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Wednesday, December 05, 2001

Keeping the Dominoes from Falling

Don’s update on the contraction issue.

Pondering The Next Moves in Baseball?s Surreal Game of Chicken

We?ve made it to the least cheery Christmas season in memory, what with saber   rattling, economic downturn, and two forms of contraction staring us   in the face. (The first form?contraction of our civil liberties under the ruse   of ?greater security??is clearly the more venal of the two, but this is not   the space in which to dwell at length over the malfeasance of our ?leaders?   in Washington.)

Ironically, another group of those government ?leaders? will start interacting   with the forces trying to impose that second form of contraction?the willful,   deliberate and totally unnecessary murder of two baseball franchises (to be   named later?). Bud Selig will take his hopelessly overexposed puss to   Washington this week, where he will attempt to convince Congress that major   league baseball is virtually bankrupt.

That they are?but not financially.

You all know that I called Bud (?affectionately? known here as Budzilla,   but also often referred to by many of you as Beelzebud) the ?President   of the Liar?s Club? in these cyberpages some three weeks ago. Since then, a   number of more timorous (read: professional) sports journalists have begun to   join me in such a charge.

You have to give Bud his due, though. Not content with lying on an ordinary   scale, he?s now stepped up to logarithmic prevarication. The age-old American   tradition of the tall tale has been taken to skyscraper proportions by Selig:   his recent claim that baseball lost $500 million in the last year is funnier   than even the best howlers concocted by Mark Twain, Bret Harte,   and the still-missing Ambrose Bierce (whose four-score and seven years-long   disappearing act is one Bud should consider emulating).

Congress will begin to look into this matter this week, which probably won?t   get us anywhere, but it will give Bud a platform from which he can attempt to   sell his most recent?and biggest?lie.

What all of us who are baseball fans want to know, of course, is how this latest   bit of choreographed chaos is going to play out. I?d like to interject a few   thoughts on that subject that will hopefully seem more cogent than crabby (though   the margin will be as whisper-thin as that fatal vote in Florida).

First, contraction. The biggest question about it is whether the owners have   the right to unilaterally impose it. That?s more important than any of the deadlines   that loom around it. (Baseball, of course, is hurting its own cash flow by pressing   this issue, because tickets can?t be sold without a schedule, and without a   resolution to this matter, there?s no schedule. With an economic downturn in   progress, baseball risks losing some of its fan base, who will opt to spend   their dwindling discretionary income elsewhere while the owners fiddle with   the domino of contraction.)

The key decision point about contraction will come at the hands of the NLRB   arbitrator, Shyam Das. If Das rules that the owners must negotiate contraction,   it will essentially remove this domino from the table.

While I?m no expert on these matters, I?m figuring that it?s about 80/20 that   Das will rule that the owners cannot impose contraction unilaterally. You lawyers   out there can argue with me, but I think the key sticking point is the precedent-setting   that would endanger the rights of union members. Once you establish such a precedent,   you invite capricious and malicious utilization of such actions. That, to me,   is one of the basic protections to be upheld by labor laws.

The other factor that will be important is whether the owners (via mouthpiece   Bud) can convince anyone that their financial situation warrants contraction.   I doubt that the economic factors can be totally separated from the legal decision,   and as a result Das will have to take into account the credibility (or lack   thereof) of the owners? claims.

If Das rules for the owners, we will surely not see baseball played for a while.   The Players Union will appeal the ruling, and contract talks will not get started   until the appeals process is completed.

But that is the 20% scenario (in my opinion). The likelier   scenario is that the owners will be forced to negotiate contraction, and once   this becomes the case, the players will have an opportunity to quash it by trading   remedies with the owners in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Major league players may wish to keep the status quo, but that is clearly a   ?bury your head in the sand? position at this point. There are some problems   that have to be dealt with, and with a ruling that says contraction is negotiable,   the Players? Union would be in a position to press those issues from a perspective   broader than its own self-interest.

What do I mean by this? Here?s a specific example: the players could grant   concessions on arbitration policies in exchange for not only the removal of   the contraction proposal, but its replacement with a plan to partially remedy   the economic disparity in the game?via expansion.

Now hold on, you ask. How can that work? The owners are crying poor, and want   to contract, not expand. But contraction is just another ruse, another   piece of brinkmanship from a group that just can?t seem to address economic   issues in a straightforward (need I say honest?) manner.

What the owners really want is some kind of compromise on the salary   structure?and the players can afford to give up some freedom in the arbitration   process, if by doing so they create at least 50 more jobs at a time when most   industries are laying people off.

The Players Union should give on arbitration once the owners agree to expand   into New York and Los Angeles with two new franchises in 2004. The owners can   be given leeway to decide if they want to move ?sick? franchises and create   new expansion teams in the abandoned cities, but the best solution is to find   solid ownership candidates for the new big-market franchises. The best remedy   for a ?sick? franchise is relocation, but there are still places other than   the two mega-markets to move into: there?s always ?northern Virginia?, where   either the Expos or the Marlins can be renamed the Beltway Bandits.

But George Steinbrenner and Rupert Murdoch will never go along   with this, you protest. They have territorial rights!

Of course, those ?rights? are an artificial construction   being used in a monopolist?s shell game, and quite probably won?t stand up to   scrutiny in a comprehensive examination of baseball?s bizarre anti-trust exemption?something   that Congress just might get around to if they feel that Budzilla has lied to   them.

Or should I say?lied too egregiously. Lying is as American   as apple pie, but even given that, there are limits to what can be gotten away   with.

