Archive for the ‘If There’s Grass On The Field…’ Category


FYI, I went with the click-baity headline instead of the far more appropriate, Here’s some fucking possible bullshit set to derail the Jays’ quest for a grass field, because why should we be allowed to have nice things or bask in some good times for once in two damn decades?

Anywho, as you’ve probably heard by now, Cathal Kelly has published an interesting little piece today for the Globe and Mail, detailing how the supposed foregone conclusion that is the Argos’ move to a new-look BMO Field has hit a snag, and isn’t just on the verge of being called off, but that MLSE “has cancelled plans to include the Toronto Argonauts in their renovation.”

That’s a statement that obviously has ominous undertones for Blue Jays fans who just want to watch their team play on a grass field like everybody damn else — though, if they keep playing the way they’re playing, who could complain? — but it soon becomes evident in Kelly’s piece that the manoeuvrings being discussed are part of a much larger game of chess being played by several of the city’s levels of government and big-money sporting interests, and that cancelled plans could soon be un-cancelled, or reworked, or… we don’t exactly know yet.

That would seem to be the big takeaway from a Jays perspective, too: we just don’t know yet. Or, to give it the more pessimistic slant: we’ve been thrown back into limbo on the Argos issue, after we’d been so sure we’d been handed a clean break, given the fancy-suited set’s plans to dangle the Argos in front of governments in order to secure a handout that would pay for MLSE’s hoped-for renovation of BMO. (Because how else could MLS-and-fuckin’-E pay for something like that. O how???)

I don’t think that was ever really the final hurdle between the Jays and a grass pitch, but here it is again, being propped up in front of us all the same. For now.

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The expansion to BMO Field was voted on by Toronto’s city council yesterday, and the motion passed by a count of 39-3, with Rob and Doug Ford both being among the three to vote nay. Never heard of them.

The Toronto Star has the details on the vote, which almost certainly ensures that BMO will be the new home of the Toronto Argonauts.

But the thing about that is, don’t get too excited about grass showing up at the Rogers Centre anytime soon. BMO itself is a big undertaking, and they haven’t cleared all the hurdles quite yet — though Duncan Fletcher of TFC blog Walking The Red, who for obvious reasons has been following the issue closely, doesn’t see that as being a problem.

Next up is getting the $10m that MLSE is asking for from the provincial and federal governments, but let’s face it, that’s already in the bag, the appropriate people have already been wined and dined and taken to see a Leafs game with Drake, all that sort of thing. Though Ottawa seems to be talking a tough game, this will happen.

So… the Argos are moving to BMO, and the plan — given how obvious the need is for them to get out of Rogers Centre, and all the talk about using the upgraded version of the facility for the Pan Am Games — seems to be to make it sooner rather than later, yes. But here’s something: I’ve heard a whisper that part of the reason some of the talk from the Jays and Rogers that makes it seem like they’re more in the “later rather than sooner” camp on this is actually because what the Jays are planning — in addition to the added grass and all of Paul Beeston’s convoluted blather about wind currents or whateverthefuck — is a much bigger project than maybe you think.

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Rogers and the Buffalo Bills announced this morning that they will not be holding the Bills In Toronto series at Rogers Centre this year, claiming in a joint statement from Bills President and CEO, Russ Brandon, and Rogers Media President, Keith Pelley, that they “will use this time to collectively evaluate opportunities and build on the foundation to enhance future games.”

That seems like a rather tidy little pronouncement on the surface, but there may be a whole lot more to the story. Particularly, disaffection on the Bills’ side of things, despite the fact that it was not long ago that the two sides agreed upon a five-year extension of the deal, which was to see Bills games played at Rogers Centre until 2017.

Mike Gaughan of the Buffalo News explains:

The initial five-year deal was a financial windfall for the Bills, with Rogers guaranteeing the Bills roughly double the revenue from the games in Toronto that Buffalo would gross for games in Orchard Park. The terms of the five-year extension have not been made public. But sources have told The News that the terms are not nearly as tilted in the Bills’ favor, and that the team is not grossing much more than it would take in at The Ralph.

The series isn’t working on the field, either, with tepid crowds — “last year’s game drew an announced crowd of 38, 969, at least 12,000 short of a sellout,” Gaughan writes, also noting that there seemed to be as many Falcons fans in attendance as Bills fans — and poor results. The Bills are 1-5 in regular season games at Rogers Centre.

