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Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park on May 6, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park on May 6, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Jeff Blair

Caught in force play by G20, Jays/Phillies series moved Add to ...

It will be up to the serious people in other parts of this publication to debate the importance and effectiveness of the Group of 20, but over here I've already seen some surprising results:

A sense of outrage surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays that for the first time in two months extends beyond expensive ticket prices, slumping crowds, watered-down beer, lousy marketing and fewer niceties for season ticket holders - or Lyle Overbay at the plate with a man on.

This is a bitter sports city. Now, it's becoming woe-is-us twisted, after Major League Baseball made the common-sense decision to move a series between the Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, scheduled for June 25, 26 and 27, from the Rogers Centre to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia because of concerns resulting from the Rogers Centre being at the outer edge of a security perimeter that will be put in place for the G20.

Paul Beeston, the Blue Jays president and chief executive officer, has spent the first two months of the season allaying panic in the chattering classes resulting from a decrease of 105,208 fans through 19 home dates that is the second-greatest loss in the Majors this season. And now he has to explain to this shrinking band of loyalists that the one series they were really looking forward to is being moved - just like the (yikes!) Montreal Expos once had a series moved when part of their stadium fell. Get the connection? Now he has to delay a planned ceremony to honour Roy Halladay - who would have been making his first return since a winter trade to the Phillies - until 2011 when the Phillies are expected to be included again in the inter-league portion of the Blue Jays schedule.

Beeston said playing the games in Philadelphia will be "revenue neutral." The Phillies, Beeston said, might come out ahead "a little bit," after covering expenses incurred operating and staffing the game.

It's not that complicated, folks. It really is, as Beeston described it, "the most prudent course of action." Bud Selig isn't thumbing his nose. The team's not moving. As Beeston said: "We would have been bringing people down into an area where people aren't being asked to come to."

Nobody knows what to expect when people have the audacity to exercise their right of assembly and dissent, as might happen at the G20. But the Blue Jays and Major League Baseball started with one question: what if the subway system is shut down? Go forward from there and even the knee-jerks would conclude the games could not be played at the Rogers Centre.

So then what? The first priority in making the best out of a poor situation is to mitigate financial loss. That's why, when a concrete beam fell at Montreal's Olympic Stadium in September, 1991, baseball took the remaining portion of the Expos home schedule and rescheduled them for the opponent's ballpark. In other words, play the games in a place where at least one fan-base has a vested interest.

Moving the series to a neutral site such as Detroit's Comerica Park is a rubbish idea because it forces two teams to incur the costs of playing on the road and all but guarantees low ticket sales. Playing it in a minor league park is even more rubbish. Major League games don't get played in minor league parks with substandard facilities. Unless it's Fenway.

It is true that in September, 2008, Selig moved a series between the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs from Houston to Milwaukee because of Hurricane Ike. The optics stunk, because Selig's family used to own the Brewers. But Selig didn't care about optics; the games had possible postseason implications and playing the games at Wrigley Field would give the Cubs a home-field advantage regardless of which team had last bat. True, Miller Park is less than two hours from Chicago: it also had a retractable roof which ensured the games would be played, a hugely significant factor late in the season, butting up against the postseason schedule.

So it's really not all that complicated. Blue Jays season ticket holders will either receive a refund cheque or credit to their credit card. They and single-game ticket holders will receive a refund and ticket voucher for another game. The Blue Jays will be the home team - they'll bat last and the designated hitter will be used.

Look: moving one series doesn't change the issues facing the Blue Jays when it comes to regaining their footprint in this city. It doesn't make them the Expos. It's the G20, people, and this is life in a city that aspires to be world class. If nothing else, Torontonians should consider themselves lucky that unlike some other world-class cities, they'll never experience the dislocation caused by an Olympics.

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