Now, at a time when your Attorney General is actively planning   to incrementally divest the average American citizen of his civil rights, I   see no reason why baseball can?t step up to the plate and say ?George, Rupert,   you?re going to have to take one for the team.?

In other words, there are times when even capitalists have   to be brought to heel.

The Players Union may protest that it?s not part of their purview to engage   in such negotiations. That may have been true in the past; but these are unique   times. The union may need to take some initiatives that would have seemed inappropriate   in the past.

Events may transpire in the next few weeks that make this one of those times.

The arbitration process is biased in the favor of the players, and recasting   it in a way that reduces the salary inflation of pre-free agent players is a   significant concession. And it?s a fair one all the way around.

Tying this concession to an agreement to expand rather than contract is the   only way that the game will have a credible growth path open to it, and that   will allow constructive methods of dealing with structural imbalance.

(However, it?s still up to the owners to deal with lingering economic disparity.   They need to close the loophole that lets teams ?sandbag? and simply pocket   ?luxury tax? money, as has been the case under the current CBA. The players   cannot, and should not, be forced to solve that problem.)

If Shyam Das gives the Players Union a leg up in this matter, the opportunity   for meaningful, positive change will be in their hands. If he doesn?t, we are   in for a long siege.

Will Das tip the domino, or will he shove the owners? brinkmanship back down   their throats? I?ve told you what I think; now it?s your turn.

 

Don Malcolm Posted: December 05, 2001 at 06:00 AM | 40 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. scruff Posted: December 05, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604386)
I completely disagree w/expansion into NY and LA. WHY DO THESE TOWNS GET A 3RD TEAM???? When Portland, Buffalo, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Nashville, Columbus and Washington DC don't have one??? This is ludicrous. I know statheads love this idea, because it will the thwart the Yankees, Mets, Angels and Dodgers "competitive advantage". That's crap. I'd be fuming if I were in one of the left out cities while NY and LA upped their take to 6 (19%) of the major leagues.

Advocate home teams giving up 50% of the gate (after expenses) and 50% of the local TV revenue if you want competitive balance, but don't keep baseball from widening it's fan base to two more cities (and a couple of million people) so we create another NJ Devils -- A team that wins championships and gets buried by the "other" local team after 20 years. The team that actually has the fan base.

I really liked the rest of the article Don. Good job.
   2. Mike Emeigh Posted: December 05, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604387)
Scruff:

With the exception of Washington, DC, none of those other cities you mention have (a) the facilities (b) the fan base, or (c) the media market to support a major league baseball team. I'd go New York and DC rather than New York and LA (considering that San Diego is carving up the LA-area market to some extent).

NYC supported three MLB teams for a long time, and I don't see that any of them suffered a competitive disadvantage. I don't see that placing a third team in the area now would significantly hurt either the Yankees or the Mets.

-- MWE
   3. Jim Furtado Posted: December 05, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604389)
When I originally posted Don's article to the site, I added the following comment, which somehow didn't make it into the database.

I'd like to ask readers not to get into a political debate with Don on this site. From what I've read I don't agree with his politics and figure most of you might disagree with him as well. Since the focus of this site is baseball and not politics, I see no reason to get into an irrelevant discussion that doesn't have anything to do with why we're here--to talk about baseball. I've learned to ignore his off-topic tangents. I suggest you ignore his off-topic statements, address your comments to him personally, or take up the topic with him on a site that focuses on politics.

Another option, of course, would be to just tell him to keep his politics to himself, without getting into the specifics of the issues. Who knows, maybe your words will carry more weight than mine and he'll listen to you.
   4. Mark Donelson Posted: December 05, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604384)
Actually, I liked Don's comparison of Selig to Ashcroft, though I admit it's something of a stretch...
   5. Carl Goetz Posted: December 05, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604391)
Yes- expansion is a great idea if you can get the players to make consessions for it! Maybe we can finally get rid of the DH in the process! (I don't really think that would happen, its just a private baseball fantasy of mine)At the very least, we could rid ourselves of the abomination known as the Wild Card team. With 32 teams, you could have 4 divisions of 4 in each league and only the Division winners would make the playoffs. That might help make the regular season a bit more meaningful. Personally I'd prefer 2 divisions of 8 and only 2 playoff teams for each league, but I'll take what I can get.
   6. Kurt Posted: December 05, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604392)
Are you guys really going to get that worked up about one line in a 1400 word article? I don't see the relevance either, but come on. It's not that big a deal.
   7. Scruff Posted: December 05, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604393)
Mike, here's the thing . . . NY hosted 3 teams amicably when all three came up at the beginning of time. There were two NL teams, and another AL team. But once a league is entrenched (100 years would qualify) you are only going to be able to get a second team in a city. This is a team for the people that hate the original team. The Islanders, A's, and Angels are all examples of teams that have done this.

But a 3rd team in a major metropolitan will really always be the third class citizen, even if they are winning championships, aka the New Jersey Devils. The Devils would have a much better fan base if they moved just about anywhere. They are always 2nd fiddle. I'd bet a Derek Jeter hangnail would get more press than the Devils in the playoffs. Not so w/the Rangers or Isles (not that my Isles have had to deal with this for quite some time). The Devils have had 20 years of pretty successful hockey to cultivate a fan base and it just hasn't happened. South and Central Jersey may as well be called Little Philadelphia and North Jersey is little New York. Maybe a team in Hartford (not withstanding the Whale's move) would work, but no way another in North Jersey would. And it'd be pretty stupid to put a 4th team in the middle of NY/NY/BOS, although it did work in hockey for awhile.

