October 04, 2016 - 5:33 PM
TORONTO - Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that discussions have been held about the possibility of playing regular season games in Montreal.
However, there are no immediate plans to tinker with the annual two-game pre-season series that the Toronto Blue Jays have played at Olympic Stadium. The 2017 regular-season schedule was released last month so that would make 2018 the earliest possibility.
The Blue Jays have capped their pre-season in Montreal for three straight years. They plan to do so again next year with a two-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox were a big draw last spring as a two-game total of 106,102 fans came out to watch at the former home of the Montreal Expos.
"We have talked about the possibility of playing regular season games there," Manfred said at an availability at Rogers Centre before the American League wild-card game between Toronto and Baltimore. "I know that there were folks in Montreal who were interested in (next) year.
"I think it's tough to do that in a year where you have the World Baseball Classic and a bargaining process that's ongoing during the preceding year. It's just very difficult to plan international events given the uncertainty that's caused by a bargaining year."
Manfred said that in addition to labour talks, resolutions to stadium situations in Tampa and Oakland would need to made before the possibility of future expansion could be seriously explored.
"Montreal was a great baseball market for us for a really long time, No. 1," Manfred said. "No. 2, there does seem to be strong local support. You see the sellouts, I guess it's been around 90,000 people I think three years in a row, maybe more, for those exhibition games. It's a demonstration of local support. The mayor has been a tremendous advocate for returning baseball to Montreal.
"I think it's the kind of market that we see as potentially successful for our sport. The idea of a broader international footprint, another team in Canada, is also appealing to us."
Manfred noted there would also need to be an internal debate to see if there is interest in one day moving from 30 to 32 teams.
"Obviously with the way the economics operate in our game, that's a very, very significant economic decision because it means that 1/30th owned assets and revenue streams become 1/32nd."
The Expos left Montreal after the 2004 season for Washington.
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News from © The Canadian Press, 2016