Blue Jays aim to come home- What stands in the way?

TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA - 2020/07/14: Toronto Blue Jays logo at the entrance of the Rogers Centre which is their home stadium in the city. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA - 2020/07/14: Toronto Blue Jays logo at the entrance of the Rogers Centre which is their home stadium in the city. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

After playing the 2020 season and all of the 2021 schedule on US soil, the Blue Jays hope to return to Canada soon. What stands in the way?

On Sunday Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reported that the Blue Jays have applied to the Federal Government in order to return to the Rogers Centre in Toronto as soon as July 30 for their home stand that begins at the end of the month. They’re not the only professional sports team seeking that approval, as the Toronto FC are looking for the same, only their requested return would take place on July 17.

When I first saw Davidi’s piece on Sunday night my initial reaction was excitement about the possibility of the Blue Jays coming home to Canada. However, as I read more into the specifics of what it would take, I hate to admit that I’m still pretty skeptical.

On the plus side, it sounds like the Blue Jays have already secured “municipal and provincial approval”, which is obviously one hurdle to surpass. However, the bigger obstacle would be getting the Canadian Federal government to sign off on a proposal, and that could be more complicated than it sounds even with improving Covid-19 numbers across North America.

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Where I see this getting a bit complicated is the fact that not every player across Major League Baseball is vaccinated, and as Davidi points out, the plan from the Blue Jays would need to “account for the segment of unvaccinated players”. What that means is if the Federal Government won’t grant an exemption to the current rules in place, there could be some players required to quarantine on some level. They found a way to make it work for the Stanley Cup playoffs in the NHL, but that was a lot shorter time span to worry about that 50+ games of a MLB season, and a lot more than just two teams crossing the border.

Davidi also points out that as of June 25th there were 23 out of 30 teams across the league that had reached the 85% vaccination threshold for the roster. That mark allows teams to relax their safety protocols, and you might remember when that happened for the Blue Jays by when Charlie Montoyo and the rest of the coaching staff stopped wearing a mask in the dugout.

There is no official list of who those seven teams are, although the whole mask policy does provide a few hints. There’s no telling whether those teams would catch of the eye of the Canadian Federal government, or if they’d want any unvaccinated individuals to be subject to different rules in order to cross the border. That’s where things get even more complicated.

The Blue Jays might be able to get the Canadian government to sign off on an arrangement, but then the next step would be getting approval from the Player’s Association and from the league office. That might be tricky if there are going to be different rules for different players, as either body could interpret that as an unfair advantage for the Jays, or even putting pressure on unvaccinated individuals to get the shot despite their wishes. Regardless of how any of us feel about the issue, it’s a touchy subject and one that the union and/or the league will want to avoid if they can.

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I’m not saying that this is going to be a dealbreaker, but I actually believe that getting league and player’s association approval may end up being even more difficult than getting Federal approval from the Canadian government. It’s all going to come down to how many concessions the Blue Jays have to make in order for the government to approve it, and then whether the restrictions are deemed to be too much. For now, all we can do is wait and see.