American top 40

It’s been 14 years since a U.S. metro area that had never had major league ball was granted a team. That was the 1998 season, when expansion brought Phoenix and Tampa Bay into the fold. Phoenix has worked out well, but Tampa Bay is still iffy, even though the area has a long history of spring training, minor league, and amateur ball, which proves just how hard it is to predict whether major league ball will succeed.

Tampa Bay was the subject of relocation rumors long before it was granted an expansion franchise, so obviously many Major League Baseball higher-ups thought the market was a success story waiting to happen.

The Tampa Bay experience shows that you need more than sheer numbers to support major league ball. Tampa Bay has many retirees who don’t have a lot of disposable income. Also, because of infirmities or simply not wanting to get out into the heat and humidity (even though Tropicana Field is climate-controlled), they are more likely to be TV fans than stadium fans. Still, given a better stadium, and assuming the team remains competitive, the Tampa Bay area may yet prove viable.

Given the fact that there is no sure thing when it comes to baseball markets, if you could place an expansion franchise anywhere in the United States right now, where would you put it? More realistically, where would you put one of two franchises, since expansion franchises travel in pairs like critters booking a cruise on Noah’s Ark.

American Top 40 was a big deal in pop music, so just for the hell of it, let’s use the top 40 metro areas to handicap the possible sites. So who decides the top 40? The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) defines Metropolitan Statistical Areas, or MSAs. So let’s use its most recent (2011) figures, if only to assure we’re getting a return on our tax dollars.

Since we have only 29 major league teams in the United States, it may seem like we’re casting the net a bit wide, but No. 39 on the list is Milwaukee, the smallest metro area with major league baseball, so we are certainly justified in looking at the metro areas above that, and rounding it off to 40 so as not to stigmatize Milwaukee about bringing up the rear.

The top 11 metro areas all have one, and in some cases two, baseball teams. They are the usual suspects: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Philadelphia, Washington, Miami, Atlanta, Boston and San Francisco. That brings us to the first eligible market on the list:

No. 12 – Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.
2011 population estimate: 4,304,997
Annual growth rate: 1.90 percent

Despite the number of people, no chance for a new team here. This metro area is a special case, as it is so close to three major league teams (Dodgers, Angels, Padres) and is often lumped in with the Los-Angeles-Long Beach metro area. So there is no chance you will be rooting for the Riverside River Rats any time soon.

Nos. 13-22 on the hit parade are all currently represented, in this order: Detroit, Phoenix, Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Diego, Tampa-St. Petersburg, St. Louis, Baltimore, Denver and Pittsburgh.

After that, it gets interesting because it’s not just sheer numbers that are needed to make major league baseball work. In monster markets like New York, Chicago and Southern California, it doesn’t matter if large numbers of people aren’t baseball fans; there are still plenty of other people who are, and they will fill up the seats.

The same holds true for income levels. The monster markets certainly have their share of the impoverished, but they are so big that there are still enough well-to-do folks who can and will spend whatever it takes to attend major league baseball games.

In smaller markets, prosperity and a passion for baseball are more important because without these qualities, there may not be enough fans to make a franchise viable. A longstanding history of healthy minor league attendance is a big plus, as are good stats on personal and household income. Keeping those factors in mind, let’s hit the road:

No. 23 – Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash.
2011 population estimate: 2,262,605
Annual growth rate: 1.64 percent

The annual growth rate is not chart-busting but not bad. Proximity to Seattle assures a built-in rivalry.

What Portland doesn’t have is baseball enthusiasm. The city is certainly big enough for Triple-A ball and has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the Pacific Coast League. Unfortunately, in recent years, it’s been more off than on.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

After the 2010 season, the city’s venerable old (1926) ballpark, known as PGE Park when baseball was last played there, was remodeled for the Timbers, the city’s Major League Soccer franchise, and college football (Portland State), leaving Triple-A ball as the odd sport out. The erstwhile Portland Beavers were purchased by their major league affiliate, the San Diego Padres, who moved the franchise to Tucson in 2011. The team’s tenure in Tucson is likely short-term, but returning to Portland is not an option.

Maybe the locals are content with Major League Soccer and NBA basketball and don’t aspire to hosting any other major league franchises. In a baseball-crazy metropolis, the eviction of the home team would bring an outburst of indignation and wrath. Another venue would quickly be found or erected. Nothing doing in Portland, however. If the city plays hard-to-get with Triple-A ball, why should major league ball come courting?

