Now that MLB has resolved its labor dispute for the foreseeable future (until 2006) and has taken contraction (what a surprise!) off the table, it can turn its attention to other matters. No, I'm not speaking of the various lawsuits on the docket dogging Bud Selig. What I mean is that they must decide what to do with the Montreal Expos, who though targeted for contraction by Selig and his cadre of owners-well, didn't they purchase the DNR on the franchise less than a year ago?-will now exist until 2006, in some form or another.
What is the best course of action for the club? There are two main issues: 1) Find ownership for a franchise that the owners took off now-Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria's hands for $120 million just last February. 2) Find a new location for the franchise since MLB seems to have become disenchanted with Montreal and the fans of Montreal seem to have become disenchanted with MLB. The solution to both these problems may come in one fell swoop (or one swell foop) in the form of an ownership group in a new area. They may entertain offers as if the Expos were an expansion club, the only difference being that they come with their own 40-man roster-look, Ma! No expansion draft!-and farm system. Most experts point to a decision being made by the start of the 2004 season if not sooner (i.e., this off-season).
Of course, the Expos come with their fair share of baggage. First, there is the lawsuit pending against Bud Selig, Bob Dupuy, and former owner Loria for breaking the RICO statutes placed by the Expos former minority owners (and now minority owners in the Marlins). The owners also asked for injuctive relief should MLB try to contract or move the team. There is also the $30 million in projected losses for the season (if that is something more than just a paper loss). An article in the Montreal Gazette claims that the Expos will make less in revenue sharing under the new CBA, because it is a straight-pool system rather than a split-pool one. Also, they claim that the Expos are losing due to the conversion rate: their expenses are in U.S. dollars but their revenue is Canadian. Finally, there is expected to be a $20-million increase in the Expos salary just for keeping the current squad intact for next season.
Let's assume that all, or at least enough, of those issues will be worked out and the way will be paved for new ownership of the Expos. Who are their most viable candidate cities for relocation? Obviously, MLB will look for a candidate city to be as big of an improvement as possible over the situation in Montreal. I would like to quantify that improvement by examining various cities' population as well as their current support of the minor-league team that now represents them (are they a "baseball" town?). They should also have a serviceable baseball facility available though it need not be much better than serviceable since a new one could very easily be stipulated in the sale. There are other issues that I have no means to plumb: local and state politics, the inclination of each city's multi-millionaire and billionaire population and their connections within MLB, the various strengths-financial and otherwise-that the prospective groups from the candidate cities will possess, the perception within MLB of each city's baseball history and its viability for major-league baseball, etc. I will keep my study to population, fan support, and current stadium availability. Optimally, a city with a large population, a zealous fan base, and a state-of-the-art stadium will be sought, but compromises will be made along the way. For example, a large fan base is important but Montreal is a populous city that according to MLB's perception has never supported the team. Population will then be weighed against fan support.
Part I: Determining Candidate Cities by Population
The metropolitan population of Montreal is around 3.5 million (3,426,350 according to the 2001 Canadian census). There are 13 American cities and one Canadian city with a greater metropolitan population and all of them are represented by at least one major league team. Given that Milwaukee and Kansas City are slightly over 1.5 million inhabitants, let's caste a wider net and make our lower limit 1.5 million. It's not optimal but remember we are weighing population against fan support. That gives us 11 candidates. Here they are with their rank within the combined U.S./Canadian rankings, and their metropolitan area:
22 San Juan--Caguas--Arecibo, PR 2,450,292
25 Portland--Salem, OR--WA 2,265,223
26 Vancouver, B.C. 1,986,965
28 Sacramento--Yolo, CA 1,796,857
31 Orlando, FL 1,644,561
32 Indianapolis, IN 1,607,486
33 San Antonio, TX 1,592,383
34 Norfolk--Virginia Beach--Newport News, VA--NC 1,569,541
35 Las Vegas, NV--AZ 1,563,282
36 Columbus, OH 1,540,157
37 Charlotte--Gastonia--Rock Hill, NC--SC 1,499,293
I also want to consider the resulting population base if the existing franchises had to share their metropolitan areas with a new team. This has been mentioned as a strong possibility in the future for the Baltimore-Washington and New York teams. If we take the population and share it among the existing team(s) and a relocated Expo franchise, would they be able to accommodate the new team without burdening the existing one(s)? Sixteen current major-league metropolitan areas would meet our 1.5 million population threshold (i.e., they would have at least 1.5 million per team if the Expos were added to their area-by the way, Montreal itself would meet the criterion). I will set it to three million so that a strong enough case could be made to overwhelm the existing franchise's territorial rights claim. Five areas, including New York and D.C.-Baltimore, meet the criterion.
