Take Me Out to the Ballgame … Somewhere

PETER BURKE
FS View
Florida State Universit

Bud Selig has done it again.

The Major League Baseball commissioner, in all his splendor and glory, has once again delayed the announcement of the relocation of the Montreal Expos. According to MLB officials, the announcement will not come until after the All-Star Break.

This means it has taken almost three years for baseball executives to figure out what to do with their sport’s most-dwindling franchise since the MLB office took control of the Expos on an interim basis while searching for a new owner and location.

This is a unique opportunity for professional baseball. It essentially has free reign to pick and choose where the Expos should go, but, unfortunately, the powers that be will likely make a decision influenced by other MLB owners instead of doing what is best for the game.

There are several cities vying to host the Expos, although each is faced with staunch criticisms and debate. As such, I have decided to review each city that has submitted proposals to the MLB office and evaluate the pros and cons of becoming a Major League Baseball city.

City: Portland, Ore.

Portland has just one major professional franchise — the National Basketball Association’s Trail Blazers — to boast of, but that’s how franchises are born. Seattle and Tampa had to prove its citizens could accommodate a professional team, and now those cities have multiple franchises (although if Tampa Bay is not careful, baseball could be doing the same thing to the Devil Rays in a couple of years). The Pacific Coast has always been a hot spot for baseball lovers, and the beautiful setting that is the state of Oregon could make the Portland Expos worth the price of admission alone.

The question is where would the Expos play? The Beavers — a Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres — play at PGE Park, which underwent a $38.5 million renovation in 2001, but the stadium only seats between 19,000 and 20,000, and shares its facilities with the Timbers, an A-League soccer team.

The stadium would have to undergo a significant seating increase, and it might be tough to convince tax payers to doll out more money towards another renovation.

City: Norfolk, Va.

Another city with a popular minor league club, Norfolk is the leading candidate to become the new home of the Expos. That’s because Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos is opposed to bringing a baseball team to Northern Virginia, which seemed like a shoe-in for a franchise when the Expos first became the property of Major League Baseball. Arlington, Va., was originally considered as a host city for the Washington Expos, but Angelos threatened a lawsuit if Selig awarded the city a franchise. Arlington, which is a suburb of D.C., is approximately 40 miles from Baltimore, and Angelos argues that having two franchises in greater Baltimore-D.C. will negatively affect the game — and ticket sales.

He has sited the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics as an example. Oakland relocated from Kansas City, Mo., in 1968.

Of course, New York supports two major league teams, as does greater Los Angeles. But the nation’s capital has had a checkered past as an MLB city.

D.C. has twice been home to a major league team, and twice those teams have split. The Washington Senators became the Minnesota Twins in 1960, but D.C. quickly made a move for another baseball team and the American League approved a new franchise that would again be called the Senators. Then, in 1972, the Senators bailed again, this time to Arlington, Texas, where they became known as the Texas Rangers.

The 241,000 residents of Norfolk could easily support a major league team like they do their Triple-A Mets affiliate, the Norfolk Tides. But if D.C. wants a franchise, it will have to settle for one in Southeast Virginia.

City: Las Vegas

Vegas is a long shot, mainly because Selig wants to keep gambling as far removed from baseball as possible, so sticking a franchise in the gambling capital of the world is hardly the way to convey that message. The good news is there are spendthrifts there that would gladly pay top dollar to watch a baseball game. But at the expense of losing its integrity, it is hard to fathom the Expos moving to the desert. Still, if Pete Rose is allowed back to baseball, maybe he could manage the club.

City: Monterrey, Mexico

The dark horse in the relocation race is Monterrey, Mexico. Selig is a big fan of bringing baseball into Latin America, and the Expos have already played several “home” games at the Mexican ballpark.

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