Another problem is Portland’s “urban growth boundary,” apparently some sort of Agenda 21 offshoot, which severely restricts any kind of large-scale development, such as a major league ballpark. The restrictions have driven up land prices in the urban core while prohibiting development of outlying areas.

In the long history of major league baseball, no city has ever figured out a way to have a team without also having a ballpark. Until Portland can figure out a way to build a home for a team, it will have no team, major or minor league.

No. 24 – San Antonio-New Braunfels, Tex.
2011 population estimate: 2,194,927
Annual growth rate: 2.45 percent

With such a robust annual growth rate, San Antonio might seem like a contender. Unfortunately, while San Antonio is a fun place to spend your tourist dollars, it is not a particularly affluent area. You could probably acquire land for a ballpark for a reasonable price, but how many people could afford to show up for games on a regular basis?

San Antonio has a heavy military presence, and while the troops can be counted on to attend local sporting events, the military bases will not buy luxury boxes, and the soldiers and airmen will are not likely season ticket holders. Those are two important considerations in locating a team these days.

The San Antonio Spurs have been a power in the NBA for some time, but that’s it so far as big league sports go. Ice hockey is strictly a minor league proposition (albeit in a major league venue, the Spurs’ home arena).

As far as baseball goes, the Texas League has long been part of the sporting life in San Antonio. But to jump from Double-A ball to major league ball may be a chasm too wide to cross. Even though in-state rivalries with the Rangers and Astros would be a plus, I don’t think that’s enough to seal the deal.

No. 25 – Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, Calif.
2011 population estimate: 2,176,235
Annual growth rate: 1.26 percent

The Triple-A River Cats draw very well here, and it’s a bit surprising that their major leaguer affiliate in nearby Oakland hasn’t considered Sacramento as a possible relocation site. Presumably, the A’s already have some sort of fan base in Sacramento. Unlike the locations the A’s are considering in the San Francisco Bay area, they would have Sacramento all to themselves. But there are problems.

As in Portland and San Antonio, NBA basketball is present. But it’s not firmly established. In recent years, the Sacramento Kings have endured arena hassles and rumors of relocation. Also like Portland and San Antonio, Sacramento still has no NFL football. Perhaps it just isn’t a major league sports town.

That may be because Sacramento is the state capital of California, and bureaucrats and policy wonks are far removed from your basic blue-collar sports fans. In fact, the employment mix for Sacramento doesn’t look promising. According to the city’s 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), the top 10 employers (plus one) are:

{exp:list_maker}1. State of California 73,273
2. Sacramento County 13,304
3. UC Davis Health System 8,496
4. Kaiser Permanente 7,979
5. Sutter Health 7,314
6. Sacramento City Unified School District 6,500
7. Elk Grove Unified School District 6,391
8. Intel 6,000
9. Mercy/Catholic Healthcare West 5,922
10. San Juan Unified School District 5,190
11. City of Sacramento 4,556
Get it? Seven of these are government entities. In times past, that might have been an indicator of stability, but in an era of austerity, a lot of those jobs might be on the chopping block before long. I’m sure the A’s are aware of this situation, and that may be why they are not even considering Sacramento.

The only non-governmental, non-healthcare representative is Intel. It might be a good bet for a luxury box, but none of the other top employers is. As for health care companies, aside from doctors and upper management, no one makes much money at those places, so it’s hard to see a large chunk of fandom coming from that sector. Surely, the health care companies could afford to lease luxury boxes at a new ballpark, but that would be negative PR, given the soaring price of medical care.

Obviously, other state capitals (Atlanta, Boston, Phoenix, St. Paul of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Denver) have made a go of major league baseball, but those cities have a lot more going for them besides public sector jobs.

You might offer the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. as an example of a government town hosting major league ball, but remember, this is Washinton’s third time at bat. The attendance records for the first two D.C. franchises were not exactly chart-toppers.

Also, with so many California cities filing for bankruptcy, can Sacramento be far behind? Can the entire state be far behind? Sacramento is the largest city in California without major league baseball, and I think it’s likely to stay that way.

No. 26 – Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla.
2011 population estimate: 2,171,360
Annual growth rate: 1.73 percent

Orlando made a perfunctory bid for the Montreal Expos once it was obvious the majors’ only francophone franchise was a short-timer. During a name-the-team contest, one wag submitted the Orlando Cepedas as his entry. Orlando’s chances of landing major league ball are about as good as those of a prospective team adopting that nickname.

