Sometimes in life — and I know this can be hard to believe — there are things that are bigger than baseball. Believe it or not, a meeting of the leaders of the 20 most economically powerful nations in the world trumps a mid-season baseball series. Whether Roy Halladay is pitching or not.
That’s why on Tuesday the Toronto Blue Jays and Major League Baseball were forced to move the Jays three game series against the Philadelphia Phillies on June 25-27 from Toronto to Philadelphia because it conflicted with the G20 conference, which is scheduled to occur right across the street from the Roger’s Centre that same weekend.
The fact that this series was to be former Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay’s homecoming is simply an unfortunate coincidence.
The reaction from Blue Jays fans has been far from positive, which is to be expected. It’s irrational and unreasonable — but expected. This is Toronto, after all.
The G20 summit has never taken place in Canada which might explain why Toronto baseball fans seem to not understand the unbelievable chaos it can create on city streets.
At the last summit in Pittsburgh in September 2009, 4,500 people participated in demonstrations, causing $50,000 worth of damage and leading to 190 arrests. At the London summit in March 2009 an estimated 35,000 people took part in protests.
A crowd of 20,000 baseball fans streaming out of the Rogers Centre into the demonstrations would be absurd. There’s no need to add to what will already surely be a difficult situation for Toronto law enforcement.
I know it’s in a Toronto sports fans’ nature to assume every unpopular decision is some extravagant conspiracy against them, but this was really the only solution to a less than desirable situation. As reported by Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail, the city of Toronto requested to have the G20 moved elsewhere — or back to Huntsville where other portions of the conference will take place — in February. The federal government was also asked to change the location to Exhibition place to avoid the inevitable congestion in Toronto’s downtown core. Neither situation came to fruition, thus the baseball series was transplanted to Philadelphia. It was the only solution to a difficult problem.
The fact of the matter is if this were any of the 29 other MLB teams, no one would give two scoops. In fact, if this had happened in 2009 before the Halladay trade, no one would care either. A great majority of fans are only upset because they won’t get the chance to see Halladay pitch in red, white and blue.
Fans could have seen Roy Halladay pitch at the Rogers’ Centre every five days for the past 11 years yet they never showed up. Unless it was opening day, attendance at the Rogers Centre (49,539 capacity) has always hovered around 25,000 for Halladay’s starts in a Blue Jays uniform.
The average attendance for Halladay’s 18 home starts in 2009 was 26,140. Take away opening day (48,027) which is always the Jays best attended game of the year and May 12 (43,737 paid customers) when disgraced former Blue Jays pitcher AJ Burnett returned with the New York Yankees, and you have an average attendance of 23,672 for Halladay’s starts in Toronto. That doesn’t even fill half the stadium.
What’s more, just 20,668 showed up to see Halladay’s final home game as a Blue Jay on September 25, 2009 — a complete game shutout against the Seattle Mariners that saw Halladay allow just seven hits while striking out 9. Where were all these supposedly diehard fans for that classic Halladay performance?
Halladay will be back next year. After a formal request to MLB from the Blue Jays, the Phillies are expected to make an interleague stop in Toronto in 2011 so the team and its fans can properly honour Halladay. And that’s the way it should be.
But Jays fans don’t deserve to cry foul over losing this year’s Philadelphia series. They took Halladay for granted in the decade plus that he pitched in Toronto and now that he’s gone they feel they have some sort of cardinal right to see their former hero pitch for another team. That’s simply not the case — especially when the 20 world leaders representing 80% of world trade are bunking next door.
Blue Jays 2009 home attendance for Roy Halladay starts
(All Numbers from www.baseball-reference.com)
Home starts: 18
Average attendance: 26,140
Average attendance (minus opening day & AJ Burnett’s return): 23,672
Monday, Apr. 6 vs. DET (Opening Day) – 48,027
Tuesday, Apr. 21 vs. TEX – 20,996
Friday, May 1 vs. BAL – 20,202
Tuesday, May 12 vs. NYY (AJ Burnett’s return) – 43,737
Sunday, May 17 vs. CHW – 37,147
Tuesday, June 2 vs. LAA – 26,809
Sunday, June 7 vs. KCR – 21,071
Friday, June 12 vs. FLA – 17,922
Monday, June 29 vs. TBR – 15,665
Sunday, July 19 vs. BOS – 36,534
Friday, July 24 vs. TBR – 24, 161
Tuesday, August 4 vs. NYY – 33,669
Sunday, August 9 vs. BAL – 27,464
Wednesday, August 19 vs. BOS – 25,925
Monday, August 24 vs. TBR – 17,184
Friday, September 4 vs. NYY – 22,179
Wednesday, September 9 vs. MIN – 11,159
Friday, September 25 vs. SEA – 20,668