In 2005, the Montreal Expos packed up their franchise and moved to Washington D.C., changing their name to the Nationals in the process; this is just the latest instance of a professional baseball franchise relocating. In other leagues, the topic of franchise relocation has its usual suitors. For the NBA, the city of Seattle is proposed every summer as a potential destination for a new franchise. The NHL’s possible scenarios include moving a team to Seattle or to Quebec City, while the NFL’s perpetual destination with which to threaten underachieving franchises is Los Angeles. However, the MLB’s answer is not as clear. Pitchers and catchers have already begun to report to their teams, and the annual migration to Arizona and Florida for spring training is only a few weeks away. If a ball club were to express an interest in moving, where should it relocate?
Moneyball in Mexico City
Despite a metropolitan population exceeding that of New York City, Mexico City is often overlooked as a potential landing spot for an MLB team. It was one of nine cities that placed expansion requests in 1994, with Tampa Bay and Arizona eventually being rewarded teams. Twenty years later, it’s time that America’s national pastime finally move south of the border. With the MLB doing all it can to expand the game internationally, a team in Mexico seems logical. While owners would certainly have concerns about the ability to generate revenue in a market with a lower GDP per capita relative to current MLB markets, a team in Mexico City could potentially capture an entire nation, as the Blue Jays do in Canada. Although Mexico is a soccer-crazed country, it still plays host to a 16-team professional baseball league and a few minor leagues.
Mexico City would not be without its problems. A new stadium would need to be built, one that takes into account the home-run-friendly altitude at which it sits—about 2,240 metres above sea level. Even with the risk associated with this move—a failure in Mexico City would significantly hurt the league’s prospects for further international growth—the potential rewards make it well worth it.
A field of San Jose dreams
Last year, the Oakland Athletics won the AL West for the second year in a row. That’s the kind of dominance you would expect to see rewarded by sold-out stadiums every night of the season, right? Wrong. The A’s came in a hair ahead of the Mariners—losers of 91 games in the very same division—with an average attendance of 22,337, the seventh-worst mark in the league.
If I were Lew Wolff, the owner of the A’s, that disparity would be plenty reason to start looking for a new home. Luckily, Wolff doesn’t need to look far. A mere 40 miles away, the city of San Jose presents the perfect opportunity for the A’s to relocate. Situated in the heart of the affluent Silicon Valley, San Jose is the fastest growing city in California, boasting a population of almost a million people compared to Oakland’s 400,000. The mere addition of Santa Clara County to the A’s territory would increase the team’s fan base by up to 70 per cent. Plus, the close proximity of Oakland to San Jose would eliminate the risk of alienating fans in nearby Contra-Costa and Alameda counties.
Charlottebound and down
During the 2013 MLB season, there were 24 players from the state of North Carolina—the eighth-most in the United States. In addition to this, the Charlotte metropolitan area is the fifth largest in the Southeastern United States, and continues to be the fastest-growing in the whole country—making it a logical choice for the location of the next big-league ball club. North Carolina’s current sports teams are limited to the NBA’s putrid Charlotte Bobcats, the NFL’s resurgent Carolina Panthers, and college basketball’s blue-bloods at Duke and the University of North Carolina. Fans have shown that they are more than willing to support a team if the on-field product is above-average—the Panthers have averaged a near 99 per cent attendance by capacity for home games in the past three years while going 25-23 over the same time span. Furthermore, there would be very little overlap between the regular seasons of the NBA, NFL, the NCAA, and the 162-game schedule of professional baseball. On an economic level, this just makes sense. Owners will have the option of moving to a market that is not saturated with other ball clubs, while tapping into an area that will welcome a new team to support.