First of all, minor league ball has not fared well there in recent years. Historic Tinker Field, still standing next to the Citrus Bowl, was once a hot spot for minor league ball and spring training (Twins and pre-1961 Senators), but that was then, and this is now.

Metro Orlando is certainly big enough for Triple-A ball, but it can’t even dredge up enough support for Single-A (Florida State League) ball. Of course, the area plays host to many tourists, thanks to Disney World, et al., and certainly a number of visitors attend Astros and Braves spring training games in March, but that won’t count for much during an 81-game major league home schedule.

NBA basketball has found a home here, but that’s it. There are too many places competing for discretionary income of residents in the Orlando area, and major league baseball would get lost in the mix. Florida as a whole hasn’t been big on big league ball. Miami and Tampa Bay have never packed ‘em in except during the postseason.

Skip Nos. 27, 28 and 29 on the list. Cincinnati, Cleveland and Kansas City already have major league ball.

No. 30 – Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev.
2011 population estimate: 1,969,975
Annual growth rate: 0.96 percent

When the Montreal Expos were up for grabs, I was rooting for Las Vegas to land them. Not that I’m in love with Las Vegas; I just figured that the city’s status as a premier convention city meant that the team could retain the Expos nickname and it would still make sense.

Las Vegas was a long shot in 2004, and the odds against it are even steeper today. The growth rate has slowed considerably since then, and with abandoned neighborhoods and steep declines in real estate prices, nobody in major league baseball would want to take a gamble on Las Vegas.

As with Orlando, even in the best of times it might have been too much of a tourist town with too many things to do for major league sports to take hold. UNLV provides plenty of entertainment for local sports junkies, albeit on an amateur level.

At one time the city’s reputation as a gambling mecca would have weighed against it, but now with casinos all over the map, that is less of a factor. Still, any place nicknamed Sin City might have a hard time getting past Bud Selig.

Las Vegas is the largest metro area without any representation in major league sports, though Triple-A baseball has been a fixture there for decades, and major league teams have played a few spring training games there in recent years.

Finding land for a ballpark probably wouldn’t be difficult—certainly the casinos never seem to have a problem with that—but constructing a ballpark would be an expensive proposition, since a retractable roof and air conditioning would be as essential here as they are in Phoenix. A ballpark in Las Vegas would likely be a snazzy, ultramodern affair similar to the Marlins’ new home. Las Vegas has never been a retro kind of town.

The city has gone to great lengths to provide stuff to do for visitors who aren’t into gambling, and a major league baseball team certainly would be a major step forward in that regard. In fact, geographically speaking, the city is a snug fit with surrounding teams in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Diego. Las Vegas is already a popular getaway for folks in those areas, so perhaps the chance to see their home team play in Vegas would be added inducement to visit. Even so, it will take more than that for MLB to set up shop here.

No. 31 – San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
2011 population estimate: 1,865,450
Annual growth rate: 1.55 percent

This area is rather nebulous, as the Giants claim it as their home turf, yet the A’s are about the same distance away. The A’s may yet find a way to relocate there, but there is no way any other team would. Fans in this area currently follow the Giants and the A’s, and that’s who they will continue to follow, along with the San Jose Giants of the Single-A California League.

In fact, this metro area is often lumped together with the San Francisco-Oakland area. Still, San Jose does have its very own franchises in the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer, so it’s not entirely without its own sporting identity. That’s not strong enough to engender a third major league team, however, and maybe not enough to provide a home for the Oakland A’s.

No. 32 – Columbus, Ohio
2011 population estimate: 1,858,464
Annual growth rate: 1.19 percent

Another state capital, which is not good (see Sacramento above), and the home of Ohio State University. Plenty of college kids, but as a rule they don’t have a lot of money to throw around, and they’re only in town for a portion of the major league baseball schedule.

Columbus is in the center of Ohio, so the locals can do road trips to Cincinnati or Cleveland, or they can just hang out with the hometown Triple-A Clippers. Of course, they can follow the Buckeyes when school is in session and, like San Jose, they also have big league soccer and ice hockey.

My guess is people in metro Columbus are content with the status quo and will keep making those road trips to southwest and northeast Ohio when the urge to take in a major league baseball game strikes.