Those would be (Rank is overall U.S. Rank):
Rk MSA Pop # current tms Pop. per teams + 1
1 New York--Northern New Jersey--Long Island, NY--NJ--CT--PA 21,199,865 2 7,066,622
2 Los Angeles--Riverside--Orange County, CA 16,373,645 2 5,457,882
4 Washington--Baltimore, DC--MD--VA--WV 7,608,070 1 3,804,035
6 Philadelphia--Wilmington--Atlantic City, PA--NJ--DE--MD 6,188,463 1 3,094,232
3 Chicago--Gary--Kenosha, IL--IN--WI 9,157,540 2 3,052,513
That brings our candidate list to 16.
Part II: Ranking Candidate Cities by Fan Support
Now let's look at fan support for each candidate. Keep in mind that Montreal's average attendance per home game last year was 7,648 and are faring slightly better at 10,399 so far this season. Baseball would undoubtedly like to improve on those figures, but only two teams in the minors last year topped ten thousand fans (Sacramento and Memphis).
Obviously, minor-league attendance for a city and its projected major-league attendance are not the same thing. We will look at both the average per-game attendance of each candidate city along with a projection based on the past newly major-league cities. We will look at all of the cities to which teams relocated or into which MLB expanded in the last fifty years to determine how much of an increase in attendance can be expected when a city goes from the minors to the majors.
Cities with existing major league teams will be evaluated via their current major- and minor-league support to determine the viability of an additional major-league team.
Here is a table ranking the minor-league candidates by fan support expressed as the average attendance per game over the last five years. It is also expressed as the per-game attendance as a percent of the population. The minor league levels occupied are also given:
Avg Att. as
City 2000 Pop per-game att. % Pop. Levels (Yrs)
Indianapolis, IN 1,607,486 9,241 0.57% AAA(5)
Sacramento, CA 1,796,857 8,781 0.49% IND(1)-AAA(2)
Columbus, OH 1,540,157 8,401 0.55% AAA(5)
Norfolk-Va Beach, VA 1,569,541 7,115 0.45% AAA(5)
Portland, OR 2,265,223 5,265 0.23% A(4)-AAA(1)
San Antonio, TX 1,592,383 4,981 0.31% AA(2)
Charlotte, NC 1,499,293 4,858 0.32% AAA(5)
Las Vegas, NV 1,563,282 4,644 0.30% AAA(5)
Vancouver, B.C. 1,986,965 3,823 0.19% AAA(3)-A(2)
Orlando, FL 1,644,561 1,621 0.10% AA(5)
San Juan, PR 2,450,292 0 0.00% None
Notes: Vancouver pop. According to 2001 Canadian census, Sacramento has only had a minor-league team the last 3 years.
The first thing that you will notice is that San Juan's almost 2 1/2 million inhabitants have been without a minor-league team for some time (since the one-year Inter-American League of 1979). They have to content themselves with being a hub for the Puerto Rican Winter League (2 of 6 clubs are located in San Juan). This does not bode well especially for a city that is on an island, is part of a U.S. territory, not a state, and that has no major-league presence in any sport.
The other thing you will notice is that there seems to be a clear dividing line in fan support between the top 4 teams and the rest. The average attendance expressed as a per-game figure and as a percentage of the metropolitan area's population both drop off after the fourth entry. Let's assume that that is our dividing line, that we will only consider those four (Indianapolis, Sacramento, Columbus, and Norfolk-Va. Beach) from this point forward.
Here's just a word on each now-eliminated city before we move on:
- Portland has a strong baseball tradition dating back to the old Pacific Coast League (and the prospect of a great nickname "Lucky Beavers"). However, they have just returned to the PCL after years in the Single-A Northwest League and may not be viewed as a strong enough baseball town consequently. Besides they only have one major-league franchise (the Trail Blazers-and an old USFL team).
