Wait. What is the proposed profession?
Are the Pittsburgh Penguins straight for the Toronto Blue Jays?
Sorry, Toronto. You’re going to have to do better than that. Maybe if you still had Kawhi Leonard on the Raptors, we could talk. But for now, don’t you think you should at least add the AHL Marlies as a sweetener?
What about the CFL Argonauts? They might be ready to sign Antonio Brown before he retires and bring him back to Pittsburgh! It would be… too bad.
No. Shipping the five-time Stanley Cup champion Penguins to Toronto for the NHL playoffs “hockey in the center” isn’t ideal.
It’s also not ideal for Major League Baseball to have a Canadian team that Canada doesn’t want right now. But I guess that’s where this little sporting border exchange comes into play during the covid-19 era.
The United States is not fit to host playoff hockey. So the Penguins and the NHL Eastern Conference teams are going to be “hot” in Toronto for the playoffs. The Western Conference teams will be in Edmonton.
Meanwhile, Canada is uncomfortable with a bunch of American baseball teams crossing the border to play in Toronto. So the Blue Jays need a place to play. And, apparently, the Pirates are willing to loan PNC Park as a temporary residence for the Blue Jays.
What is there for the Pirates besides being good neighbors and friendly partners in MLB circles? Who knows. Maybe nothing. But it’s possible PNC Park could accommodate two teams in the 60-game sprint of a season.
Sadly, neither of those teams broke the 70-win mark last season. In fact, the Blue Jays finished with an even worse record (67-95) than the Pirates (69-93).
Yikes! Could PNC Park host two last-place teams at once?
Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun doesn’t think so. He joined me for Wednesday’s Breakfast With Benz podcast, and he actually thinks the Blue Jays could be improved a lot.
“The young core of positional players on this team has a huge advantage,” Longley told me. “Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio. They showed good signs as rookies last year.
Toronto has also added to its pitching team with players like Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark and Chase Anderson.
Plus, with the Jays playing in the Eastern Hybrid Division, that means Baltimore and Miami will be in that group. So Toronto probably won’t be in the basement.
Longley also explains how this potential partnership developed. Initially, most assumed the Blue Jays would host games at their spring training venue in Dunedin or at Minor League Stadium in Buffalo. But apparently players and management were pushing for a major league stadium due to the size of the park, facilities and training space.
“Developing players in a minor league environment was not how they wanted to do it,” Longley said. “The players implored management to find an MLB stadium. They didn’t want to work in an environment where there were batting cages, weight rooms, and substandard lighting. If they were to suffer from being moved, they wanted to do it in a major league stadium. At that point, management took the ball and went to places that made sense geographically. And Pittsburgh made sense.
According to Longley, there are a few other factors besides geography that could accomplish this goal.
• There are only seven conflicts on the calendar, and Longley says four or five can be easily erased.
• According to Longley, Pirates general manager Ben Cherington, former vice president of baseball operations in Toronto, helped move the talks forward. He maintains a close relationship with Blue Jays President and CEO Mark Shapiro.
• Longley even suggested that PNC Park’s scenic backdrop “visuals” could be an added benefit from a broadcast perspective.
“What a pleasure it would be for the fans of Canada to watch the games,” said Longley. “Anyone who has visited this stadium knows that it is one of the most spectacular parks in MLB. As a “TV studio” for Blue Jays fans across Canada, I think it would work pretty well.
You can listen to our entire conversation by clicking on the podcast link below. We’re getting into other options the Blue Jays might have besides Pittsburgh, the development of former Pirates first-round pick Reese McGuire with his new franchise, and how Toronto fans are reacting to that prospect.
Listen: Toronto Sun’s Tim Benz and Rob Longley talk about Blue Jays’ possibility of playing in Pittsburgh
Tim Benz is a writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication, unless otherwise specified.
Pirates / MLB | Sports | Breakfast with Benz