No. 33 – Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, N.C.-S.C.
2011 population estimate: 1,795,472
Annual growth rate: 2.13 percent

Not yet ready for prime time but maybe someday. They already have big-time basketball and football, but Triple-A ball is in far-out Rock Hill, S.C.! There’s talk about a downtown Triple-A ballpark, and if they’re smart, they’ll build it in anticipation of expansion to major league dimensions. A good turnout for Triple-A ball downtown and continued growth might turn MLB heads one day. A rivalry with the Atlanta Braves would be all but assured.

No. 34 – Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Tex.
2011 population estimate: 1,783,519
Annual growth rate: 3.92 percent

Again, not today but maybe someday. The annual growth rate alone makes this market intriguing. Locals have been turning out in droves to see the Triple-A Round Rock Express (owned by Nolan Ryan and family) ever since the team opened for business in 2000.

The UT Longhorns are the established athletic presence here, and as is the case in most big college towns, they rule the roost. But they are on hiatus during the summer. Maybe MLB could fill the void someday so folks wouldn’t have to travel to Arlington or Houston for their major league fix. That would cut into the peripheral fan base of the Rangers and Astros, but the addition of another rival in the Lone Star State would more than make up for that.

No. 35 – Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind.
2011 population estimate: 1,778,568
Annual growth rate: 1.27 percent

Another state capital, but it’s also the biggest city in the state, so there’s a lot more here than government. The sports mix includes NFL football, NBA basketball, and Triple-A baseball. Actually, Indianapolis used to have big league baseball here. Unfortunately, that was almost a century ago during the two-year tenure of the Federal League.

Indianapolis has a longtime—and I do mean reaaaaalllly longtime—presence in minor league ball. The Indianapolis Indians date back to 1902! They currently play in the International League and have an outstanding downtown ballpark.

The city’s central location in Indiana makes it a great starting point for major league road trips: Cincinnati and Chicago are close by for weekends, and St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee and Cleveland are ideal for three-day weekends. With all those choices, plus Triple-A ball on weekdays, the most ardent baseball junkie should be more than satisfied in Indianapolis. In fact, it’s hard to see how a hometown major league team could ever take root here.

No. 36 – Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Va.-N.C.
2011 population estimate: 1,679,894
Annual growth rate: 0.49 percent

Frequently referred to as Hampton Roads, this metro area suffers from “who’s-in-charge?” syndrome. It sprawls all over Tidewater Virginia and into North Carolina without a dominant city. Where would you build a ballpark?

Virginia Beach is the biggest municipality in terms of population, but it doesn’t really have a downtown, unless you count the resort strip. Norfolk has a skyline and looks like a bigger city than it really is. Newport News, Hampton, Portsmouth and Suffolk also have sizeable populations.

Military and government spending are the big kids on the block in this area, along with tourism. In other words, not much demand for luxury boxes.

Norfolk is a long-time Triple-A town (formerly the Tidewater Tides and now the Norfolk Tides) with minor league ice hockey thrown in. It’s been that way for a while, and nothing on the horizon indicates change.

No. 37 – Nashville-Davidson-Murfeesboro-Franklin, Tenn.
2011 population estimate: 1,617,142
Annual growth rate: 1.71 percent

Probably not too much culture shock if you’re playing Triple-A ball for the Nashville Sounds and get called up to the big leagues, as the metro area of the parent club (the Milwaukee Brewers) is actually slightly smaller than metro Nashville! The Tennessee Titans of the NFL and the Nashville Predators of the NHL add some big-time flair to the local sports scene. That, and the extensive live music scene, however, are probably enough to keep the locals busy.

No. 38 – Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, R.I.-Mass.
2011 population estimate: 1,600,224
Annual growth rate: – 0.04 percent

Providence, like Indianapolis, once hosted major league ball. But it last tasted the big time in 1885, and I think it’s safe to say times have changed in the last 127 years. The area’s growth rate is negative, and given how densely populated southern New England is, and the cost of living there, the population has likely peaked.

It is intriguing, however, to ponder a team wedged between the Yankees and the Red Sox, siphoning off fans from the two big spenders of the American League East. But the Red Sox already have a Triple-A team in Pawtucket, right outside Providence, and I suspect they wouldn’t sign away the rights to the market. If they did, the price would be too dear for anyone to pay.

No. 39 is Milwaukee, blessed initially with the Braves and now with the Brewers. Just for the record, the metro area has 1,562,216 people, an annual growth rate of 0.41 percent, and an inventory of God only knows how many bottles and cans of beer.