There are too many viable markets to put a team in. Stadiums can be built. Where is the 3rd major league facility in NY or LA? The Meadowlands? The LA Colesium? Give me a break. Buffalo has Pilot field, which could easily be expanded to major league capacity, which is only in the high 30's to low 40's these days. Most of the other cities I mentioned have viable AAA stadiums that could be expanded.

There is absolutely no reason to give NY or LA a third team. It is absolutely unjustifiable in my opinion.
   8. scruff Posted: December 05, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604394)
Kurt, I echo your comments, I honestly just thought it was an interesting parallel and I had completely forgotten about the political sentence.
   9. Ephus Posted: December 05, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604395)
One necessary correction: there is no appeal for the arbitration ruling. Rather, the only recourse is to bring a case in federal court, asking that the arbitration result be thrown out because the arbitrator had manifestly acted outside of his authority and meted out his "own form of industrial justice." Such claims are almost always rejected by the federal courts out of hand.

Of course, as alluded to in the article, the arbitrator's ruling merely sets a starting point for the two sides to bargain. If the arbitrator were to rule that MLB could unilaterally decide to contract, the MLBPA could insist that the next Basic Agreement explicitly state that no such power exists. Or vice versa. So, if like me, you do not want to see a work stoppage, you have to decide which side is less likely to pull the plug if they lose before the arbitrator. My guess is that the owners will not lock-out the players if they lose before the arbitrator.
   10. Ken Adams Posted: December 05, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604397)
Dear Rob McLean & Casey, Well we all now know you can call people names without anything to support your position. But would you care to address the issue of us loosing our rights? Or am I to gather from your comments that anything a republican does is ok with you? I would like to point out that William Safire (hardly a leftist) in the NY Times called the AG & the President Select to task fore their 'dictatorial power' grab (see http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/15/opinion/15SAFI.html). Or how about Rep. Ron Paul (again hardly a leftist), R-Texas comment, "The threats to liberty seem endless. It seems we have forgotten to target the enemy. Instead we have inadvertently targeted the rights of American citizens. The crisis has offered a good opportunity for those who have argued all along for bigger government." (see www.counterpunch.org). Losing our rights should concern all of us. While you may not see what baseball has to do with politics a lot of us do, and are interested in the free exchange of ideas. Which can be done without calling people names.

BTW Jim, how did Rob & Casey's comments get posted since they were hardly 'respectful' nor did they move the conversation along. It would seem that they violated your guidelines for what gets posted under 'inappropriate comments'. I don't really mind, but if you are going to retroactively disown Don Malcolm's article (for one sentence) shouldn't you be following the guidelines you set for feedback comments?
   11. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: December 05, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604401)
It wouldn't be too crazy to have 19% of the MLB in the NY and SoCal metro areas, as around 15% of the country's population resides there....(38 million)
   12. Chris Reed Posted: December 05, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604402)
Oh I am sure thats exactly how the conversation would go. Especially given your initial response to Malcolm's article, I can just imagine you being another one of those <sarc> stereotypically passive Republicans. I mean, after all, its not like you greatly overreacted to Malcolm's comments. I mean, he suggested that the government was not acting in the best interest of the people, and was not fully protecting the people's rights. And all you said was:

"Malcolm's ignorant, sarcastic and unjustified political opinions soured me on the whole article...Why does everyone on the Left, when they see a popular Republican, immediately shout "Fourth Reich! Fourth Reich...!!"? It's mighty tiresome."

Why would anyone think that you are anything less than the non-confrontational objective peace maker that you described in your realistic dialogue between the leftist hippie freaks and yourself?

</sarc>

Am I the only one who finds the title of this article eerily foretelling?
   13. Jim Furtado Posted: December 05, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604404)
The nature of many of the posts at the bottom of this article perfectly demonstates why Sean and I don't want to discuss non-baseball political matters on the site.

If people want to discuss politics there are many better places to conduct the discussion.
   14. jimd Posted: December 05, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604405)
(Ignoring the ongoing non-baseball political debate.)

Does anyone have any links to papers published on the theoretical issues underlying the problem of locating major-league franchises? In the absence of studies on the problem, here are some thoughts.

A cursory study of MLB attendance shows that teams do not share a market linearly. Philadelphia has always been more than triple the size of the smallest market team, but was unable to support two teams. (It's still the largest single-team market that no-one is talking about putting a second team into.)

It seems reasonable to suggest that there is a monopoly effect; a single-team market is a captive audience and attendance only varies depending on how often the fans choose to indulge. Fans in multi-team markets have a choice, and this can result in abandonment of one team in favor of another. This is supported by attendance data which shows that since 1918, only Cleveland in 85 and Montreal the last 4 years has fallen below 40% of MLB average, while there are numerous examples of Browns, Boston Braves, Phillies, and A's (both Phil. and Oakland) teams that fell through that floor. (Montreal was 27% in 2001; the Browns of the 30's topped that only in 1931, with a low of 18% in 1935.)

MLB is understandably gunshy of these situations. Oakland was a mistake, and MLB doesn't want to repeat that in Washington; the Senators kept flirting with that 40% mark after the Orioles moved in. Chicago may not be viable for two healthy teams much longer. New York probably could support 3 teams (the size relationship between NY and the smallest market, currently Milwaukee, is similar to 1900), but mythologizing the reasons behind the exodus of 1957 may have persuaded the owners otherwise. Three teams in LA? Who knows; try New York first.

