Daily Archives: July 1, 2011
Friday July 1, 2011
MLB reports: When looking at the current state of baseball, some very important changes are on the horizon. MLB reports tackled in the past weeks the topics of MLB realignment, the future of the DH and expanding and changing the playoffs (click on links to view these posts). Whether you are a traditionalist or modern thinker, we can all agree that revisions to the baseball system are coming. To compliment many of the new developments that are coming, we have one last topic that we need to cover. This is a biggie so hold on to your hats: MLB Expansion. Major League Baseball, as slow as it is to adapt, has come to the time that it must acknowledge that the American League and National League need a balanced amount of teams. When contraction didn’t work (Minnesota stayed and Montreal moved to Washington), we were left with thirty MLB teams. To fix the discrepancy, we need sixteen teams per league. As a result, get ready for Major League Baseball to expand to two new cities.
Before anyone stars howling, let me insert a disclaimer. There is no available information yet confirming that MLB will expand. But from all the signs of the state of the game, it appears that expansion is on the horizon. It must be. Expansion will lead to balanced leagues, which will be a must in the addition of more wild card teams. In 1993, MLB added the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins. In 1998, the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks joined the mix. Since then, we have gone thirteen years without expansion. Baseball popularity is at an all time high, with the economy slowly starting to rebound. The demand and money are there and anytime the MLB owners can fill their wallets, they will take it. Expansion fees back in 1998 were $130 million. To contrast, the Texas Rangers sold last August for $593 million. Let’s ballpark it and say that each new expansion team could easily bring in $250 million each. That would be $500 million available to be shared by the existing 30 MLB owners. That is a minimum of $16 million per team and even that amount is conservative. Realistically, we could see $25-$30 million per team as the bonus. Money talks and the lure of the big payday will be too much for MLB owners to pass up much longer. By having a balanced schedule, leading to realignment and more wild card teams, together with the revenues that are generated, both teams and players should be happy. It is a win-win for all.
The biggest argument that I have heard against MLB expansion is the dilution of talent. There is a thin amount of pitching to go around as it is, and by adding more teams to the mix, the talent levels will supposedly be at an all-time low. I don’t buy it. Take a look at AA and AAA and how many major league ready players are wasting away due to a lack of opportunity. Some are there for financial considerations, by teams wishing to delay their arbitration and free agency years. I acknowledge that. But there is so much talent at those levels alone that an expansion draft could stock two competitive MLB teams. I truly believe that. Then we should take into account the globalization of the sport. The 2013 World Baseball Classic will feature twelve new countries into the mix. By creating and furthering the interest in baseball around the world, including Great Britain, Germany, France etc., Major League Baseball will create a deeper pool of talent as a result. It will take time and the benefits of adding more countries to the WBC in expanding the players that are generated may not be felt for a decade or longer. But baseball needs to think long-term, not short. Even if there is a dilution of the quality of players for a brief time, it is not unreasonable to think that the world as a whole with its population could stock 32 MLB teams. It currently stocks 30 teams quite well and the problem, if any, is that in the future we will actually have more quality players than available teams to play for.
The main benefit of expansion is the created interested in Major League Baseball in more cities and the added rivalries and intrigue to the game itself. There are baseball hungry fans in many cities that are denied the privilege of watching MLB games live, due to lack of proximity. Adding MLB teams will create more fans in the new cities and surrounding areas. Merchandising sales will increase, jobs will be added and economies will benefit in those cities. As long as each new team has a solid economic plan in creating a business model for itself, from the ballpark to the day-to-day operation of the team, new MLB teams will be cash cows and not drains on their respective cities. There is a reason why cities and potential owners campaign to be awarded a Major League Baseball team. Baseball is a lucrative business. By understanding why expansion is necessary and beneficial, it is time to jump into the candidates.
From everything that I have read and people that I have spoken with, the following is a list of ten potential MLB expansion destinations. From these ten cities, two may end up being the lucky winners. I have included a brief commentary beside each candidate for reference:
1) Las Vegas: There is money in Vegas and demand for the sport. The biggest hindrances are the gambling and economic issues for the area. I think Las Vegas should get a team and baseball may feel the same way.
2) Portland: One of the largest cities without a team, this would be a safe bet for Major League Baseball. This city has been thrown around in almost every discussion on expansion. This one will likely happen.
3) San Antonio: Similar to Portland, but there are already two teams based in Texas. If any area will get three MLB teams, it is New York (see Brooklyn discussion).
4) Sacramento: Is the California market getting saturated? With Oakland having issues and looking to a move to San Jose, there may be alarm bells that hinder Sacramento. There is also a chance the city will lose its NBA team which does not help from an image standpoint.
5) Orlando: More teams to Florida? The Rays aren’t exactly busting at the gate and the Marlins are moving to Miami next year. I could see the Rays moving if they do not get a new stadium, so expansion will likely be held off here for now.
6) Nashville/Memphis: Both are great cities but with other viable markets available, Nashville/Memphis are a long-shot.
7) Mexico City: This is the sexy pick if Major League Baseball truly wants to become international. The travel logistics could make this one very difficult. For a sport that is slow to evolve, this is too much change, too soon.
8) Vancouver or Montreal: Stop snickering as this could happen. Ok, not Montreal, but Vancouver is a possibility. After the loss of the Expos, I cannot see baseball ever going back to Quebec. Then when we account for the fact that Vancouver lost its NBA team, baseball may be scared off from these areas as being non-viable. The Toronto Blue Jays sit middle-in-the-pack for attendance and I think MLB is satisfied with one Canadian squad. Happy Canada Day to all the Canucks reading this article and enjoy the Jays this weekend. But as far as more Canadian teams in baseball, I am sorry but I do not see it happening. Ever.
9) Brooklyn: The talk of the Nets coming to Brooklyn soon has sparked renewed interest in the area for baseball. The Brooklyn Dodgers will never come back to existence, but a new expansion team might. Given baseball’s rich history and love of everything retro, I really like this selection. Don’t discount the power of New York, as it is one of the central hubs of sport. I only give this one a 25% chance of happening, but a very solid 25.
10) New Orleans: A feel-good pick, given the tragedy suffered by the city. But on an economic and rational basis, it is difficult to envision bringing a new baseball team coming to a rebuilding area that still is suffering major financial issues.
That concludes today’s discussion on MLB expansion. As a starting point for the topic, I am sure that this will not be the last we hear about it. Given that MLB works in secret ways often, don’t be surprised if an announcement on two new expansion teams comes out of left field one day. While it would be fun to hold a competition and have cities campaign for selection, MLB may not want to run the risk of alienating and upsetting teams that are not chosen. At the end of the day, the key for baseball will be to get the right cities and owners in place. This will happen in the next year or two and should be an interesting process. Will we see the Portland Sluggers, Las Vegas Aliens or Brooklyn Bombers? Time will tell on that one. What we can be sure is that the face of Major League Baseball over the next few years will change substantially. From the teams, to the playoffs and divisions. Change is in the air as baseball continues to evolve with the times.
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