The Toronto Blue Jays are currently Canada’s only MLB team. The pride of Toronto slipped a bit with some fans in August while taking offense to a message some players wore on their T-shirts. The shirts left the office and players backtracking as they explained that no offense was intended. Here are the details of the Blue Jays’ snafu.
Canada’s MLB teams
Founded in 1977, the Blue Jays played in Exhibition Stadium through 1988, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia. The team moved to its own SkyDome, now known as Rogers Centre, in 1989. With the American League East, the Jays won back-to-back AL pennants and World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. They have won a total of six East Division titles.
Until 2005, Montreal had a team in the National League, the Montreal Expos. That team had been formed in 1969 and remained in Canada through 2004. Although the team did not win any pennants during its time there, it did win the NL East Division in 1981. In 2005, the team moved to Washington D.C.
The Blue Jays in 2020
Like all baseball, the Jays’ season has been immensely affected by COVID-19. But, the Toronto team had one dilemma other teams did not have to face. Canada would not let the team or opposing teams come and go from the U.S. to play ball.
“Based on the best-available public health advice, we have concluded the cross-border travel required for MLB regular season play would not adequately protect Canadians’ health and safety,” the nation’s immigration minister, Marco E. L. Mendicino, said in a statement, according to NBC in a July 18 statement.
In response, “The club completely respects the federal government’s decision,” Blue Jays CEO Mark Shapiro said in the statement. “Though our team will not be playing home games at Rogers Centre this summer, our players will take the field for the 2020 season with the same pride and passion representative of an entire nation.” This left the team scrambling to find a “home” for the 2020 season.
Shortly afterward, CBS Sports reported the team would play its home games at Sahlen Field, its AAA-affiliate ballpark in Buffalo, New York. With the elimination of any minor league gameplay this year, it would’ve been idle. The park needed a few upgrades. So the team’s first two “home” series games took place on their opponents’ fields.
Despite the upheaval, the Jays are doing well. As of September 6, the team was in second place of the AL East behind the Tampa Bay Rays. Their season has been 22-18 to date, and at this rate, they should make the playoffs. Top hitters Teoscar Hernandez, Randal Grichuk, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Cavan Biggio, Rowdy Tellez, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. have certainly contributed as has the depth of the team’s pitching staff.
So, what’s with the Toronto Blue Jays’ shirts?
In August, although the team had made arrangements for a home field, some players were apparently still feeling displaced. On August 15, pitcher Anthony Bass tweeted a photo of the shirt, revealing a disheveled Blue Jay with a bag hanging from a bat carried over the bird’s shoulder. The text, “Homeless Jays.”
Bass wrote, “We don’t mind. Here to work. #homelessjays.” It wasn’t just Bass, several players wore the shirts, and while many fans didn’t seem to mind, others took offense. “These on the market lol? Would love to have one,” was one response. Another suggested, “If you’re going to continue to wear those then how about the @BlueJays sell them with all proceeds going to help actual homeless people?”
“This is problematic my dude,” yet another responded. And, “This shirt is really uncool,” said another. Toronto is home to some 9,200 homeless people, according to FredVictor.org.
“The Toronto Blue Jays have apologized after several of their players wore t-shirts poking fun at the team’s displacement from Toronto this season,” CBS Sports wrote on August 21. The shirts have been banned by management.
“‘ The Blue Jays take accountability for ensuring negative stereotypes are not perpetuated and for supporting marginalized groups in our community,’ said the Jays in a statement. ‘The club has addressed the issue of the T-shirts with our players and they will not be worn again.'”