Expansion has filled in all of the gaps. Portland is the only open market larger than Milwaukee (assuming that Sacramento is reserved for the A's when they finally give up in Oakland) and they've shown little inclination to try and attract a team. Further expansion creates more Milwaukee's and Kansas City's, unless they decide that the conditions are ripe for the Latin American markets. San Juan or Mexico City first? Are there legal reasons for avoiding Mexico, or is it just a lack of vision?

If contraction happens, then MLB opens up some lower-middle markets, and MLB is arrogant enough to believe that the cities will cave and build stadiums if MLB deprives them of its presence long enough.

   15. jimd Posted: December 05, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604406)
Interesting that the two smallest markets, Milwaukee and Kansas City, were amongst the fiscally responsible.

I found some Canadian population data, and Vancouver is a Cincinnati size market, between Portland and KC in size. I don't know how close it is to Seattle (territorial rights?), but if it's near enough to be another combined-market, then the total is a little smaller than Boston or Detroit, and an unlikely proposition.
   16. Voros McCracken Posted: December 05, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604407)
I think we have to be careful about making to broad of statements when deciding whether a market can support a team or a second team (like Philadelphia) based on past situations. Each team that evenutally left the city they were once in was a unique situation in and of itself and the circumstances certainly play a major (if not deciding) factor in how it eventually shook out.

The Philadelphia A's situation cannot be used reliably to gauge the viability of a second eastern Pennsylvania ballclub, since there were a variety of factors unique to that situation.

IOW, you can't say that baseball won't work in Montreal, because baseball _has_ worked in Montreal before. It currently isn't working in Montreal, but that has only a little to do with the state of the city of Montreal and a bunch to do with what has transpired with the club the last seven years. You can't do what's been done there and still expect people to show up.

I think strong arguments can be made that MLB can succeed in _ALL_ of the places mentioned if given an opportunity with a well run franchise.
   17. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: December 06, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604409)
What Voros said. There have been so few cases of teams moving that each one is a unique situation. Baseball's a hell of a lot more popular than it was last time a team moved; I don't think we can draw much in the way of conclusions from those time periods.

As for Scruff's comments about the viability of NJ, I disagree. It would take intelligent marketing; the team would have to position itself as New Jersey's team, *not* a third team in NY. However, I think the appropriate thing to do is yank the anti-trust exemption and let's find out. Let's let the market decide whether a third team in NY is better for MLB than a team in Montreal.

But citing the Devils is silly, for two reasons:
(1) The most important is that they *have* been successful. They've won on the field (ice?), and they're in no danger of folding or moving or anything.
(2) The second is that, by the same logic, we could cite the Nets as evidence that *two* teams can't survive in NY, and thus "prove" that the Mets wouldn't be a successful franchise.


P.S. You're all commie pinko fascists.
   18. Charles Saeger Posted: December 06, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604411)
I think I'll refrain from the ridiculous political debate. To paraphrase Mickey Mantle, my thoughts are pretty much the same as Don's. Having said that, I must agree with Rob's final sentences, but add a point -- the Montreal Expos are losing money intentionally. The silly idea to go through a season without a local television deal was designed to force the team to lose money so MLB would have an excuse to play the contraction issue. I can find no other sane explanation.

However, I was reading Major League Losers by Mark Rosentraub in the bookstore the other night, and he notes that the reason places like New Jersey and Washington have no team is because leagues artifically limit the number of teams below market demand. This is to create move cities (of which there are currently no serious ones in the US), of course. However, as a side effect of all this and the "territorial rights," it means teams in large markets have fan bases that are unnaturally large. So, New Jersey and Washington (which should, in the next expansion, be the logical places for new teams) not having teams gives the Yankees, Mets and Orioles more power, and more revenue, more than the market would normally allow.
   19. scruff Posted: December 06, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604414)
"But citing the Devils is silly, for two reasons: (1) The most important is that they *have* been successful. They've won on the field (ice?), and they're in no danger of folding or moving or anything. (2) The second is that, by the same logic, we could cite the Nets as evidence that *two* teams can't survive in NY, and thus "prove" that the Mets wouldn't be a successful franchise."

Why is citing the Devils silly? I'm not saying a team in NJ wouldn't make money or be competitve. I'm saying the people in North Jersey have two teams within a 45 minute drive and another an hour and a half away. And another a little over 3 hours away. And another 4 hours away. I'm not saying the team would fold, I'm saying give some other places a shot.

How many teams are within 45 minutes of Buffalo, Indianapolis, Portland, Charlotte, Nashville, Columbus or Washington DC? The Orioles are the only one that might qualify, and they are an hour plus from DC, unless you are in a helicopter. I'm saying, give some places that don't have major league baseball a shot before you put an unloved team in NJ. Why spend 20 years to steal a generation of fans from other teams when there are plenty for the asking in other cities? It does not make any sense.

As for the Nets, I never said a second team in a large market wouldn't be viable, so the logic doesn't hold. Just because C doesn't work with A and B does not mean you can say B couldn't work with A, even if B isn't perfect itself. I'm saying a THIRD team in a large market is just incredibly short sited for several reasons, but the big one is that you don't expand the fan base of the sport into new markets. There are already baseball fans in Jersey, the baseball Devils aren't going increase the fandom of the sport, they just tap into the revenue of the teams already there. Putting teams in new cities creates new fans, and GENERATES ADDITIONAL REVENUE for the sport as a whole.

Also if 3 teams worked so great in NY the first time, why did two of them pack up shop?

Also I don't see any NJ ownership group clamoring for a team, so who exactly is going to pay the exhorbitant expansion fee to be third fiddle? Has Jeff Loria or Carl Pohlad or John Henry or anyone else ever expressed an interest in NJ? Not that I've heard, because it's absolutely foolish.

