blue jays mlb minute

MLB Minute: Blue Jays Fans Seeing Red & the Return to Montreal

Each week JFtC takes snapshots of the MLB landscape as a Blue Jays fan might view it.  This week we examine the marketing successes of City Connect jerseys (except in Toronto) and wonder if the Blue Jays should get involved in the stadium issue in Tampa Bay.


Featured Images Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase


 


 

 

* Once Nike reached an agreement with Major League Baseball to become the official uniform and merchandise provider, baseball fans and marketing analysts knew off-the-wall, tradition-bending changes were on the horizon. Nike designs for the NFL and NBA drew sharp criticisms from traditionalists and the mad science laboratory Nike established on the fields and in the locker rooms at the University of Oregon produced some of the most colorful-and audacious- uniforms  of all-time.

Nike has been working with each MLB team to craft uniform concepts that embrace the personality and unique characteristics of the cities they represent. Seven teams debuted City Connect uniforms in 2021 (Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Cubs, White Sox, Red Sox, Giants and Marlins). The Boston Marathon patch- inspired jerseys proved to be the top sellers, though both Chicago team designs (Cubs’ ‘Wrigleyville” and White Sox “South Siders”) also were embraced by fans and merchandise outlets. This season, Colorado, Houston, Kansas City, the LA Angels, Milwaukee and Washington unveiled City Connect uniforms with the Nationals, Astros and Rockies drawing rave reviews. The Nationals cherry blossom grays surpassed sales of 2021 top seller Red Sox by 58% within the first month of availability. The Astro-nomical sales of the NASA themed ‘Space City’ apparel blasted sales numbers by 329% of the Nats launch. The sales numbers have not been released for the green-and-white mountaintop Rockies set yet, but despite some blow-back within the fanbase it is expected to rival the sales figures posted by both designs. Just this week Blue Jays fans saw for themselves what the White Sox and Brewers looked like in their City Connect gear.

Toronto has yet to announce plans for a City Connect ensemble. Given the baby blue and traditional expansion whites alternates, it can be argued that there is no pressing need for a City Connect design. Though on several occasions the Blue Jays have sported an all-red jersey similar to those worn on Canada Day. While tradition has dictated the blue-themed jerseys worn by Toronto university and hockey sides, the maple leaf flag reds give the Jays a national take on the City Connect concept. Sounds like a great idea, right?

Based on the anger and protests shared on social media by a significant portion of team barrackers, maybe not. Blue Jays fans have blamed the all reds for losses and poor player performances and railed against the nationalistic scheme and the City Connect concept. Toronto is unique among MLB teams in that on many levels it represents an entire nation and not just a city or region. The all reds can be a reflection of this uniqueness as well as the “Canada’s team” marketing strategies the team has created since Mark Shapiro took on the team President role. Maybe a few big home wins wearing the red uniforms will change some opinions and make inroads from a merchandise revenue  standpoint. But a City Connect design really would not be an improvement upon the uniform schemes the Blue Jays already wear.

 

* Last week Rob Manfred addressed the never-ending stadium dramas playing out in Oakland and Tampa Bay at the owner’s meetings and during the post meeting press conference. Sharing the obligatory “we want insert team name here to stay where they are’ stance, the Commissioner made it clear the time is now to finalize new stadium deals in both cities or look for relocation options.

The situation in the East Bay is more time sensitive, given the stadium lease for The Colosseum expires after the 2024 season. A tentative stadium plan has been approved by Oakland city council, but environmental concerns and infrastructure upgrades have yet to be finalized. More exasperating for MLB and Rays ownership are the multiple stadium initiatives that have failed to pass on both side of Tampa Bay. While the lease at the domed white elephant in St. Petersburg ties the team to the facility until 2027, the lack of any realistic stadium plan makes keeping the Rays in the region a lost cause.

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg had proposed a split season partnership with the City of Montreal that would allow the building of a small capacity, open air stadium in the region more practical.  The Rays would play the first 3 months in Tampa Bay and then transfer home dates to a proposed open air stadium in downtown Montreal. Weather challenges of both areas would be solved and the Rays could increase revenues by tapping into 2 markets. Strong opposition by the MLBPA drove owners to reject the proposal, sending the Rays back to a drawing board full of blank paper. With relocation becoming more of a certainty with each failed in initiative, a move to a motivated Montreal market might be the ideal location.

And the Toronto Blue Jays should lead the charge to make this move happen. Since Rogers Communications took control of the Jays in 2000, a concerted effort has been undertaken to expand the team’s marketing reach across every Canadian market. Team President Mark Shapiro has developed a focused, successful campaign to establish the Blue Jays as a national entity (helped in large part by the Rogers-owned Sportsnet outlets). So at first glance the Toronto Blue Jays leading the charge to return baseball to Montreal might seem counterproductive. Consider these points to justify such actions:

1) Two Canadian teams are better than one- Being the dominant force in a marketplace certainly has its financial advantages. But being the lone franchise playing outside the United States also mutes any talks of market inequalities and competitive disadvantages. During the pandemic, MLB executives and owners paid lip service to the issues created by the border closures. The financial hardships created by the US/Canadian exchange rates are dismissed as the cost of doing business in Canada. A partner in the fight to equalize the financial playing fields would only strengthen the case for competitive balance financial payments similar to revenue sharing with smaller US markets.

2) Montreal would be the perfect divisional rival- Tampa Bay is already a member of the AL East. Over the years intense rivalries have developed between all 4 teams in the division, most recently the Rays. Should the Rays move to Montreal, that rivalry would take on dimensions not experienced since the Tigers-Jays heydays of the 80’s. Any short-term revenues compromised by sharing a piece of the Canadian market would be offset by increased ticket sales and gameday receipts. The public relations benefits alone would do bolster the bottom line, which is the ultimate goal of every baseball operation.

 

* A belated Happy Birthday wish to Blue Jays icon Carlos Delgado. The Puerto Rico native turned 49 years old on June 25th and the 12-year Jays star proved to be the gift that kept on giving. Delgado had 7 straight seasons with 30 or more home runs, 6 consecutive 100+ RBI campaigns, and anchored a Toronto lineup that thrilled Jays fans (even during losing seasons). Carlos retired with a .280/.383/.546 slash line, a franchise best 473 home runs. and was an active member in the communities of Ontario and his native island.  He was one and done on the Hall of Fame ballot, only getting 3.8% of the votes in 2015. Perhaps for a future, Blue Jays management and fans can go to bat for his well-deserved Cooperstown candidacy.

 

 

 

*Featured Images Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.

*****
HEAD ON OVER TO THE JAYS FROM THE COUCH VS ALS STORE AND GET SOME GREAT SWAG THAT YOU WILL LOOK GREAT IN AND YOU CAN FEEL GREAT ABOUT.
YOU CAN ALSO HEAD TO OUR JAYS FROM THE COUCH VS ALS FUNDRAISING PAGE TO MAKE A TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION DIRECTLY TO ALS CANADA.
*****

THANK YOU FOR VISITING JAYS FROM THE COUCH! CHECK US OUT ON TWITTER @JAYSFROMCOUCH AND LIKE US FACEBOOK. BE SURE TO CATCH THE LATEST FROM JAYS FROM THE COUCH RADIO

 

 

 

Related Posts