The Toronto Blue Jays era officially opens in Buffalo today and it should be quite a shindig at Pettibones Grille with the likes of Robbie Alomar, Cito Gaston and Pat Hentgen on hand. We'll have full coverage at Buffalonews.com and in Saturday's editions of the paper, and we'll be sure to officially answer the two questions I have been repeatedly flooded with over the last week.
Here's my initial thoughts on them:
1. Will the Blue Jays play an exhibition game here against the Bisons?
A local trade publication made this the second question asked of Mets GM Omar Minaya during their introductory press conference here in 2008 and Minaya clearly rolled his eyes because it was an uninformed inquiry. The CBA between players and owners outlawed in-season exhibitions several years ago and they are no longer held (the Bisons last played the Indians in 2002).
What IS allowed is a spring training game against your Triple-A team and several clubs have done it (the Cardinals play in Memphis almost every year). I suppose it's feasible that could happen next season, as the Blue Jays play March 29 and 30 in Philadelphia against the Phillies and have an open date on Sunday, March 31 before their season opener April 2 against Cleveland.
The Bisons, however, would likely be hesitant at such a game because of the risk of weather. They would sell a lot of tickets but potentially have a lot of rain checks to offer if it rained -- or snowed. And if it was very cold, the Jays would likely either want to cancel the game or play none of their regulars anyway. The Bisons went through this in 1987 with an Indians-Blue Jays game at War Memorial Stadium that barely got off due to bad weather and impacted the field conditions for several weeks thereafter.
2. Will the Blue Jays play a regular season game or two in Buffalo?
I am getting this question multiple times every day and I have no idea why. The Blue Jays have no obligation to give regular-season games to Buffalo just because the Bills are playing one game a year in Toronto. Different sport, completely different circumstances. Apple, meet orange.
No way they give up revenue, which has to be more than they would make here even on their smallest crowd of the season. And let's not forget they're averaging 26,178 and Buffalo only holds a tad over 18,000. How much would tickets have to cost here and are you really paying that to see, say, the Royals?
Then there's the schedule. Everybody says "Well, they can give us a couple games in April or May they won't draw for." First off, they have a roof so there's no risk of weather trouble or the need to makeup games later in the year like there would be here. Secondly, the Jays' home opponents in April go like this: Indians, Red Sox, White Sox, Yankees, Red Sox. In May, it's Red Sox, Mariners, Giants, Rays, Orioles, Braves. They're not moving the Seattle series, because it's on a weekend, and the Bisons are home anyway. And they're certainly not moving any of the others.
How about June? Rangers, Rockies, Orioles. Again, the Bisons are home the three days against the Rockies so that's a no-go if that was a thought. No way they're moving any games in July and August when they really draw and no way MLB would ever let that happen in September, if at all.
And I say MLB wouldn't approve Coca-Cola Field anyway. Lighting is only Triple-A standard and the bullpen mounds would be considered a hazard. Places like Wrigley Field are grandfathered in that regard. When Oakland played a few years ago in Las Vegas, that was because of stadium renovations going on. When Montreal played in Puerto Rico, well, that was because the Expos were drawing flies and MLB was desperate for a solution.
Doesn't apply here. So let's put that question to rest. It's not happening. Onward.
Can't help but feel the tinge of funny irony on the day the Blue Jays move in that the Mets are coming off a humiliating 16-1 loss to the Phillies last night in mostly-empty Citi Field. The Mets used a club-record 10 pitchers -- and all 16 runs were given up by 2012 Bisons. Jeremy Hefner gave up seven and didn't get an out in the Phillies' eight-run first, while Jeurys Familia was torched for five of the seven runs in the ninth.
Afterward, a terse Terry Collins kept saying "ask them" when reporters pressed him if he thought his team had quit. The Mets are 20-43 since the all-star break and just 4-24 at home. Last night's game was a makeup of a rainout earlier in the week and there appeared to only be a couple thousand fans in the stands.
Said R.A. Dickey to the New York Post: "If you think we're just a piece away, then you are fooling yourself. We've got to do a lot of things better."
We heard that a few times the last four years from the UnAmazins. Bring on the Blue Jays. Please.