The "logical" choices for a new team are DC and Buffalo in my opinion. Buffalo would be a great market. Their AAA team is among the most successful in the minors, they have a nice field that could be expanded, and they have an avid fan base in other sports, one that supports well managed teams. I agree w/Robert Dudek, in that a team doesn't necessarily have to sell 40,000 tickets per game to be successful.

Also TB could be relocated to Charlotte, Portland or Indianapolis, although I'd at least like to see the team become competitive and still flounder at the gate before we write that market off.
   20. Charles Saeger Posted: December 06, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604418)
>The "logical" choices for a new team are DC and Buffalo in my opinion.

...

>Also TB could be relocated to Charlotte, Portland or Indianapolis, although I'd at least like to see the team become competitive and still flounder at the gate before we write that market off.

Metro areas in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, by size: 1. NY 21.2 million, 2. LA 16.4 million, 3. Chicago 9.2 million, 4. Washington/Baltimore 7.6 million, 5. San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose 7.0 million, 6. Philadelphia 6.2 million, 7. Boston 5.8 million, 8. Detroit 5.5 million, 9. Dallas/Fort Worth 5.2 million, 10. Toronto 4.8 million, 11. Houston 4.7 million, 12. Atlanta 4.1 million, 13. Miami 3.9 million, 14. Seattle/Tacoma 3.6 million, 15. Montreal 3.5 million, 16. Phoenix 3.3 million, 17. Minneapolis 3.0 million, 18. Cleveland 2.9 million, 19. San Diego 2.8 million, 20. Saint Louis 2.6 million, 21. Denver 2.6 million, 22. San Juan (PR) 2.5 million, 23. Tampa/Saint Petersburg 2.4 million, 24. Pittsburgh 2.4 million, 25. Portland (OR) 2.3 million, 26. Vancouver 2.0 million, 27. Cincinnati 2.0 million, 28. Sacramento 1.8 million, 29. Kansas City 1.8 million, 30. Milwaukee 1.7 million, 31. Orlando 1.6 million, 32. Indianapolis 1.6 million, 33. San Antonio 1.6 million, 34. Norfolk 1.6 million, 35. Las Vegas 1.6 million, 36. Columbus 1.5 million, 37. Charlotte 1.5 million, 38. New Orleans 1.3 million, 39. Salt Lake City 1.3 million, 40. Greensboro/Winston-Salem 1.3 million, 41. Austin 1.2 million, 42. Nashville 1.2 million, 43. Providence 1.2 million, 44. Raleigh/Durham 1.2 million, 45. Hartford 1.2 million, 46. Buffalo 1.2 million, 47. Memphis 1.1 million, 48. West Palm Beach 1.1 million, 49. Jacksonville 1.1 million, 50. Rochester 1.1 million, 51. Grand Rapids (MI) 1.1 million, 52. Oklahoma City 1.1 million, 53. Ottawa 1.1 million, 54. Louisville 1.0 million

That long list includes everyone with at least a million people. It obviously shows all MLB cities, and most AAA cities.

Buffalo, looking at the list, is anything but the best choice. Granted, they'd also draw from Rochester, but they're close to both the NYC teams and the Blue Jays. Why move there instead of, say, Las Vegas, which has more people and isn't by any other cities? Same story with New Orleans.

The gaps in the data (where there are cities without MLB which have more people than cities with MLB) are San Juan, Portland, Vancouver and Sacramento. Though I think baseball would make a killing in Puerto Rico, it won't happen, and MLB isn't fond of Canada any more, so that leaves us with Portland and Sacramento.

Neither city is a place to which teams routinely threaten to move.

I think the population data clearly shows:

* Washington can support a team.
* Between New York and Philadelphia, there are plenty of people in New Jersey to support a team.
* "Small market" means "whoever is winning right now."
   21. Eric Enders Posted: December 06, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604421)
Not that it makes a big difference, but it appears the figures above don't take into account metropolitan areas that overlap two countries. Counting those, you'd get:

6. Detroit-London 6 million
14. San Diego-Tijuana 3.7 million
22. El Paso-Juarez 2.5 million

Also, with some miraculous political maneuvering, you could add

26. Havana 2.2 million
   22. Eric Enders Posted: December 06, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604422)
Also, since I live right in between the two, I can tell you that Buffalo is definitely NOT near New York City. Toronto, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus, and Wheeling, WV, are all closer to Buffalo than NYC is. The Buffalo and NYC areas do not overlap in any way, shape, or form.
   23. jimd Posted: December 06, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604423)
Voros, I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say.

I said nothing about Montreal's viability as an MLB city, though I did remark in passing about it's bad attendance. In market size, it is comparable to Seattle and Phoenix, and I know of no reason why it
wouldn't support a properly run team. However, it is also indisputable that it does not support the current management/stadium combination. There truly is no precendent for a single-team market to have attendance that bad for that long a period of time.

What I was trying to say (but apparently didn't say clearly) is that team markets do not scale linearly. A city of twice the size will not support double the number of teams. Our limited historical experience shows that many fans abandon one team to support another, and it requires a larger total fan base (than one would expect from a linear scaling) to supply the "out" teams with "reasonable" attendance.

