Amid the onset of winter and baseball’s deep freeze triggered by Major League Baseball’s lockout of its players, there are still happenings afoot for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Here’s a look at three issues — the incoming Canadian border measures, a possible renovation of Rogers Centre and what on earth was that Carlos Baerga Instagram post on Freddie Freeman all about — worth watching.
The Jan. 15 Border Rules
The Nov. 19 announcement by the federal government that as of Jan. 15 groups of travellers currently exempt from entry requirements, “professional and amateur athletes” among them, will only be allowed to enter the country if fully vaccinated against COVID-19, popped into the news this week as the NBA began preparing for the looming change.
According to a memo obtained by ESPN, NBA teams must provide the league office with a list of unvaccinated players by Friday, and The Athletic reported that unvaccinated players who miss games in Toronto will be subject to fines, suspension or reduced pay.
All this is relevant to the Blue Jays and, even more so, the 18 teams scheduled to visit Toronto in 2022, since how the NBA copes with the new rules is in many ways a leading indicator for MLB. (Let’s insert a caveat here that lots can change before the April 4 home opener against Tampa Bay, both for better and worse, so this is really no more than a snapshot of the current trendlines.)
As of now, the new rules won’t impact anyone currently on Blue Jays roster, although the club has had to factor whether someone is, or is willing to get, vaccinated into their now paused off-season pursuit of players. For that reason, the looming restrictions on arriving travellers are more of a problem for other teams and MLB, which will have to decide how players unable to enter the country will be handled.
Will MLB follow the NBA’s lead by fining, suspending or reducing the pay of affected players? Will visiting teams be allowed to place affected players on the COVID-19 injured list and recall replacements from the minor leagues without impacting the 40-man roster?