"You always hope to have one Blue Jay(s) game a year."
Chris Berman would be very happy looking at this week's ESPN lineup.
You have to go back to Opening Day for the last ESPN coverage of a Toronto Blue Jays game. The last ESPN game in Toronto? That was ESPN2 early in 2014 against Houston. Both telecasts were requirements of the current TV deal.
ESPN will cover the Tuesday and Wednesday games of the New York Yankees series in Toronto. Add MLB Network covering the Monday game and we know this is crunch time in the 2015 American League playoff chase.
One of the main reasons these games and the earlier series in New York got extensive coverage was because of the New York Yankees. The Yankees are a huge draw, relatively speaking in the MLB world. And the U.S. outlets usually play it really conservative showing the same teams over and over.
Toronto has its own issues since it doesn't have a market where ratings can be drawn in the United States. The U.S. outlets could count Buffalo, but that would be a pretty small market.
Unlike the previous series, these games will be on in Toronto. We will see scenes from Toronto, have announcers talk about Toronto: the city and the team. And unlike the last time any ESPN outlet was in Toronto (where the April 2014 crowd was 13,569), the crowds have been loud and huge. U.S. MLB fans are really going to discover the playoffs fever that has hit Toronto. MLB Network carried the Boston Red Sox game at Rogers Centre Saturday afternoon. That crowd was loud.
All games in the series start at 7 pm Eastern. Unlike the series in New York, rain will not be an issue at Rogers Centre. All games will air in Canada on Rogers Sportsnet, the better option if available. MLB Network will take a local feed for Monday night, but we don't know which one.
And if you work at ESPN and are making the trip up north, you have 3 requirements: 1) tell the Blue Jays story well; 2) showcase how cool Toronto is as a city; and 3) bring back a "present" for Chris Berman.
The Toronto Blue Jays have lost 2 games in the standings in the last 2 days to the New York Yankees, so the Blue Jays lead is down to 2½ games. The lead is 6½ games to a playoff spot, since the Yankees are 4 games ahead of Houston.
Despite the last 2 days, the Blue Jays come in with a 85-64 record and a home record is a league-leading 48-27. The Yankees are 7 games above .500 on the road.
MLB is pulling a slight twist in what is now the Toronto Blue Jays annual spring trip to Montréal. For the first time in the series, an American League team — Boston Red Sox — will be the Toronto opponent at Olympic Stadium.
The games will follow the same format on April 1-2 with a Friday night and Saturday afternoon contests.
The Boston Red Sox have a connection to Montréal through Pedro Martinez and anything Boston usually stirs blood within those in Montréal. If the Expos were still around, having Boston in Olympic Stadium or a new downtown ballpark would help attendance.
The Cincinnati Reds helped draw 96,545 for the 2-game series this season. The New York Mets were the opponent in 2014 with 96,350 fans. Boston could draw even better?