Expansion? Sure, Why Not?

Even though Mark McGwire thinks differently, it’s probably time for expansion again. With the agreement coming due between players and ownership (and by all accounts, it’s a pretty calm discussion mostly being correcting and altering some legalese), and revenues flowing in by the buckets, expansion may not be the first on anyone’s mind.

Yet, baseball’s experienced ebbs and flows in revenue before, and why not get a couple of suckers…er…civic minded folks to pony up for a couple of expansion teams.

Sure, we’ve got a franchise in Florida that really needs to blow town (Tampa Bay) and the other down here should be stripped from Moe Green and Fredo, but let’s just say that the teams are where they are. What metro areas in North America should be considered?

Well, funny you should ask. I’ve got the answer. Here are the Top 50 North American metro areas without MLB at the time (I’m only considering Canada, US and Mexico, because I don’t think the rest of the continent can support much of anything, and Havana probably will be on a short list in about 10 years or so, but not now.):

Mexico City (21,339,171) – Mexico City definitely has the population base to support a major league team, and baseball is a passion among many residents. Yet, the Mexican League seems to be struggling attendance wise, and then there’s the smog, which, well, is a big problem. Add to that the Mexican economy doesn’t always fire on as many cylinders as muckety mucks think it should, means that I don’t think this is the right Mexican city at this time, despite the metro area size. Take care of the smog…

Guadalajara (4,796,050) – Yes, this metro area is bigger than Boston and San Francisco-Oakland. They have had franchises in several Mexican League seasons, now using Jalisco as the place name. There’s probably not a lot of interest here besides having lots of tequila in the stadium. Oh, and then there’s the money laundering. Hey, maybe Loria should invest here…

Inland Empire (4,489,159) – This is Riverside and San Bernardino counties and is home to four California League teams. First, it’d be a logistical nightmare to negotiate those territorial rights. Second, it may take you three hours, but there’s major league baseball nearby. Nope.

Monterrey (4,477,614) – Monterrey loves baseball. It needs a stadium upgrade (the current facility holds 27,000) but it’s fairly wealthy and has the highest GDP per capita in Mexico and the second highest of Latin America. There’s a lot of corporations based here, and many international companies have a big presence here. Definitely on the list thanks to the love of sports and the corporate dollars.

Montreal (4,060,692) – Oui! I don’t need to tell you. If Tampa Bay doesn’t move here, MLB should definitely expand here, sooner rather than later.

Puebla (2,954,767) – It has the population, but not the income nor the fan base, I feel.

Vancouver (2,504,340) – This area has a spotty history with baseball, and the NBA Grizzlies left town after just a few seasons (with relatively little outcry from the locals). The Canucks, the Whitecaps, the BC Lions and weed are the main interests here.

Charlotte (2,426,363) – North Carolina has a long, storied minor-league baseball tradition. There’s a lot of banking and other related financial industries here. If the NC legislature would ever stop passing bills that embarrass the state, they’re a contender. They’ve been finalists before, and at least two different MLB teams have threatened to move here.

Portland (2,389,228) – Another city with a meh attitude toward baseball. There’d be big competition with the Timbers, and the love of the Blazers and the Oregon Ducks take up most of the rooting passions of Oregonians. That, and art and weed.

Orlando (2,387,138) – I can’t see MLB trying ANOTHER Florida city, especially one with an even more transient population. “Hey kids, instead of Harry Potter World, let’s go see Orlando take on San Diego.” That would be the last words that father would utter.

San Antonio (2,384,075) – San Antonio’s not Dallas, nor Houston, and that’s a big plus in its favor. The city loves the Spurs, and many locals would love to have their own team to root for in other sports. There are always rumors the NFL wants to come here and fill up the Alamodome. San Antonio would need a stadium (they can’t play baseball there) but I think this is a viable area for expansion.

Sacramento (2,274,194) – The population is growing, but i just don’t see this as a big sports area. The Kings are always teetering on blowing town, and the surrounding municipalities seem to have more than their share of issues (like Stockton).

San Juan (2,196,538) – I added this because it IS in the US. The financial issues in Puerto Rico preclude any extravagance like a baseball stadium upgrade. That hasn’t stopped anyone else, but Congress barely helped out the island out of its pickle just recently.

Toluca (2,189,481) – This is bigger than the Cincinnati area, but it’s another Mexican municipality that has bigger things to concern itself with than major league baseball.

Las Vegas (2,114,801) – For the love of Jim Devlin, Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte and the other men out. HELL, NO! It’s a transient population, and there’s lots of temptation here. Let football and hockey find out first.

Columbus (2,021,632) – Much like San Antonio, Columbus wants to establish an image not defined by Cincinnati or Cleveland. Ohio State is the big, big gorilla in the room, but unlike the Blue Jackets, a baseball team wouldn’t have to compete with them. It’s location in the state makes it somewhat easier to get there than even Cincy or Cleveland from outlying areas.

Austin (2,000,860) – I kind of picture Austin in the same boat as Portland. They’ve got other things on their mind besides sports (except for the Longhorns, of course). There is a lot of corporate presence here, but I think Austin would be best served as an art and cultural city.

Indianapolis (1,988,817) – It’s not that far to drive to Chicago, St. Louis, or Cincy. It’s really not that far to Detroit, either, or Milwaukee, or even Cleveland. This is a basketball state that is having a torrid affair with the NFL, and baseball just won’t get the ink or attention here. Besides, it’d be a shame to lose Victory Field, the best minor league ballpark in the country.

Silicon Valley (1,976,836) – Well, color me surprised that this is it’s own metro area. But the powers that be have separated it. This area is dominated by San Jose. If MLB can get San Francisco to play nice and surrender their territorial claim, this is no doubt earmarked for Oakland. (Now I know why the SF / Oakland area is only 14th, since they’ve yanked San Jose out of it).

Tijuana (1,938,597) – Too close to San Diego. Tourists wouldn’t be interested to go to games here, not with the other pleasures abounding.

Nashville (1,830,345) – The Predators have a good, devoted following. It would have it’s own state to itself, but I’ve never heard a lot of enthusiasm for a team here. There are other cities with better cases.

The list narrows to: Monterrey, Montreal, Charlotte, San Antonio, and Columbus. If I were MLB, I’d choose Montreal and Monterrey. (Actually, I’d choose Monterrey and Charlotte and then move Tampa to Montreal, but I said the teams are where they are, alas…)

But this is a few years away, and other things may happen. Heck, for all I know, MLB will choose Omaha and Boise. That would be par for the course with some other expansion choices.





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