Perhaps the limited financial windfall under the terms of the extension doesn’t offset the dent this game — and the giving up of a real home field advantage at the Ralph, especially when they bring a damn dome team like Atlanta into Toronto for the series — puts in the Bills chances making some actual playoff revenue. It’s a hilarious thought, I know, but for real!

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Paul Beeston appeared on Prime Time Sports last night on the Fan 590, and dropped a steaming shit-bomb on fans’ hopes that getting the Argos out of the Rogers Centre could “expedite” the process of bringing real grass to the facility.

After mostly brushing off questions about the still-possible improvements to the roster — he says would never say he’s satisfied and doesn’t want to get better, declined to answer about whether he’d be surprised if they got to Opening Day without a major addition, but actually came around to admitting that, based on both offense and defence, they’re looking to improve on Ryan Goins specifically — and addressing the whole The Policy thing again (and, as usual, sounding more firm about it as a guiding principle than Alex Anthopoulos ever does),  the issue of the upgrades to Rogers Centre came up, as Stephen Brunt pressed the Jays’ president and CEO on the confusion that has reigned as the story out of Rogers has changed.

After letting Beeston give his spiel about the many obstacles that will need to be overcome, Brunt went to work:

BRUNT: If the Argos were not part of this discussion, and I said to you, ‘Put grass in there as fast as you possibly can,’ how long do you think that would take?

BEESTON: I think it would take three or four years.

BRUNT: Still?

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Awesome stuff from Minor Leaguer at Bluebird Banter that ruined/saved a speculative post I’d been working on last night and this morning on the same subject — which I am currently trying to salvage with this mailed-in one — as he nails down what’s going on with the Jays’ turf for the upcoming season. This comes on the heels of a BBB post with fan quotes from Paul Beeston at the State of the Franchise and a whisper in the direction of the Blue Jay Hunter earlier in the week, suggesting that something indeed was happening with the Rogers Centre playing surface — which was especially being speculated about, since the turf wasn’t on the field during the SOTF event, as it has been for at least each of the last several years.

Short story: the club is attempting to wring one more season out of the surface before bringing in a new turf next season, which will cover the field until real grass is finally installed, by “replacing the infill layer in order to soften the turf.”

So… uh… this was possible all along? Because while the turf definitely became more of an issue than ever before in 2013 — in an earlier post on the subject, Bluebird Banter pointed to a tweet from Mike Ferrin, who relayed that Emilio Bonifacio was “freaked out” by fielding on the surface, though he supposedly played well at second when he moved over to Kansas City — it’s not like we haven’t known for a while. Shit, it was two years ago that Paul Beeston first admitted publicly that a grass field was a possibility, and at the time he said that it had been under consideration for ten years!!

Speaking of that — not to mention horseshit — as far as getting real grass, apparently 2018 is now “the goal,” according to a quote in the BBB piece from Jays senior vice president, business operations, Stephen Brooks.

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MLSE wants an NFL team and public money with which to renovate BMO field. The National Football League doesn’t want to kill the Argos, and the various tiers of government might be more inclined to kick in money with another tenant in the building — particularly one with deep roots, cultural significance, and an inability to secure stadium funding on their own.

Solution: Starfrit! Assuming, y’know, that in some language “Starfrit” means that MLSE or Larry Tanenbaum buys the Argos.

According to Dave Naylor of – not to mention an anonymous tipster I wrote about a week ago — that is precisely what seems to be happening behind the scenes.

Talks between David Braley and MLSE have heated up in recent months to the point that the MLSE board, which includes Tanenbaum as well as representatives from Bell and Rogers, was asked to vote during December on acquiring the CFL team.

While the board could not agree on the matter, there remains the possibility that MLSE could revisit buying the team or that Tanenbaum himself may purchase it.

Naylor quotes former MLSE head Richard Peddie as claiming that “everything I’m hearing is that that the NFL is telling them that if you want an NFL team, you better make sure the Argos are okay. I don’t think it’s out of the realm that he may do it.”

