Blue Jays turf woes continue as MLB is “looking into” new surface


The Toronto Blue Jays caught a lot of flack over the last several years for the conditions of the playing surface at Rogers Centre. From former players to visiting opponents, there are very few warm memories of the carpet that the Blue Jays played on prior to the 2015 season. The vocalization of those worries led the Blue Jays in two different directions this past winter.

The first path the Blue Jays took was to engage researchers at the University of Guelph to study bringing natural grass to Rogers Centre in time for the 2018 season. However, that path dictated that another path also had to be taken; a path with a bridge that would carry them to that glorious 2018 season.

It’s that new path that may have the Blue Jays in trouble with Major League Baseball.

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To bridge the gap between the old surface and the natural grass, the Blue Jays installed a brand new artificial surface at Rogers Centre. The idea was to install something a little more cushy for players to work on, something that would be less strenuous on the fragile knees, hamstrings, and backs of ballplayers. In fact, Kelly Keys (Vice President of Building Services) said as much when he was asked about the new surface prior to it’s January installation.

"“The new one will be softer for the players, it will be better for their bodies, and the ball won’t roll as fast, it will be much slower.” – (h/t Shi Davidi, Sportsnet)"

In that last bit, lies the rub…err, the rug so to speak. The impact on the speed of the ball itself is what has both the Blue Jays players and the league up in arms. According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, Major League Baseball is monitoring the conditions of the new surface at Rogers Centre.

It would be one thing to discuss this as a competitive advantage, but Blue Jays players are adamantly vocal about it as well, as hitters are seeing a true impact on balls hit on the surface. As reported by John Lott of the National Post, both Jose Bautista and Dalton Pompey have openly said that they feel the surface is stealing hits from batters in just two games played.

"“It’s simply slow,” Dalton Pompey said after his Jays lost 2-1 before 48,414 customers. “The last at-bat I had, I thought I had a hit up the middle. I hit it pretty good and (the turf) just sucked it up.”“It feels like there’s no balls that are going to get to the wall,” Jose Bautista said. “Maybe on a one-hopper, but nothing that rolls or has more than four or five bounces.”"

Now, the real question will be how much the surface speeds up after it has been played on much more. It likely won’t be an instantaneous change, but the surface should mat down gradually over time. The Blue Jays could also speed it up by removing some of the black rubber bits used to fill out the surface and add to its cushion. Of course that also removes some of its comfort, but it looks like this may be a give or take situation that may require the field playing quicker or being easier to stand on.

At the end of the day, Major League Baseball, a league looking to add offense, may make the choice for them.

Next: The hidden value of Blue Jays rookie Devon Travis

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