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MLB Expansion Inevitable, But When — and Where?

28 Nov, 2018

By: Michael Popke

It’s no secret that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to expand the league’s number of citiesfrom 30 to 32 teams. The big questions are when and — even more important — where?

“It’s been 20 years since the [Arizona] Diamondbacks and [Tampa Bay] Devil Rays joined the MLB landscape; since then, the overall U.S. population has grown by about 50 million and cities like Austin and Charlotte have nearly doubled in size,” wrote Neil deMause on Deadspin.comrecently, before running through a short list of potential new MLB cities that included:

• Montreal: One of only two metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Canada with more than four million people and no Major League Baseball team.“Though the Expos were considered unsalvageable when they were moved to Washington [D.C.] in 2004, they actually had not-terrible attendance back when the team was still good, drawing more than 2 million fans several times in the early 1980s and headed for close to that mark in 1994 before the baseball strike destroyed the team’s best and last hope for postseason glory,” deMause writes.

• Portland: As part of its bid to land the Expos in 2004, the Oregon Legislature approved $150 million in funding toward a future MLB stadium, and the Portland Diamond Project is committed to bringing a team to the city. But as deMause points out, Portland’s TV market is smaller than all but five existing MLB cities (Baltimore, San Diego, Kansas City, Cincinnati and Milwaukee).

• Las Vegas: This “would be the smallest TV market by far, even if it is growing at an impressive clip,” deMause notes. “Also, it doesn’t have anything resembling a major-league stadium; it’s crazy hot there … so a pricey domed stadium would be an absolute requirement.

• Charlotte: The Knights, the city’s Triple-A team, led the International League in attendancein 2018. “So at least it can claim to be better positioned for the big leagues than Buffalo or Indianapolis,” deMause writes, perhaps tongue firmly planted in cheek.

• San Antonio: This city jumps to a middle-tier market when you add in nearby Austin, and city officials alluded to providing $200 million for the Marlins when that team talked about relocating to Texas a decade ago.

Monterrey: “MLB would surely love to tap into the national TV market in Mexico with a team that could build a truly national fan base much as the Blue Jays have in Toronto, but as with the NFL in London this might be a scenario that would be better for the league as a whole than for an individual owner taking the plunge,” deMause theorizes. “Would MLB accept a smaller expansion fee just to open up Mexico as a market? Don’t hold your breath.”

For comparison’s sake, when Manfred was asked for a list of potential expansion cities last summer, this is what he said: “Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Nashville in the United States, certainly Montreal, maybe Vancouver, in Canada. We think there’s places in Mexico we could go over the long haul.”

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