- San Antonio may suffer from the same perception problem: It is in the Double-A Texas League and therefore may be seen as a second-tier city. Texas is well represented in MLB (2 teams), and they like to ensure a good bit of territory with new teams (e.g., Colorado, Arizona, and the Florida teams). They too have only an NBA team to their major-league credit (plus defunct USFL and CFL teams).
- Charlotte is no longer the hot area that is was in the late-'80s and early-'90s and has just lost its only major-league franchise to a smaller city (New Orleans).
- Las Vegas is an ever-growing city but MLB has never been that forward-looking in its expansion. Given that no other major sports league has opened the Las Vegas door. They'd rather not go out on the ice until someone else has checked how thin it is.
- Vancouver has a hockey and football (CFL) team, just lost a basketball team (to Memphis), and is a smaller Canadian city than Montreal. Need I say more?
- Orlando is getting terrible fan support in Double-AA, and would be a third Florida franchise with two weak teams representing the state already, though they do have a major league NBA team (and defunct USFL and CFL teams).
- Additionally, Buffalo and Memphis (not listed) get good fan support but are probably too small to be considered. Buffalo has been passed over in the last two expansion rounds.
Now let's pare down the major-league cities by fan support. There are two questions that we need to address: 1) Do the existing major-league teams for that city receive ample fan support and 2) do the metropolitan areas' teams receive sufficient support to justify the addition of a new team?
Below is a table detailing the major- and minor-league fan support for each of our 5 major-league cities. It contains the average attendance per game for the area's major league team(s) as well as the cumulative per-game attendance if its minor league teams. Finally, the aggregate average per-game attendance is derived from the major- and minor-league totals, which is divided by the number of current major leagues teams plus one for the relocated Expos-the table is sorted by this result:
2001 Avg 2001 Avg Agg Total Per- Tot Att Per
Rk City 2000 Pop. #tms Att # minors minors Att Game Att teams + 1
1 New York 21,199,865 2 36,814 13 62,409 136,037 45,346
4 Wash.-Balt. 7,608,070 1 38,686 3 14,193 52,879 26,440
3 Chicago 9,157,540 2 28,630 5 18,110* 75,370 25,123
2 Los Angeles 16,373,645 2 30,978 5 11,076 73,032 24,344
6 Philadelphia 6,188,463 1 22,847 3 11,912 34,759 17,379
* = Joliet (Northern Lg) is new for 2002. Their average for 2002 so far is used.
Also, Gary (Northern Lg) is a road team with no home games, therefore, no home attendance.
New York is in a class by itself-the metropolitan area's minor-league teams nearly match the attendance on a nightly basis of the two major-league teams. The next three cities are bunched, and then Philadelphia stands all alone. 17 thousand fans are far below what we would expect for our relocated team. Therefore, Philadelphia will be eliminated from the list of finalists. (Besides the Phillies only draw about 23 K a night and the perception since the A's left town is that it is not a two-team city).
Now to compare the minor-league finalists with the major-league finalists, we need to translate the minor-league attendance numbers to an expected major league level. That is the next step in our study.
[Note: Here are the minor-league teams by metropolitan area.
New York: New Haven (CT) (Eastern Lg), Norwich (CT) (EL), Trenton (NJ) (EL), Lakewood (NJ) (Carolina Lg), Brooklyn (NY-Penn Lg), Hudson Valley (Wappinger Falls) (NYPa), NJ (Augusta, NJ) (NYPa), Staten Island (NYPa), Bridgeport (CT) (Atlantic League-Independent), Long Island (Islip) (Atl), Newark (NJ) (Atl), Somerset (Bridgewater, NJ) (Atl), and NJ (Little Falls, NJ) (Northern Lg-Independent).
Los Angeles: San Bernardino (California Lg), Lake Elsinore (Cal), High Desert (Adelanto) (Cal), Lancaster (Cal), and Long Beach (Western Lg-Independent).
Washington-Baltimore: Frederick (Carolina Lg), Potomac (Woodbridge, Va) (Car), Bowie (Eastern Lg), and Hagerstown (Sally Lg).
