MLB Expansion: Could Major League Baseball Add a Team in Mexico City?
Sunday March 18th, 2012
Sam Evans: Mexico City has the largest population of any city in North America, so it is somewhat surprising that it does not have an MLB franchise. Thanks to technology, the world is getting smaller and language barriers are rapidly shrinking. If there was ever a time for MLB to either expand or relocate a team to Mexico City, it is right now.
There are several reasons why Major League Baseball should add a team in Mexico City. First of all, a new team would provide a new source of income for the league, which has suffered as a whole during the recession (no matter what they tell you. The additional money from ticket sales, TV, media, and merchandise couldn’t hurt. Secondly, expansion to Mexico City would broaden support for the sport to an international audience, which is something in which Commissioner Bud Selig has shown great interest in recent history.
For me, the bottom line is that Mexico City deserves a MLB major team. For one thing, the population is over 8 million and growing, making it the highest-populated city in North America. With this population comes a large media market; a new MLB team might receive one of the biggest TV contracts ever seen.
Secondly, MLB needs to expand its breadth beyond the U.S. and Canada. Given the international background of today’s players, why does the league only play in two countries? Adding a franchise in another country would show the rest of the world that baseball deserves an international stage. Mexico is the closest country in which the MLB doesn’t have a Major League franchise. So it would be the logical place to start.
As much as it sounds like a good idea, the reality is that MLB won’t be adding a team in Mexico City any time soon. Expanding would be a huge risk for MLB’s already volatile reputation; if the new team failed, it could be devastating for the league’s prestige level.
The first challenge would be the building of a new ballparkin all likelihood. A new team would require the construction of a state-of-the-art stadium, consistent with the best ballparks in today’s game. In order for Mexico City to support a Major League franchise, it would need a brand-new stadium. Azteca Stadium seats over 100,000 people, but it isn’t fit for a Major League team. Foro Sol stadium is used primarily for baseball and it does seat 26,000, but it’s not up to Major League standards in terms of amenities.
Of special consideration in planning a stadium for Mexico City is its altitude. Mexico City lies at over 7,000 feet, which makes Coors Field seem tame. Players might struggle adjusting to the thin air. Additionally, in a ballpark with a higher elevation, studies have shown that the ball carries much farther. The new stadium in Mexico City would require special dimensions to compensate for the altitude. For example, the stadium might have fifty-foot high walls, or measure 450 feet out to center field. This stadium would be an architect’s and engineer’s dream.
Another challenge would be competition from soccer’s faithful fan base in Mexico. Soccer is the main sport in Mexico. Practically everyone in Mexico follows the national soccer team. I bet if you took a poll of Mexico City citizens, more people would be able to name twenty soccer players, as compared to five baseball players. Soccer is the most beloved sport in the world, and in Mexico City, no sport will every enjoy the same success that soccer has.
Finally, a Mexico City franchise is risky because of the dangers that are associated playing in a foreign country. There are still border issues with Mexico and crime rates are disturbingly high. As recently as Tuesday, gunfire interrupted a Mexican League game causing the players and fans to take cover. Nothing like that has ever happened at an MLB game, and I’m sure Bud Selig would never risk putting any players’ lives in jeopardy.
I want to be clear for the record that I am against relocation of a current major league team to Mexico City. As a Seattle Sonics fan, I witnessed how hard it is to lose the team that you love to a distant location. If a team relocates within the same state or region, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it may be an opportunity for a struggling team to get a fresh start. However, franchises (except in drastic situations) should not relocate across the nation, let alone to a foreign country.
One day I think we will see teams located all-around the world. Imagine how awesome it would be to have a separate division in Asia and South America. By establishing a new franchise in Mexico City (though not easy or practical), Major League Baseball would be starting to realize this dream… where one day, baseball truly would be seen most (if not all fans), as a top world sport. Right where baseball belongs.
**Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Sam on Twitter***
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