Will the Toronto Blue Jays Play on Sunday Night Baseball This Season?


Will the Toronto Blue Jays Play on Sunday Night Baseball This Season?

During the last 10 years ESPN Sunday Night Baseball has been dominated by two teams — the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. To the surprise of few, this historic rivalry has aired twice as many times (31) as the next famous matchup, another historic rivalry, the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs (13).

The reasoning behind this is a simple answer: ratings.

But in a recent article published at Baseball Essential by Cespedes Family BBQ, the interesting 10 year analysis reveals that only two teams in all of Major League Baseball have not appeared on ESPN’s Sunday Night primetime slot — the Seattle Mariners and the Toronto Blue Jays.

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  • In fact, the last time Toronto played on Sunday Night Baseball was July 18, 2004 when they took on the Texas Rangers in Arlington.

    To put in perspective just how long ago that was, Buck Showalter was managing the Rangers, Brad Fullmer was batting cleaning up for them, while Vernon Wells was patrolling centre field for Toronto, and Sportsnet analyst Gregg Zaun was behind the dish.

    For what it’s worth, Vinnie Chulk blew the game that night, giving up six runs in the eighth inning en route to a 7-5 comeback victory for the Rangers. But I highly doubt that dreadful eighth inning collapse is the reason the Jays have not reappeared in primetime since.

    So what’s with the Blue Jays being blacked out of Sunday Night Baseball then?

    Yes, the team has not made the postseason since 1993, we’re all well aware of that. But the team has had six seasons of a .500 or better record. Even the star power has been there with players like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes on the roster. Throw in the recent additions of Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin and the Jays easily have one the American League’s most exciting lineups entering this season.

    So what gives?

    Does ESPN have questions about how well a Canadian market would draw in a primetime slot? Probably.

    But when you consider that the average rating for ESPN’s Sunday, Monday and Wednesday Night Baseball last season was a 1.3 according to ESPN Media Zone, that reason doesn’t seem sufficient either.

    When the Blue Jays were rolling last year, the team drew staggering television numbers, highlighted by 836,000 viewers tuning into a Monday night game between the Rays and Jays on Sportsnet.

    If 836,000 people tuned into a Monday night game featuring the Tampa Bay Rays, I feel pretty confident saying that the Jays could easily draw a similar number in a primetime slot like Sunday Night Baseball. Especially if the matchup featured a divisional foe like the Red Sox going up against a talented young arm like Marcus Stroman.

    Unfortunately for Jays’ fans, the early season schedule of Sunday Night Baseball is more of the usual with the Yankees-Red Sox once again dominating. Maybe if the Blue Jays get off to a hot start we’ll see them make a return to prime time. But given the past 10 years, that seems like wishful thinking.

    Next: Is Marcus Stroman Set for a Big Year?