Philadelphia: Wilmington (DE) (Carolina Lg), Atlantic City (NJ) (Atlantic League-Independent), and Camden (NJ) (Atl)
Chicago: Kane County (Geneva, IL) (Midwest Lg), Cook Cty (Crestwood) (Frontier Lg-Independent, Gary (IN - Road team) (Northern Lg-Independent), Joilet (No.), and Schaumburg (No.).]
Part III: Correlating Minor League Attendance to Expected Attendance at Major League Level
So now we are down to eight metropolitan areas, four currently occupied by minor-league teams and four by major-league teams. The question remains as to how to compare between major-league and minor-league areas to determine which will be best suited for our relocated team.
I propose that the franchise shifts and expansion teams of the past fifty years be used to determine the minor-to-major factor. The idea is to take the average per-game attendance for a minor-league area for the five years prior to acquiring a team and compare that to the average per-game attendance of the major-league team(s) for the next five years in the area. This will be the Major-to-minor ratio (or M2m to save me typing). Five-year periods will be used to ensure that A) the short-term excitement attendant with procuring a new team is mitigated and B) the attendance reflects the support that the area gives the team once it is in its (semi-)permanent home-a number of teams move into an available facility that meets the basic requirements with the understanding that a new stadium will be built within a few years.
Finally, the M2m ratio will be averaged for all areas to come up with our factor. This result will be used to equate our minor-league areas with the major-league ones to get the final results.
Here is our list of minor-to-major cities with the transitional year and the minor league level for the five years prior to the transition (sorted by 1st major-league season):
Area Year Minor League Last 5 yrs
Milwaukee 1953 AA 1948-52
Baltimore 1954 IL 1949-53
Kansas City 1955 AA 1950-54
Los Angeles 1958 (NL),
1961 (AL) PCL 1953-57 & Hollywood, PCL 1953-57
San Francisco 1958 PCL 1953-57 & Oakland 1953-55
Minneapolis-St. Paul 1961 AA 1956-60 (2 teams, one per city)
Houston 1962 Tex 1957-58, AA 1959-61
Atlanta 1966 SA 1961, IL 1962-65
Oakland 1968 None (PCL until 1955)
San Diego 1969 PCL 1964-68
Montreal 1969 None (IL until 1960)
Seattle (1) 1969 PCL 1964-68
Dallas-Ft. Worth 1972 Tex 1967-71
Seattle (2) 1977 NWL 1972-76
Toronto 1977 None (IL until 1967)
Denver 1993 AA 1988-92
Miami 1993 FSL 1987-91 & Ft. Lauderdale 1987-93
Tampa-St. Petersburg 1998 FSL 1993-97
Phoenix 1998 PCL 1993-98
Note that three areas will drop out of our study because they did not have a minor-league team affiliated with their area for the five years prior to "going major". They are Oakland, Toronto, and Montrel (oddly). Also, Seattle appears twice since the city went back to the minors (Northwest Lg) between short-lived AL Pilots in 1969 and the Mariners in 1977.
The next thing that we need to do is gather the average per-game attendance for the last 5 years as a minor-league team and the first five years as a major-league team. Then the latter will be divided by the former, and quid pro quo, quod erat demonstrandum, que sera sera, we will have our so-called M2m Ratio. So without further ado, here they are:
Area 1st Yr Minor Major M2m Ratio
Milwaukee 1953 3,186 26,366 827.51%
Baltimore 1954 2,716 12,056 443.91%
Kansas City 1955 2,674 13,518 505.50%
Los Angeles 1958 5,929 31,580 532.63%
San Francisco-Oakland 1958 3,713 19,159 515.97%
Minneapolis-St. Paul 1961 4,343 16,630 382.94%
Houston 1962 1,640 15,758 960.92%
Atlanta 1966 1,635 16,232 992.82%
San Diego 1969 2,647 7,354 277.80%
Seattle (1) 1969 1,956 8,268 422.61%
Dallas-Ft. Worth 1971 3,176 12,097 380.85%
Seattle (2) 1977 760 11,854 1560.05%
Denver 1993 5,613 51,209 912.29%
Miami-Ft. Lauderdale 1993 1,280 29,162 2278.03%
Phoenix 1998 3,715 38,356 1032.57%
Tampa-St. Petersburg 1998 2,948 19,542 662.91%
Avg M2m Ratio 793.08%
Notes, caveats, and excuses:
- Minor-League estimates based on half of total games, number of home games not available.
