to this and it’s basically B.S.’ (Vancouver president) Andy Dunn had to do the media junket the very next morning, come out and say, ‘No, there’s no truth to this. We’ll let you know when we have something quote-“factual” which is what you’re going to say.

But I have since learned that when that information came out … Apparently Oakland was embarrassed, the Canadians had no idea what was going on and the Blue Jays were pissed. … Fast forward a couple of weeks and now I’ve got it on very good authority that this Vancouver relationship with the Blue Jays is back in play. … So to the phone I go again to try and get confirmation on this and lo and behold, there’s definitely some smoke here. … Now Toronto’s going to disclaim this, they’re going to say that ‘Rob’s full of crap’. The Canadians are going to say, ‘Rob’s full of crap’ but the math says otherwise. 

The only way that my story will hold up is if when they come out … and say here’s the 120 teams, here’s the affiliations and here’s where the major leagues are going to set up shop in the minor leagues, if Lansing and Oakland are a pair, then that story holds up. Meaning that the Blue Jays and (Jays ownership) were so upset that calls were made and the affiliates were swapped.

You will never get an answer from Major League Baseball, from the Blue Jays or from Vancouver. It will not happen. There’s no PR company, no PR person that will ever allow it to happen. … Oakland never wanted to go to Lansing. There’s no reason for them there. They wanted to go to Vancouver, Oakland wanted Vancouver. Toronto wanted Lansing. At least the (Jays) player operations (department) wanted Lansing because it’s three-four hours away.

But the sales and marketing of (Jays ownership) said, ‘Uh-uh! We’re not losing our grip on the west coast. We got a TV deal there. We got a radio deal there. We’ve got a 10-year relationship there and we got an opportunity to put the (company name) all over that stadium on the west coast of Canada. Why would we ever lose that relationship?’ 

I guarantee you calls were made, situations were changed and the only way that I will be right on this one … is that if the Blue Jays  come out as Vancouver’s affiliate once again which just extends their decade-long relationship, I’m happy. I want to be wrong about Oakland but you will know that the flip was made at the 11th hour if Lansing, Michigan is an affiliate of the A’s.”

Connecting the Dots

Steve Ewen of The Vancouver Province draws a connection as to who may have been the key players in keeping the Blue Jays-Canadians relationship going.

“(Vancouver Canadians co-owner Jake) Kerr, a former forest product company CEO, also went to the University of B.C. alongside Phil Lind, … the second name listed on the Blue Jays’ front office directory. You can play it out from there.”

Ewen also tweeted that B.C. Premier John Horgan also played a helping hand.

Boise & Salem-Keizer Deep-Sixed to Reduce NWL To Six

The Northwest League sees its membership reduced from eight to six teams due to the MLB-MiLB restructuring. The Boise Hawks will be joining the Pioneer League as an independent team and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes—who wound up on the original contraction list of 42 MiLB teams—is left without an affiliation after San Francisco stepped aside and their future is now in doubt.

Unlike Salem-Keizer, the Tri-City Dust Devils survived contraction as they have been invited to be an affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels after San Diego bid adieu. The Spokane Indians (previously with Texas) have received an invite from the Colorado Rockies and the Eugene Emeralds (formerly with the Chicago Cubs) have been asked by the San Francisco Giants to become their Northwest League affiliate. The Hillsboro Hops, the Everett AquaSox and the Vancouver Canadians will remain with the same dance partners they had in the Arizona Diamondbacks, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays respectively.

With a 132-game schedule in the works if there is a baseball season in 2021, it appears the Canadians will see opposing teams about 25 times a season. It’s safe to say the six teams left will get sick of each other fairly quickly and it’s unfortunate there are not at least eight teams to break up the monotony.

I would like to say the green banner of this blog has to do with my Irish roots but that would be a lie. After experiencing denial, anger, bargaining and depression, I was at the final stage of acceptance that Oakland would be the new affiliate for Monty’s Mounties. I even purchased the book ‘Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s’ by Jason Turbow to learn more about the A’s teams of the 1970s. To quote Steely Dan, I was running to the second arrangement.

Now with the Jays back in the fold, it’s back to square one for this blog. I look forward to watching the next batch of Toronto prospects to make their way to Nat Bailey Stadium in 2021, whenever that may be.

Still, it’s unbelievable that it took so long to arrive back at this destination. It makes me wonder whether the Blue Jays brass truly appreciate what they have in Vancouver. Maybe if Mark Shapiro or Ross Atkins take the time to catch a game here, they would realize this is a good thing going on between Canada’s Teams.

Vancouver fans are fortunate they will have an affiliated team to cheer for. That’s not the case for 42 sets of fans throughout the minors. Why does MLB hate the sport so much?

Oakland Gets a Good One in Lansing

Lansing Lugnuts broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler (left) endured a visit from C’s Plus Baseball in 2019.

Though I am glad to see Vancouver remain in the Toronto system, I am sad to see Lansing leave the nest. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Lugnuts broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler did God’s work with the Around the Nest podcast by setting up weekly chats with all of the play-by-play announcers in the Jays minor league system since 2012. It was a thrill for me personally to take part in one of the podcasts early in the 2018 season to fill in for Rob Fai who was busy calling a Friday nooner at The Nat.

I was fortunate enough to pay a visit to Lansing in May of last year to take in a game and meet Jesse in person. He is the real deal, the real article. He’s as good a person as he is a broadcaster. Oakland fans, you’ve got a good man at the microphone here. Enjoy the knowledge he will deliver about future A’s prospects. Be sure to follow Jesse on Twitter @jgoldstrass.


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