2:10pm: The Pennsylvania Department of Health has formally vetoed the Blue Jays’ Pittsburgh plan, per Will Graves of the Associated Press (Twitter thread). In a statement issued to the AP, Dr. Rachel Levine said the following: “To add travelers to this region for any reason, including for professional sports events, risks residents, visitors and members of both teams.”
2:00pm: With the Blue Jays unable to play their home games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre in 2020, the club thought it had worked out an arrangement to use Pittsburgh’s PNC Park as an alternate site. That deal, however, appears to be in jeopardy. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that neither the Jays nor MLB have received the go-ahead from the Pennsylvania government yet, adding that the team is again exploring alternate sites. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal tweets that the deal with Pittsburgh is “falling apart.”
Exactly what this means for the Jays remains unclear. They’ve previously explored playing home games at their spring facility in Dunedin, Fla., but Florida’s rapid rise in Covid-19 cases has complicated that idea. The Jays have been working to upgrade their Triple-A facilities in Buffalo in order to bring the lighting and clubhouses up to MLB code, although the organization’s preference has been to be able to play its “home” games in an MLB park, general manager Ross Atkins stated this week. Oriole Park at Camden Yards has also been suggested as an alternative, and the fact that the Pittsburgh plan appears in danger of being scrapped entirely could push the Jays to look more closely into that possibility.
One more extreme possibility, per Olney, would be for the Jays to travel to the home city of every team they’re scheduled to play in 2020, but function as the “home” team on days where they’d been scheduled to host an opponent. With fans unlikely to attend games for much or all of the 2020 season, that may not be quite as detrimental as it would be playing in front of each opponent’s fans, although the aggressive travel and constant changes in scenery would likely make that an unpalatable last resort.
The Jays don’t have a “home” game scheduled until July 29 when they’d host the Nationals, which provides at least a bit of cushion as the team scrambles to find a suitable venue. The clock is ticking, though, and Pennsylvania’s rejection casts some doubt on whether other U.S. cities — particularly those already home to one franchise — will be more amenable to welcoming the Jays for the length of the season.