- Arizona (Phoenix) and Tampa Bay (Tampa-St. Petersburg) totals reflect official per-game attendance for 2002 through September 4.
- Seattle (1) only includes major-league attendance for 1969 since Pilots moved subsequently to Milwaukee (or as Alice Copper would say. "Milli-wah-kay").
- Los Angeles includes Hollywood in minors and LA Angels (AL) 1961-62 in majors.
- San Francisco includes Oakland in minors, Miami includes Ft. Lauderdale, Minnesota includes both Minneapolis and St. Paul, and Tampa Bay includes both Tampa and St. Paul.
- Miami's 1993 major-league attendance includes minor-league Ft. Lauderdale average.
- The following major league teams opened new stadiums within 5 years: Houston in '65, LA in '62, San Francisco in '60, and Colorado (Denver) in '95. Their full five years were kept as acquiring new facilities is assumed to be part of the minor-to-major experience, though it may come not at the initial move.
- Lastly, Baltimore is included even though it had been yoked by the Census Bureau with Washington into one metropolitan area by 1950 and Washinton already had a major-league team, the Senators. Given that Baltimore M2m was in line with other city's and that the Senators attendance did not seem adversely affected by their move, I decided to include them as a separate entity. [Note that the Senators' attendance had been dropping steadily prior to the Browns move to Baltimore: After an all-time high of 13,516 per game, it dropped steadily until it hit 5,523 per game in 1955 and actually started to climb back up until they left in 1960 (9,655 per game). I decided that the drop-off was more the Senators' own doing than a siphoning off of fans by the Orioles, though the new team certainly didn't help.]
You see that the ratios run from under 3-fold increase (277.80%) for the Padres-I guess those PCL Padres were a pretty strong club or the NL version was weak-to an almost 23-fold increase in Miami (which may be a function of their moving from the Single-A Florida State League to the bigs).
On average, a minor-league area could expect about an 8-fold increase. So let's take that expected increase factor and plug it into our current list of minor-league areas. Taking are four finalist teams, these are our results:
City Current Expected
per-game Att. per-game Att.
Indianapolis, IN 9,241 73,291
Sacramento, CA 8,781 69,641
Columbus, OH 8,401 66,625
Norfolk-Virginia Beach, VA 7,115 56,431
Teams At first blush these numbers are much higher than is reasonable to expect. Of course, comparing today's minor leagues with the post-World War II era engenders these sorts of results. That era was a spiraling nadir for the minors in which leagues and folded at record pace because of the expansion and relocation of major-league teams into established minor-league territory, the popularity of television and televised major-league games, the growth of suburbs and the downfall of small industrial towns, etc. This period lasted until the 1980s some would say.
So by comparing these artificial depressed minor-league attendance numbers of the past compared to their resultant major-league analogue, we get numbers that don't apply to today's era of rebirth and growth (at least with independent leagues) in minors. OK. I'll buy that. What if just compare against just the last two rounds of expansion in 1993 and 1998. The only problem with argument is that the expected increase in the most recent period is even larger than in the past, about a 12-fold increase from minor to major (1221.45%). Even if we remove the two Florida teams that geminated from the Single-A Florida State League and we look at the two teams (Colorado and Arizaona) begotten by Triple-A franchises, we get a higher increase (972.43%) than the overall average.
So where does that leave us? I will, for the time being, accept these results, compare them to the expectations for current major-league cities, and save the commentary for later. Here goes:
Indianapolis, IN 73,291
Sacramento, CA 69,641
Columbus, OH 66,625
Norfolk-Virginia Beach, VA 56,431
New York, NY 45,346
Washington, DC-Baltimore, MD 26,440
Chicago, IL 25,123
Los Angeles, CA 24,344
So the winner appears to Indianapolis. That's all I am going to say now. There's a note on stadiums and then we'll get to my bloviation.
