FBJ Minor League Notebook


It’s a slow time of year, but a couple of items have crossed my desk in the past week.

This one from Oakland beat reporter Susan Slusser came from Left Field (and I’m not talking about the Hey Y’all section at Nat Bailey):

I had reported the A’s were considering Vancouver. Apparently the Blue Jays decided to keep the Vancouver affiliation and cede Lansing to the A’s. That’s how it looks to me anyway.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) November 30, 2020

The thinking all along had been that the C’s would become either a Giants or Athletics affiliate as the Northwest League moves to full season High A status as part of the geographic coordination part of MLB’s extensive makeover of the minors. With the Florida State League slated to become Low A, and the Midwest League moving to the upper A level, the Blue Jays obviously wouldn’t have room for two affiliates, and the thinking was that Vancouver was going to be the odd team out.

But now that doesn’t appear to be the case, as former C’s play-by-play man Rob Fai said on his Monday night TSN Radio show, “the Blue Jays front office called an audible.” Slusser suggested that Covid and border issues were the cause of the switch, but Fai quashed that idea, and it’s not hard to believe him. Fai thinks that Rogers may have overruled the Blue Jays player development department in this case:

You have to wonder…..if somebody in Toronto caught wind of the fact that (the Jays) weren’t going to be with Vancouver…..player ops may have wanted to have an affiliate in Lansing, but there isn’t a sales and marketing guy at Rogers Communications that would have wanted that…..trust me, Oakland wasn’t looking to have their A affiliate in Lansing, Michigan.

Whether or not this is the case, there is some logic to it. The Blue Jays have no doubt benefited from their partnership with Vancouver, but getting roving staff there has been something of a challenge – several instructors met the team on the road last year. But if the Rogers marketing folks think having an affiliation with the Jays will allow the corporation to sell phones, internet, and tv packages on the west coast, it’s possible to see their influence. With issues around Covid and the border still far from settled, it’s also hard to see the C’s playing their home games in Vancouver regardless of who their Player Development Contract is with.

Between Lansing and Vancouver, it’s a shame that one of them has to go, and a pox on MLB for orchestrating this unnecessary cost-saving overhaul of the minors in the first place. Both have their strengths and weaknesses from an affiliate point of view, but both were excellent partners. Lansing’s ball park is a gem, and a game at The Nat is an experience all Blue Jays fans should put on their bucket lists.

“You’ll have to ask Joe Natale.”

That was the answer Mark Shapiro gave to an inquiry about the pace of Rogers Centre renos that I posed to him three years ago, as we sat in his office overlooking Toronto harbour on a beautiful early October afternoon.

Just twenty four months into the job of rebuilding the franchise from the ground up, Shapiro was clearly frustrated with bumping his head against the Rogers corporate hierarchy. Shapiro and his then-newly appointed GM Ross Atkins wanted to burn the roster down and start with a rebuild, but their organizational masters, giddy with excitement over back-to-back playoff appearances, wanted to maintain the status quo.

And Shapiro was chafing under the restraints.

He was given permission to begin building a state of the art player devo system, but his plans to give the dome a badly needed update were gathering dust on a Rogers’ executive’s desk. Oh, sure, Paul Beeston had teased us on the way out the door with a suggestion that a grass playing field could be installed, but Shapiro quickly learned that accomplishing such a feat on the lowest-lying surface of downtown Toronto was an engineering impossibility.

Word came in the Globe and Mail last Friday that Rogers has huge plans for the stadium that bears its name and the real estate around it. The plans, it seems, have been put on the back burner for now – understandably so – but it points out two things about Shapiro: he tends to think on grand terms, and he was brought here to build more than a ball team.

For closing in on half a century, we Blue Jays fans have had to put up with sub-standard places to watch our beloveds. Exhibition Stadium had its charms, but it was a bit embarrassing, to be honest. It was hastily-built, and the stadium that succeeded it was a compromise. SkyDome was built as a multi-use facility, which renders it woefully inadequate for watching baseball (the “Rain Bowl” that was the 1983 Grey Cup at the Ex was the impetus for the domed stadium project). Ontario fans have supported the Blue Jays through thick and thin for five decades. We and future generations deserve a statement ballpark. And unlike its predecessor, which was built with public funds, Rogers has the coin to do this right.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. obtiene permiso para jugar con los Leones ►► https://t.co/NVKrXqrqzI por @YancenPujols #elCaribe pic.twitter.com/wXrTO1MoxM— El Caribe (@ElCaribeRD) November 30, 2020

Vlad joins Otto Lopez in the Escogido lineup. Elsewhere, fireballer Yennsy Diaz, placed on the 60-day injured list with a lat strain in June, is pitching for Oriente. Dany Jimenez and Hector Perez are pitching for Licey. Meanwhile, Gabriel Moreno and Maximo Castillo are playing for Lara of the Venezuelan Winter League. In late October, it was reported that Chavez Young and Samad Taylor would suit up for Canberra in the Australian Baseball League.

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