No. 40 – Jacksonville, Fla.
2011 population estimate: 1,360,251
Annual growth rate: 1.09 percent

Nothing to see here, just a courtesy call to round out the top 40 and allay Milwaukee’s feelings of metro envy. Notice the steep drop in population (more than 200,000) from Mo. 39 Milwaukee. And remember that major league baseball in Florida hasn’t been a rousing success. They’ve got the NFL in Jacksonville and Double-A baseball. If that’s not enough, they can play golf or go to the beach. And I’m sure they do, year-round.

Of course, there are bigger metro areas in North America, but for various reasons, they too are highly unlikely. I recently read that the average Canadian’s net worth is now greater than that of the average American’s. I don’t think that means MLB will be bringing baseball back to Montreal. The only other metro area with a population base worth considering is Vancouver, British Columbia. With 2,313,328 people, it would rank between Portland and Pittsburgh if it were in the United States.

In recent years, the city has seen a large influx of affluent Chinese immigrants. They certainly have the money to attend baseball games, but it’s doubtful they have the interest. Their children, however, may feel differently. But that doesn’t help matters today. More likely, if their children become sports fans, they will gravitate toward hockey (the NHL is represented here by the Canucks) rather than baseball.

Not that baseball is a totally dead issue in these parts. The University of British Columbia is the only Canadian college with an intercollegiate (NAIA) baseball program, and from 1978 to 1999, Vancouver hosted Pacific Coast League ball. The team won the Triple-A World Series in 1999 but was moved to Sacramento the following year. Since then, the Vancouver Canadians (same name as the old Triple-A team) have played short-season Single-A ball at Nat Bailey Stadium.

By Canadian standards, not bad, but nowhere near enough for major league baseball.

Down Mexico way, the most likely venue would be the baseball stronghold of Monterrey. The Monterrey Sultanes have long been a force in the Triple-A Mexican League, and the city is home to the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame. They’ve been playing ball here in some form or fashion since 1889.

Metropolitan Monterrey has a population of more than four million (third-largest in Mexico), which would place it between Phoenix and Seattle in size. It sits in the northern tier of Mexico, just a short drive from the Texas border, or a short flight from Houston.

Actually, major league ball has already been here, as the Padres opened the 1996 and 1999 seasons here. Indeed, the city made a bid for the Expos when they were on the lookout for a new home. Travel guides often assert that Monterrey is the most “American” Mexican city, so culture shock would be minimal, or at least no moreso than in Montreal.

Montreal, however, was bilingual, Monterrey is not. Doubtless there would be plenty of Latin players on a Monterrey major league team, but maybe none of them would be from Mexico. Would that make a difference to the local fans, who are used to rooting for homegrown players? Also, removing one of the Mexican League’s strongest franchises (with a capacity of 27,000, the Monterrey stadium is the largest in the league) could only hurt the remaining teams.

And there’s always that tricky problem of currency differences and exchange rates. It isn’t a big deal in Canada when the U.S. and Canadian dollars are within a penny or two of each other, but when the gap gets bigger than that, problems crop up. The Mexican peso, of course, has never been known for its stability.

And as we bid adios to Monterrey, that ends our tour of North American venues. While some of the above possibilities are intriguing, they all fall short in one or more areas.

The last time we heard anything pertaining to the number of teams in major league baseball, the buzzword was contraction. That was a decade ago. Since then, we’ve heard no more about contraction or expansion. In fact, we don’t hear much about relocation of existing franchises, other than the A’s moving somewhere else in their market area.

At this point in major league history, pulling up stakes and moving somewhere else may be riskier than staying put. Right now, if you’re an MLB owner, your hometown turf just might be greener than the ground cover on the other side of the fence. That may change someday, but in 2012 that’s the lay of the land.

Frank Jackson writes about baseball, film and history, sometimes all at once. He has has visited 54 major league parks, many of which are still in existence.
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LC Fiore
10 years ago

Nice article. I know it doesn’t make the Top 40 list, but I actually wonder if the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill “Triangle” area of North Carolina isn’t ripe for an expansion team. With a total population of 2.7 million, it has a long history of passionately supporting a Triple-A team (the Durham Bulls), is experiencing excellent population growth, and is a good distance from any other MLB team—four-plus hours to DC and six-plus hours to Atlanta. (Although technically NC falls in the Nationals’ and Orioles’ TV market.) A team in this area would also draw from Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Richmond, VA… maybe even the Virginia Beach market as well.  The sports culture is much different from Charlotte, and more conducive to baseball. The big competition would be college basketball, but there’s not much overlap between those seasons.