Part IV: On Stadia, Parks, Fields, One Ravine (Sometimes), and Seating Capacity
Before rushing to judgment on the various minor-league sites, I want to review the metropolitan areas that have gone from minor- to major-league in the past, specifically at the facilities in which they played. I want to see what the general trend is when the transition to the majors is made: Is a new stadium built right away? Does it come later? Are existing facilities used? Are they reconstructed for the majors? Etc.
Below are the facilities used by the minor-to-major cities of the last half-century for the last 5 years as a minor-league team and the first five years as a major-league team. Their seating capacities are listed as well:
- Minors - Borchert Field 10,000
- Majors - County Stadium ('53) 36,111, County Stadium ('54-'57) 43,394
- Minors - Babe Ruth (Municipal) Stadium ('49) 55,000, Memorial (1950-'53) 46,000
- Majors - Memorial Stadium 46,000
Kansas City Blues
- Minors - (Municipal) Stadium 16,000
- Majors - Municipal (Reconstructed) 35,020
- Minors - Wrigley Field (LA Angels) 20,457, Gilmore Field (Hollywood Stars) 11,500
- Majors - LA Memorial Stadium ('58-61) 93,600, Wrigley Field (Angels-'61) 20,457, Dodgers Stadium/Chavez Ravine (both clubs- '62) 56,000
- Minors - Seals Stadium (SF Seals) 22,900, Oaks Park (Oakland Oaks) N/A
- Majors - Seals Stadium ('58-'59) 22,900, Candlestick Park ('60) 42,553, Candlestick Park ('61) 43,765
- Minors - Metropolitan Stadium (Minn.Millers- first year 1956) 21,698, Lexington Park (St. Paul Saints-'56) N/A, Midway Stadium (St. P-'57-'60) N/A
- Majors - Metropolitan Stadium 45,919
- Minors - Mile High Stadium 75,123
- Majors - Mile High Stadium ('93-'94) 75,123, Coors Field ('95-'97) 50,200
- Minors - Miami Stadium 9,532 , Ft. Lauderdale Sports Complex 7,061
- Majors - Joe Robbie Stadium 47,662
- Minors - Phoenix Municipal Stadium 10,000
- Majors - Bank One Ballpark 48,569
- Minors - Al Lopez Field (Tampa) 8,500, Al Lang Field (St. Petersburg) 8,200
- Majors - Tropicana Field 45,000
OK, what does this tell us besides I have a lot of free time? Of the 16 cities (including Seattle twice) that we are investigating, seven moved right away into a new facility (Milwaukee, Atlanta, San Diego -PCL team occupied stadium for one year-, Seattle (2), Miami, Phoenix, and Tampa Bay). Two teams occupied existing stadiums but were provided with new facilities within 5 years (San Francisco and Denver). Two teams were provided with one new facility right away and another within five years (Houston and LA -actually the Angels also played one year in an existing facility, Wrigley Field). Four cities used an existing facility but a great deal of reconstruction to increase the seating capacity (Kansas City, Minnesota, Seattle (1), and Dallas-Ft. Worth). Only one team kept the minor-league facility and used it for major-league baseball (Baltimore), and that team used a facility built for large crowds for its NFL team, not an option for any of the cities in our group.
The seating capacity for the cities in our study are as follows:
- Indianapolis: Victory Field, opened 1996, capacity 15,500.
- Sacramento: Raley Field, opened 2000, capacity 14,111.
- Columbus: Cooper Stadium, opened 1977, capacity 15,000.
- Norfolk-Va Beach: Harbor Field, opened 1993, capacity 12,069.
Obviously none of these facilities is up to major-league snuff. However, given that the average increase in the seating capacity effected in the four cities that reconfigured their stadiums for the majors was just under 20 thousand, all of these facilities are capable of becoming major-league ready, if just until a new facility is secured, within an off-season. The age of the Columbus stadium might make some hesitate, but the rest are less than ten years old.
As far as accommodating a relocated club in a city with an existing major-league team is concerned, they could occupy existing major-league facilities (this has been done before) until a more suitable facility is constructed. This may be an issue if the club is placed in Northern New Jersey. Newark's Riverfront Stadium is only 3 years old but holds only 6200 people. Staten Island's Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George (honest to god) is only a year old but seats only 4500. Perhaps one of these could be reconfigured or an existing stadium can be used until a newly constructed park is available. Washington would presumably use empty RFK Stadium until a new ballpark is made ready.
