East Coast Bias and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Part 4: The Blue Jays

(Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3)

As part of my study of ESPN’s scheduling patterns for Sunday Night Baseball, I was somewhat surprised to see that the  team with the biggest discrepancy between performance and appearances on SNB were the Toronto Blue Jays.

Seriously. The Blue Jays had the 15th best record in baseball from 2007 to 2011, but were tied for 30th (dead last), with no appearances. They’ve had two of the best players in the game to knowledgeable baseball fans: Roy Halladay and then Jose Bautista have been in Toronto. But, guess what, they haven’t shown up on Sunday Night Baseball in recent years. At all. In fact, it was a bit of a surprise when I saw them on Monday Night Baseball earlier this season. Apparently, Tim Kurkjian had to appeal straight to the State Department to get some passport problems fixed, which is probably a good indication of how rarely ESPN gets up there.

But why, exactly, are the Blue Jays so ignored by ESPN, despite the fact they usually have a winning team? Well, there are two reasons, read on to see them.

The first reason is that they are in the AL East, so merely having a winning record means close to diddly squat. In 2010, for example, the Blue Jays had a 85-77 record, a record that was good enough for… fourth place in the AL East. In 2008, they were 86-76, a better record than the 2008 Dodgers, who had made the playoffs. The Blue Jays finished in… fourth place. Given the division they are in, the Blue Jays are usually good but rarely “in it”. So they are rarely actual division contenders, so are often ignored.

The second, bigger reason is that Canada doesn’t count. Toronto is home to 2.48 million people, it’s metropolitan area has over 5.5 million people. It is one of the great cities of the world. But, guess what, to Nielsen ratings, Toronto’s population is zero. Canadians don’t count to American TV ratings. And why would ESPN show a game where one of the teams would be bringing in exactly zero local fans?

They wouldn’t. And that is why the Blue Jays are never on ESPN.

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