Jeremy Boyd
10 years ago

The New Orleans Zombies
The New Orleans Vampires
The New Orleans Ghosts
The New Orleans Spirits

I could go on and on…

George Rownd
10 years ago

Good article – What do you think of Brooklyn for an expansion team?  The Yankees and Mets can probably prevent it, but you have a huge population (2.5 million), an expandable AAA ballpark (maybe), convenient public transpostation, a rich history in the Major Leagues, and a decent economy…
Plus, this would reduce the economic advantage of the Yankees.

3 metro franchises ‘work’ in the NHL (to a degree), and the NBA is heading there this season…

10 years ago

In other words…no need ofr MLB expansion

10 years ago

If a team was in Mexico wouldn’t the players all get kidnapped?

10 years ago

I once read an economic study published around 2005, that said a third team in New York is the most viable option.  I’ve also seen quotes from Lew Wolff talking about the same possibility (although he’d probably want to move Oakland there).  Good luck getting the Yankees and Met’s to cede some of their area though.

Paul G.
10 years ago

Columbus has had major league baseball teams in the past.  There was an AA team 1883-1884 and a different AA team 1889-1891.  But I agree that two teams in Ohio is enough.  Indianapolis also had teams in the 19th century but they never stuck either.  That Federal League team won the pennant and still went belly up after one season.

I find it interesting that Louisville, which had major league baseball for 20 years in the 19th century, has fallen so far out of contention.  Louisville was a small market even back then but so was Baltimore.  Also surprising is the omission of Buffalo.  Back when it was in the running for an expansion franchise as it had an excellent AAA fanbase for a small market.  The thought of playing World Series games in a snowstorm probably didn’t help their chances.

Jacksonville is struggling to sell out NFL games and the Jaguars are a prime target for relocation, probably to L.A.  No one sane would put a MLB team there.

@George Rownd: There will only be two NBA teams in NYC as the Nets are moving from northern New Jersey (part of the NYC metro) to Brooklyn.  This is a similar move to Oakland moving to San Jose. 

With that said, I don’t think it wise to have three teams in the area.  The NHL Islanders have been on the verge of serious financial trouble on several occasions over the last several decades, so that is not a ringing endorsement.  Also remember that the three team scenario was the reality until 1957 and it failed.  The Giants and Dodgers didn’t leave for California because they were rolling in cash.

10 years ago

San Antonio-New Braunfels-Austin would get you the per capita income to float a team and about 3.5m in potential fan base, if they located it between the two metro areas. But no one would ever get to the ballpark in time for the first pitch or get home in less than two hours even if you stuck the thing exactly at the mid-point, because Texas is 25 years late in widening I-35, and the people in Austin thought for 40 years if they just didn’t built too many roads, they wouldn’t get too many people moving into the area (the new bypass toll road bypass runs 20 miles east of the interstate, but nobody’s building a 50,000 seat stadium in Lockhart anytime soon).

Joe Dimino
10 years ago

I am not as sold on needing great AAA support, especially in cities with NFL, NBA or NHL teams.

The people with high incomes that buy season tickets are not necessarily the same people that go to minor league games. Those people want to see major league games.

I am obviously a huge baseball fan, but I only go to a minor league game as a fun place to get cheap beer and good seats with friends. I would go to a nearby major league much more often.

A new team doesn’t need to be a top ten franchise. It needs to be profitable and pull it’s weight (not just steal money, but justify increasing it enough that it doesn’t hurt the others’ share) in a national TV contract.

This was a good article, but I think you’ve set the bar awfully high on what is required of a new market.

Joe Dimino
10 years ago

Put a reasonably competitive team in Montreal and they would support it plenty. The Expos did fine for 30 years before intentionally ran them into the ground. Heck give him the Indians in 1989 and the same thing would have happened. Remember when they drew 5000 a game? How about the late 80s Braves? In 1990 those were your top two contraction candidates. 5 years later they were dynasties meeting in the WS.

The bottom line is that fans will support a competitive team in any reasonably sized market. This has been true throughout history. Milwaukee outdrew everyone in the 50s, didn’t they? Cleveland had great attendance in the 90s.