Here’s the thing that I wonder, though — and that I know from previous discussions about the subject other commenters wonder about, too. Obviously getting the Argos out of the Rogers Centre is a tremendous thing for the Jays and their plans to eventually join the nineteenth century and play on an actual grass surface. But if the aim is in part to land an NFL team, where exactly is that team going to be housed?

I mean, obviously eventually they’d need a new stadium. The Rogers Centre is comically bad for football. It would be among the smallest, and oldest stadiums in the NFL, and according to a Globe and Mail piece from late November, there is already a design for an NFL-friendly venue at Downsview Park. But… uh… are they going to start building before they have a franchise in place?

Obviously I have no idea what any sort of plan might be and am just spitballing. If the aim is to move the Buffalo Bills here — and, really, maybe it would have to be, given the existing relationship, and the fact that it might be tough to teams in both markets to coexist — it’s very possibly a non-issue, as that team could simply be dickishly moved from Orchard Park once the stadium at Downsview is built.  But on days like this — especially when reminded, as I was after writing about the grass issue yesterday, that rumblings from two years back, while not officially from the Jays themselves, suggested that playing surface changes could be coming to the Rogers Centre much sooner than the 2018 timeline Paul Beeston now calls “realistic” — it’s easy for the mind to get spinning about the possibility of an NFL team being temporarily housed at Rogers Centre until a new facility is built.

This is all very theoretical, of course. But right now MLSE has the Rogers Centre as an NFL option in their back pocket. Once they start tearing up the floor in order to go baseball-only, doesn’t it disappear?

Are the Argos, then, even the real obstacle that the Jays face with regard to this vital issue for their franchise? Getting them out of the building at least starts the process, by the cynic in me — or maybe it’s just the downtrodden Jays fan — just can’t quite start jumping for joy as though a fast-moving Argos-to-BMO thing alone will “expedite,” as Beeston says, the installation of the Jays’ desperately needed grass surface the way that, right now, it would be oh so easy to hope. There’s a fun thought, huh?


Well here’s something that probably should turn into a regular feature, but never quite seems to — but that I’ll make to look like one anyway in order to keep from having it seem too terribly out of place: a collection of Monday thoughts on what was going on over the weekend that really should have just been separated into several individual posts…

Paul Beeston Is No Agromonongist

“I would say, at the very earliest, and probably realistically, 2018,” said Paul Beeston in an interview with Team 1040 in Vancounver (audio here) about the possibility of bringing grass to the Rogers Centre.

Beeston was on the west coast for the annual Vancouver Canadians luncheon, and spent a segment with former Globe and Mail scribe Matt Sekeres and Blake Price, answering the grass question, among several others. And actually, once you get past the initial groan about poor Jose Reyes’s knees on that shitty felt until 2018, and having to keep staring at a rug with all the visual appeal of a meth head’s front lawn (though Alex Anthopoulos has hinted that replacement turf may be coming in the interim), it’s really not that grim.

“The Argos are there until 2017. And, you know, I’m a great believer in the CFL,” Beeston said, as they all do when they’re trying to not poison their own brand with the potential stink of the rotting corpse of CFL in Toronto on their hands. “They’ve got their area to work it out, so they’ve got four more seasons to work it out. We have some real issues that we have to work on, engineering-wise. We have to take down, put it in, put in some type of drainage — and apparently the big thing is air flow. We have to have air flow — our air flow comes down from the top, it’s got to come from the side. Whatever that means, I’m not a agrologist, or whatever it is — an ‘agromonongist’ — or… you know what I’m talking about. The fact of the matter is, we’ve got some things, but I would say, realistically, that 2018. If the Argos left before that, we would expedite it.”

Ahh, pulled it out of the fire at the end, you wily old devil.

But… yeah. It is what it is. And it’s not like Beeston doesn’t know the value of proper stadium to the product he’s trying to sell — he brought up the universally acclaimed experience at PNC Park in Pittsburgh at one point, in fact. So… there’s that. There’s also the fact that, at the very least, he seems to think they can get the changes done between the end of an Argos season and the beginning of the next Jays one. Unless, that is, he just doesn’t want to say that it would be better to give the project the extra two (or, let’s be honest, six) weeks they’d get by waiting until the Jays were the sole tenant and doing the work for the entirety of their off-season.

Ugh. Let’s not even think about it taking even longer, though.

Other highlights of Beeston’s chat were:

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