My evidence on the abandonment theory goes like this. I have the MLB
attendance data from baseball1.com which goes from 1892 to the present. The current breakdown is that 45% of the team seasons are from multi-team markets (assuming that Washington/Baltimore are separate). The number of team seasons below 40% MLB average is 43 for multi-team markets (MTMs) and 14 for single-team markets (STMs). After 1918, it's 38 for MTMs and 5 for STMs (and 4 of those are the last 4 Montreal seasons). I think that you'll agree that this is an unusual split.

The years (for those curious):
STMs: Louisville 1893-95, Cleveland 1898-99, Cincinnati 1914,
Washington 1904,06,17, Cleveland 1985, Montreal 1998-2001
MTMs: Braves 1904,10-12,20,22,24,28,40,44,52
Phillies 1904,26,28,34,37,38,40,41 A's 1950,54
Browns: 1927,30-41,47-51,53
Oakland A's: 1977-79

MLB attendance and performance can form a positive-feedback loop. The team sucks so nobody goes to see them; if that persists long enough, then the lack of attendance/cashflow makes it very difficult to rebuild the team, which is necessary to increase attendance/cashflow. A team needs the luxury of a "reasonable" level of support during a rebuilding process. (However, I am not expecting fans to support a rip-off.) Historically, the "out" team in a small MTM has not had that luxury to the same degree as a bad team in a small STM.

The Bay Area of today is approx. 4 Milwaukee's; the Philly of 1930 was approx. 4 Cincinnati's (smallest market of that era). Pre-war Philly did not support the Phillies, then the 1950 Whiz Kids switched the city around, just when it became acceptable to move. It appears to me, on admittedly scanty evidence, that a factor of 4 may not be enough; at the minimum I think we can agree it provides little margin for team error.

Chicago is at 5 now, it used to be at 7, the lack of support for the White Sox last/this year is troubling; at least Chicago has yet to see the kind of "attendance crashes" (falling through that 40% floor that STMs have traditionally enjoyed) that made life unsupportable for the "out" teams in Boston, St.Louis, and Philly (a century of fan loyalty may help with that too).

It is very difficult to thrive when a bad season of yours combined with a good season by the other team in town results in unplanned attendance levels comparable to this year's Montreal team ("attendance crash"). These "crashes" have happened in each of the smaller MTMs, but not in the larger ones (Chicago, LA, NY).

Hypothesis: the market size necessary to support two teams lies somewhere between historical Chicago and Philly. Adjustments to this number then requires evidence of the special nature of either city. (An argument like: "A city of Philly's size could normally be expected to support two teams, but Philly didn't because..." or "A city of Chicago's size would not normally support two teams, but Chicago did because ...").

Unfortunately, there is a dearth of sample data to work from. I can only to point to what I think are indicative but inconclusive patterns in the existing data, and make some tentative predictions from them. These discussions are just for fun; nobody paid me any money to delve deeply into the numbers; if historical Philly was a special case, then maybe the Bay Area and the Capitol District will support two thriving teams.

Hell, Montreal is double Milwaukee's size, maybe two teams can thrive
there. I'm not optimistic, until expansion brings viable MLB teams to Little Rock and Mobile.

   24. jimd Posted: December 06, 2001 at 01:16 AM (#604424)
>> Also if 3 teams worked so great in NY the first time, why did two of them pack up shop?

The short answer is probably greed. The first three teams that moved were fleeing attendance situations similar to the current Montreal numbers (as a % of MLB average). The Dodgers were MLB average. The Giants numbers were not good the last two years (proportional to current KC), and it can be argued that both NL teams should have had better attendance when they were winning, but their situations were nowhere near as dire as the Braves, Browns, A's. The other side is that the soft attendance could be due to a surfeit of winning (the two teams had won 8 NL pennants in a row, 1949-56, and faced the Yankees 7 of those times; if you win every year, it's not as exciting and trendy as the first time.)

Anyway, Los Angeles beckoned, and the Dodgers moved from average attendance to the best attendance numbers ever (after Dodger Stadium was built). They needed a West Coast partner/rival for scheduling, and they talked the Giants into joining them. The Giants had good numbers until the A's barged in, and with hindsight may have been better off staying in New York (assuming they could persuade the city to build Shea, instead of it being done to bring NL baseball back to the city), with SF getting the expansion team. Only the team accountants know for sure and they're not telling.
   25. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: December 07, 2001 at 01:17 AM (#604425)
Scruff,
As I understood it, your argument was, "A third team in a market isn't workable. Look at the Devils." My reply was that (1) the Devils *are* successful, and (2) even if they weren't, that would hardly prove anything.
Still, I reiterate my previous point: I think the appropriate thing to do is yank the anti-trust exemption and let's find out. Let's let the market decide whether a third team in NY is better for MLB than a team in Montreal. If Indianapolis is even better, fine. Let's let the market decide that, too.
I agree with you that putting another team in NJ wouldn't expand baseball's market. Rather, it would partially equalize existing markets. We can't make Kansas City bigger -- but we can make New York smaller.

Also if 3 teams worked so great in NY the first time, why did two of them pack up shop?

Because having all of Los Angeles was better than having a third of New York. I don't see how that's relevant to the question of whether *Montreal* is a better market than a third of New York.

Has Jeff Loria or Carl Pohlad or John Henry or anyone else ever expressed an interest in NJ? Not that I've heard, because it's absolutely foolish.

No, it's not because it's foolish. Putting a team in Buffalo is foolish. Rather, it's because the ATE means they simply can't go to NJ, no matter how good an idea it would be. I mean, let's apply your logic to your own arguments: you don't hear them talking about Indianapolis, certainly, but that doesn't deter you from your quixotic quest to put teams in tiny markets.
   26. scruff Posted: December 07, 2001 at 01:17 AM (#604429)
"Buffalo, looking at the list, is anything but the best choice. Granted, they'd also draw from Rochester, but they're close to both the NYC teams and the Blue Jays. Why move there instead of, say, Las Vegas, which has more people and isn't by any other cities? Same story with New Orleans."