Part V: Epilogue (i.e., the Part After "Book'em, Dano")
This study has led me in directions that I had not anticipated. If I had been asked at the outset which location or locations would be the most logical, I would have said New York and Washington. Of the areas with existing clubs, those two were selected by the study as the leading candidates.
I would not have anticipated that the minor-league candidates would look as strong as they do. This is a special time in which minor-league teams are enjoying unprecedented success. There have been minor leagues that rival their major counterparts, the last being the "Open" Pacific Coast League in the 1950s. Perhaps this is an indication of the fans revolting against the majors themselves ("The peasants are revolting? You're telling me-they stink on ice.") But none have had the kind of success that we see here. Even if you use the smallest M2m ratio in the study (that of the Padres) and project a 2.75-fold increase, all four teams would still average 20 to 25 thousand fans a game. I think it is fair to say that there are a number of towns not currently thought of as major-league that could support a major-league club. That was not a result that I had anticipated.
Also, the two other cities with existing teams (Chicago and LA), the ones I did not anticipate getting a favorable review in the study and each have two existing franchises, are viable candidates for a third team each. No one ever mentions them as possibilities, but they are not far behind Baltimore-Washington in the per-game number of fans available.
Lastly, early on in this study I mentioned that the 13 metropolitan areas with a greater population than Montreal currently have at least one club. This is the strongest argument that I can find to keep the Expos in Montreal. The only reason that I do see to move the club is if MLB believes that the combination of the team, the fans, and the stadium, as things currently stand, is never going to gel and that they have to excise this team from the area, salt the earth, wait some time, and then let a new team grow to be successful. Otherwise, MLB should get that old Youppi fever.
The most probable result will be that the Expos will move to Washington and occupy RFK until a Northern Virginia Stadium is ready. The major hurdles that MLB will need to clear besides finding local ownership will be the former minority owners' lawsuit and the ire of Baltimore owner Peter Angelos over his territorial rights. The first will probably be taken care of with a little cash, something that baseball will have in spades once a local owner is found (therefore the suit). Angelos is a harder nut to crack: he may just be looking for compensation or he may try to directly oppose the move offering no quarter. In either case, Angelos should be reminded that the Orioles were allowed to move into the area with no real compensation to the Washington Senators (Bill Veeck reports that he sweetened the deal for Clark Griffith with $150K per year-though not the number of years-in Veeck-As in Wreck, but given that his 79% interest was sold for $2,475,000 million, that would not be excessive. The machinations used to move the club did cause the franchise to lose the estimable Veeck as owner, however).
Whatever is done, MLB has to market the franchise to the hilt-no more contraction talk. Sell its young stars to the public. Look how well the NFL and NBA recycle old areas into new markets (witness that Houston in the NFL and New Orleans in the NBA both have new/relocated franchises even though they lost a team in the past).
Of course, good intentions are never enough. A team was added to the majors in 1969 in a city that had had decent fan support in the minors (though no team in 8 years), it had a substantial population (about 1.2 million in the city and nearly that much in the expanding suburbs), it had a professional history in the sport dating back to 1890, it was the first place in organized ball that a black man was allowed to play since the turn of the century, it had numerous high-minor pennants, and the city had just refurbished a recreational park to accommodate 28,000 fans (from 3,000). This team was, of course, the Expos, and I'm sure things looked very favorable when the team first set sail. Let's just hope that the Expos pere fare a little better.
One thing is for certain, once the Expos move away if they do indeed do so, Montreal will have the largest metropolitan area in the U.S. and Canada without a major-league team. With that large an untapped population base, it will not take MLB long to come courting the city again. Don't be surprised if a new franchise is granted in an expansion ten or so years down the line.
[Sources for the study:
U.S. and Canadian Census Online
Ballparks of North America (for Minor League ballpark data)
Encycolpedia of Minor League Baseball (for minor league attendance until 1997)
Baseball-Reference.com (for major league ballparks and attendance)
1998-2002 Baseball America Almanac and Directories (for minor-league attendance and ballpark info since 1997)]