Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Marlins shopping around

Well, the day after the latest Marlins fire sale started, there's an interesting annoucement from ESPN that makes it look like they've given up on getting a new stadium in Miami/Dade. There are several directions that blame could be pointed in this issue, but most of them seem to go back to Miami. Dade County and the Marlins ownership have been working in best faith, and the city of Miami didn't come through, and ended up harpooning a deal that would move the Marlins to a baseball only facility next door to the Orange Bowl.

And so, they're left in a position where the city has told them to shove off, their stadium has told them to shove of so...well, what's keeping them in Miami? The fans? They're already flirting with one of the worst attendance numbers in the MLB, and they've killed off any fan interest by buying championships then launching fire sales. Says something that 80+ years of failure in Boston and Chicago has created die hard fans, and winning 2 world series crowns in quick order after being chartered hasn't. Mostly that's because the championships were won of cynicism, they were completely bought, and then the team was sold.

So, where do the Marlins go? Well, we've got the other finalists going after the Expos: Portland and Las Vegas. Of the two, only the latter has actually met with Marlins officials. I've not really heard any buzz about Portland gearing up for the next team, unlike the mayor of Vegas, who has been pushing and pushing for a professional team, mostly baseball. There are two problems, though. First is that Vegas is associated with gambling, which baseball has shown it considers worse than gambling (look at the punishments of Rose vs Palmeiro). Second is that it would immediately be the smallest market in MLB, and really reliant on tourists to fill the stadium as much as residents.

Of course, the biggest problem with Vegas also makes it the easiest place to move. Gambling might not be something that the sport wants to be associated with, but that's where the money is. Vegas could probably get a stadium built rather easily. Get a casino to fund it, let it put its name (but not machines) all over the damned thing, and you've got a nice roofed-in stadium, a necessity for a Vegas ballteam.

Where else could they go. San Antonio? It has only one team among the big four sports, but their priority is almost entirely football. Brookyln? Some people are actually arguing that it's time for NYC to become a three-team market. Norfolk? Indianapolis? Tulsa? Austin? Oklahoma City? Seattle? San Fransisco too?

Wait, sorry, slipped into Huey Lewis lyrics for a moment there.

Thing is that any city would have to have both the desire to go after a team, and the ability to support a team, and with DC removed from the picture, the number of cities that applies to is diminished.

Then...there's the big 'C' word. Contraction. Of course, the question would be who the contraction partner would be. Then, there's the fact that MLB still owns a certain team called the Washington Nationals. This isn't something I really want to think about.

It does however sound like the countdown is starting with regards to Miami baseball. I think that this announcement that they are officially pursuing relocation will either force Miami to put up, or will be the death knell, as it will just foster more potential fan disinterest in the team.

This could all be great news for the DRays, as they will become Florida's team. Especially with their actual committment for regrowth. Could be good for the Nationals too, with the back and forth between baseball and the city (assuming there's no contraction), because there won't be any way to threaten removal of the Nationals to another city, because the Marlins will be much higher priority to move.

Will be interesting to see what cities talk to the Marlins ownership.

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