Market size is not the be all and end all. Buffalo is 46, but it is closer to 20 than 20 is to 11. Buffalo has proven itself to be a great AAA baseball town and it's NFL and NHL teams have been quite successful. There is no reason a baseball team couldn't work there.

Vegas isn't going to happen because of the gambling. Also, from what I understand, the population there is transient.

Buffalo is by NY only in that it occupies the same state. Baltimore is closer to Charlotte than Buffalo is to NYC. Toronto is 2 hours away, which would make for a nice rivalry. 1.2M people is plenty to support a baseball team.

David, you are combined separate points that I made to distort what I'm saying.

Even without the anti-trust exemption, no one is going to want to move to NJ. They don't have to, there are plenty of viable markets. The only reason you don't here Indianapolis, Portland, etc. as markets right now is because DC is the only one willing to build a publicly financed stadium. Once this public stadium nonsense is put to rest, the other markets I mentioned will become viable moving grounds.

As far as the markets I mentioned, I didn't mention the list because I thought they were absolutely 100% better than NJ. I never said a team couldn't work in NJ, I said that they'd always be third fiddle and there are better places.

I mentioned those markets as better options because I think those areas deserve a team, could support a team and would support a team. I just think they are better options (combined w/50% revenue sharing) for expanding the fan base and the overall health of the game than putting a 3rd team in NJ.
   27. Robert Dudek Posted: December 07, 2001 at 01:17 AM (#604432)
I think that any number of cities/regions could support an MLB team.

Buffalo could too. It is far enough away from any city that already has a team that you could potentially draw people from a large distance. The area around Buffalo is densely populated on both sides of the border - Rochester is a large city in its own right and I bet there're plenty of people there that would love to have big-league ball within easy reach.

I agree with David that teams should not be forbidden from moving and if they want to move to New Jersey that's fine by me. However, I think that MLB must commit to a specific expansion timetable. Abandoned cities will have a chance to form ownership groups and put in an expansion bid, along with all the other cities wanting a team. E.G. next expansion in 2005, the two best bids will be accepted - pay the expansion fee and you're in.

The most important point that Scruff made was that exploiting (in the positive sense of the word) new (i.e. virgin) markets brings in greater long-term revenue. MLB's strategy should be to continually increase its geographic reach, which is the logical way to maximise its revenue.

This way, if an expansion team fails in one city it can feel free to move to another, so expansion is virtually risk free from MLB's point-of-view (they have the expansion fee).

There is no need to define in advance a "minimum" market size required to support a team - let the marketplace and expansion sort that out.


   28. jimd Posted: December 07, 2001 at 01:17 AM (#604433)
There is no minimum market size other than what the marketplace dictates. The health of the franchises in the smallest markets (Milwaukee, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh) gives us one indicator of what that size might be. The health of the recent expansion teams in smaller markets (Tampa Bay, Colorado) gives us another. ("Health" is some composite of the economic and competitive well-being of these teams.)

If your overall impression of these teams is that they are healthy and thriving, then advocacy of expansion into similar size markets is warranted. If your impression of these teams is that they are struggling financially and/or competitively then caution is indicated on further expansion of this kind.

   29. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: December 08, 2001 at 01:17 AM (#604439)
Jeff Smith, they used to say that about DC. It's not even close to true anymore. It's not a small, government-oriented town anymore.

Scruff, I'm sorry if I distorted your views, but if you say two things that lead to contradictory conclusions then I'm going to point out that contradiction, even if you made the two points at different times. One of your arguments against NJ was that you didn't see any owners clamoring to move there. And I pointed out that this applies equally to Indianapolis.

As for your 1.2 million people is plenty to support a baseball team, do you have anything to back that up from _baseball?_ (Not hockey, which only needs to draw a small number of people to a game, and not football, which only needs to fill up a stadium 8 times.)

Robert, you're ideologically in favor of having a <HYPERBOLE>zillion major league teams</HYPERBOLE>. That's your prerogative, of course, but I don't see what you have to support that. How can Buffalo support a team? (Without, I mean, having the fans of other teams prop them up.) I think baseball should expand _eventually_ to 32 teams, because it's a good number for league structure purposes. But I don't see how Oklahoma City and Indianapolis and such, all of which are significantly smaller than Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, or Kansas City, are supposed to be viable. Portland, fine. DC, maybe. NJ, certainly. But Buffalo?
   30. Robert Dudek Posted: December 09, 2001 at 01:17 AM (#604442)
David..

A zillion no. But I wouldn't mind seeing 40 teams (a 4-league structure might work nicely) by 2025. Honestly I've yet to see any evidence that 40 teams wouldn't be viable and until I do, I say it's a no-lose proposition so go ahead and try.

I explained why Buffalo has a potential fanbase in excess of their strict CMA population. Why didn't you address any of those points? I also said that it doesn't matter what you or I think about a market - let the bids come and the chaff will get sorted from the wheat.