Even the Rays, while not making money hand over fist are not exactly about to go bankrupt. They have a horrible stadium in a ‘terrible’ market and they still draw nearly 20K a game. They aren’t anywhere near the mid 80s Indians. Heck the double 1988 Braves.

Joe Dimino
10 years ago

Sorry, that should have said ‘before *Loria* intentionally ran them I to the ground’

Hank G.
10 years ago

If you went by logic, you would put two more teams in the New York Metro area. Brooklyn would be the obvious choice for one location, and for the other, Newark or suburban Connecticut would be possibilities.

Of course, the Yankees and the Mets are never going to allow another team in their “territory”, much less two, despite the fact that the area could easily support two more teams and it would lessen the Yankees’ advantage over other teams.

Paul G.
10 years ago

Does the NYC metro have the population to support 3 or even 4 major league teams?  In theory, yes.  In practice is another matter entirely.  Any new team(s) put in the region would have to build a fan base from scratch competing with two very popular teams.  Remember that when the Mets were established they had the old Dodgers and Giants fans to woo, which they did with much gusto.  Just look at their hat colors.  The New Jersey Bears or whatever are not going to have such a benefit.  Who wants to see an expansion team go 50-112 when there are more popular alternatives?  Maybe if there were 3 leagues so they were not directly competing this might work, but even then there are going to be major periods of hardship for the third wheel.  I just don’t see it unless demand for baseball becomes so great that the Yankees and Mets sell out every game even with jacked up prices.

The only thing that makes the NHL kinda work is the Islanders are way out on Long Island.  That’s a long haul for the typical New Jersey resident.  The Devils had a semi-unexploited fan base and took advantage.  It is also part of the reason why the Islanders seem to be on the brink of moving every decade or so.

I'm from there
10 years ago

I grew up in Riverside, and live with a Portlander who returns a few times a year.  I agree with your judgments for those areas.  I’ve thought for years that the Oakland As in Sacto would be great, the roads in that area would allow a much larger population base than included by the OMB.  A large group of people motor into and out of the Bay Area daily, check the number of lanes on I80 – it’s big for a reason, I’ve driven them during rush hour(s).

Nice work, I suppose this is why MLB went to 15-15 leagues rather than expanding.

Bill Rubinstein
10 years ago

Brooklyn deserves a team, in order to correct the great historical injustice done in 1958. The borough is apparently now on the up-and-up after decades of decline, and would have an enormous
audience for a team. If it was placed in the NL East, it would be a natural rival to the Mets, reviving the old Dodgers-Giants rivalry. Building a new stadium in Brooklyn would be astronomically expensive, but the recent construction of a home for the Brookly Nets, just where O’Malley wanted to build his stadium in the 1950s, shows it can be done. I’ve always wondered why the Mets’ stadium wasn’t built in Brooklyn. Metropolitan New York could also host a fourth team in northern New Jersey. New England
deserves another twam, probably in or near Providence, for its historical role. The other cities on your list deserve teams, starting with
Portland, Oregon. With 310 million people and another 33 million in Canada, surely there could be 36-40 Major League teams without watering down
the talent.

10 years ago

Don’t know where you got the employee data for Sacramento, might be similar for Nashville which is the capital of TN.

Roy in Omaha
10 years ago

San Juan, Puerto Rico? Havana, Cuba (trust me, Castro would be all over this).

I also think New York could support another team, easily.

Laugh of the day: Omaha sports talk radio has openly postulated about the possibility of the Cubs being moved to Omaha as a byproduct of the Rickett’s family battle with the City of Chicago over the Wrigley Field “situation”:

There are actually people that think the Ricketts have had such a notion up their sleeve all along. LOL.

If your city list went longer, I believe Omaha weighs in at #55.

Roy in Omaha
10 years ago
Yehoshua Friedman
10 years ago

I think baseball’s long-term development prospects are international. The far east is great. Europe is lacking the culture for it and will have to grow it. I am predicting a very large immigration from the US to Israel, but who would they play if they had a major-league quality team. The farm system of minor league baseball as opposed to the former system of independent operations makes it impossible to have the up-and-down method of sharing the fame as practiced in English football. That’s too bad. Some of these cities couldn’t handle MLB year-in and year -out, but if a AAA team were independent and did well they could replace a relegated loser for a year or two. But they would have to have bigger and fancier ballparks. In short, there won’t be any further expansion and probably no major moves. America’s economy isn’t going anywhere in the near future, in fact I expect permanent contraction with negative population growth.