   31. Ken Adams Posted: December 11, 2001 at 01:17 AM (#604452)
It seem that the only way that Mr. McLean can win an argument is with himself. Do you really expect Ashcroft and his higher ups to say we're doing away with the Constitution? Sometimes it requires you to think for yourself. Hitler increased his powers by the use of a 'national emergency' or 'state of emergency' which Bush has declared three times in the first 10 months of his administration. James Madison also stated that nothing threatens democracy as a constant state of war which is exactly what President Select Bush has declared. So the administration picks on non-citizens first, who have little political muscle, to apply 'Military Tribunials', and the rest of us are suppose to ignore the suspension of legal rights because it doesn't affect us? The right to a speedy trail goes to the 'accused' not just to a citizen. You should really read up on how countries go from being a democracy (or republic) to a dictatorship. If Mr. Bush really believed in democracy he would have requested a full and fair recount in Florida. But he did not, he was more interested in winning, no matter the cost to democracy and that is why some of us do not accept the administrations statements at face value. If you wish to continue this conversation you have my e-mail address, but be warned you will not get away with the shabby logic you have presented so far. For example you may be forced to answer the questions presented, not ignore them.
   32. Carl Goetz Posted: December 11, 2001 at 01:17 AM (#604453)
I don't recall Al Gore requesting a full and fair recount in Florida. It doesn't matter anyway since every recount done in the last year shows Bush ahead, albeit by differing totals.
   33. Ken Adams Posted: December 11, 2001 at 01:17 AM (#604454)
Gore did ask for a full recount but the Bush Campaign turned him down claiming it was a publicity stunt. To me this shows the thinking of the Bushies, rather than get it right you bluff your way through. Of course with Dems this usually works as they have no backbone. The Gang of 5 in the Supreme Court should have been impeached for their finding that Bush would be hurt if there was a recount. By doing so they basically admit to being biased in the case. As to the media recount the only one that Bush 'wins' is the scenario that Gore went for after being turned down by Bush--a recount in four heavily Democaratic counties. Which was weak on Gore's part and is typical of today's Democratic Party.
   34. fables of the deconstruction Posted: December 14, 2001 at 01:18 AM (#604496)
There is no question that the DC area would support a profitable team. No doubt there would be an adverse effect on Baltimore attendance...

Bleacher,

Prove this statement rather than just pulling platitudes out of Peter Angelos's mouth. As I've already concluded HERE a team permanently based in Washington, DC would be damaging to both that team and the Orioles. However, a team based in Northern Virginia, particularly one based in the heart of Fairfax County would have minimal impact on Oriole attendance. I have questions regarding the self suffeciency of a NoVa franchise over an intermediate term, but both short and long term perspectives for such a franchise are quite good. Certainly better than any one other area MLB could move to at this juncture.

--------------
trevise :-) ...
There is no question that the DC area would support a profitable team. No doubt there would be an adverse effect on Baltimore attendance...

Bleacher,

Prove this statement rather than just pulling platitudes out of Peter Angelos's mouth. As I've already concluded HERE a team permanently based in Washington, DC would be damaging to both that team and the Orioles. However, a team based in Northern Virginia, particularly one based in the heart of Fairfax County would have minimal impact on Oriole attendance. I have questions regarding the self sufficiency of a NoVa franchise over an intermediate term, but both short and long term perspectives for such a franchise are quite good. Certainly better than any one other area MLB could move to at this juncture.

--------------
trevise :-) ...
   35. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: December 15, 2001 at 01:18 AM (#604507)
And as *I* pointed out in the same thread, Trevise, that's a red herring. It would hurt Oriole *revenues* significantly, even if it didn't hurt *attendance* significantly. Not that this means a team shouldn't move there -- though I think NJ would be more appropriate. But let's not pretend that it won't impact the Orioles.
   36. fables of the deconstruction Posted: December 15, 2001 at 01:18 AM (#604509)
David N.,

I never "pretended" that a franchise in Northern Virginia wouldn't impact the Orioles. I merely came to the "correct" conclusion that if a team was to be put in the Washington, DC Metro area, central Fairfax County would be much preferable to in town because the impact would be much less. Being an Orioles fan for over thirty years, I have an interest in making sure they are not damaged by a team being put in the Metro area. However, I also was a resident of the Metro area for just shy of forty years and believe the the Washington area should have and deserves a ML franchise. I agree that both New Jersey and Washington Metro offer MLB great opportunities while also providing a great number of challenges. If it comes to two teams moving or expansion, then both areas are worthy. If it's just a one team move or expansion then Washington should and deserves to be first.

--------------
trevise :-) ...
   37. fables of the deconstruction Posted: December 15, 2001 at 01:18 AM (#604511)
Major League Baseball has made inquiries concerning use of RFK Stadium in 2002 or 2003 and whether preparations could be accomplished before next season begins. Thomas Boswellmakes the point that it's about time while the polititians are starting to get into the act. Commissar Selig and the owners are walking on thin ice. Contrary to their past actions, they had better play this right.

--------------
trevise :-) ...
   38. Jim Furtado Posted: December 17, 2001 at 01:18 AM (#604516)
I believe my point about politcal discussion has been made. I'm leaving all the previous baseball-free political statements up as a reminder.

From this point on, I'll be removing all new political statements.
   39. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: December 17, 2001 at 01:18 AM (#604517)
Trevise, you said that a NoVa team would have "minimal impact." I suppose there's a difference between that and saying that it wouldn't have an impact -- but the difference is minimal.
   40. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: December 17, 2001 at 01:18 AM (#604527)
Erik, I'm sure there's a definition of "not very affluent" which encompasses the fact that we have the highest per capita income in the country in New Jersey, right?

Look, if you live in Hoboken, maybe the two New York teams are convenient for you. If you live west or south of Hoboken, then they're not. Not working in the city right now, I can't get to a weekday game at either stadium unless I take off early from work.

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