MLB: Coming to a city near you?

By Rob Costello

When the Astros were moved to the American League for the 2013 season forward, a bit of a predicament was created within the world of Major League Baseball. With a now-odd number of teams in both leagues, officials are scrambling to find ways to implement scheduling changes that are fair for every team. Meanwhile, in backrooms everywhere, rumors of expansion are starting to surface.

And it might just be time for the MLB to seriously consider it. The last time the MLB expanded, in 1998, the Diamondbacks were established in Phoenix and had won a World Series within four years. And the Rays (formerly Devil Rays), while not yet having brought home a title, became competitive in the very difficult AL East within six or seven years. So while bringing in two new teams may seem like a daunting task, there is ample proof (consider the Nationals too) that with enough patience and planning not only can expansion teams survive but, more importantly, they can succeed.

That being said, it’s always interesting to consider where exactly the next MLB teams would call home. So, without further ado, here are my top three picks for the next MLB hometowns and why I think they might just work:

1. Charlotte, NC

The southeast United States is arguably the number one baseball hotbed in the entire United States of America. In some parts of the south baseball is basically religion, and fans in the Carolinas/Virginia would love to see a game closer to home. For now, the Atlanta Braves are the team of the south, maintaining a loyal fan base from Louisiana to Virginia. A team in Charlotte would provide not only a compelling regional rivalry with Atlanta, but also the option for MLB fans far from Atlanta to get out and see a game.

Why Charlotte? Located in the heart of North Carolina, the city boasts a metropolitan statistical area (MSA)  population of 2,539,789, which is on par with Denver and higher than Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Cleveland, and Milwaukee. Added onto that would be the Greensboro-Winston Salem-High Point MSA located only an hour away. The population of that area adds 1,599,477 to the already running total. Combined, the total area of 4 million+ would be great for attendance in an already baseball-crazed area of the nation.

Looks like quite a hub doesn't it?

Looks like quite a hub doesn’t it?

In terms of being able to support a team, Charlotte would be able to do so, plentifully. A brand new 10,000-person stadium is planned for the city and while it would need to be expanded in order to host an MLB team, the foundation is there. Financially, the area is home to 10 Fortune 500 companies and hosts the second most bank headquarters in the country, after New York City. Luxury suites and boxes would be auctioned off at ease, and sponsorship would certainly not be an issue.

Charlotte, to me, makes the most sense to host an MLB team. The support would certainly be there, and it just plain makes sense. While other cities mentioned may not seem as credible or realistic, it only seems like a matter of time before we see a team come to North Carolina.

2. Portland, OR

Portland is often one of the first cities mentioned when the conversation about expansion comes about. I think it could be well suited, and every problem that comes with placing a team in the Northwest is more or less solvable (see: Seattle Mariners). Similar to the Charlotte example, the Northwest is probably looking for somebody perhaps a little closer to home than Seattle. The two cities are 172 miles away, not exactly an easy hike to see a game for a day.

Speaking of Seattle, and again similar to Charlotte, a team in Portland would provide for another interesting rivalry. Both teams would either be in the same division (AL West), or, if Portland went the NL route, a great interleague rivalry would be formed. It’s not like fans have much to root for in Seattle right now, so the next few years may be a great time for Portland to hop on board.

That's a view I wouldn't mind

That’s a view I wouldn’t mind

While the Portland MSA is only 2,226,009, the number is deceptive because of numerous cities within driving distance. Eugene, just an hour and a half south of Portland hosts the University of Oregon, with the MSA’s population standing at 351,715. So while a team in Portland would be a smaller-market team for sure, there is a large enough population for a ball club to function, without a doubt.

Financially, while Portland doesn’t offer many Fortune 500 or large corporate headquarters, Nike is located in the city and would be expected to be a large contributor to all aspects of the team. There would be no reason to say no; any pro team’s front office would love to have the largest corporation in sports right in their backyard.

Overall, while I don’t think Portland is as fertile for baseball as Charlotte, Oregon would be a safe pick and it would be very hard to fail, at least immediately. A little competition with Seattle would  throw an interesting card into the pile, and would be a great sell for the MLB.

3. Indianapolis, IN

A much less talked about candidate, Indianapolis kinda makes sense. Although the Midwest has a good amount of teams (Chicago x 2, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cincinnati) none of these are too close to Indianapolis, and the city is certainly large enough to hold its own team. There are already two major sports franchises (Colts and Pacers) located in the city, and both of them enjoy very loyal fanbases. While the current baseball fans in the city may root for different teams all over the region, a team in the city may gain loyalty literally overnight.

The city, which is Indiana’s capital, is the 12th largest city in the United States and according to Forbes is one of the fastest-growing cities in America. Indianapolis’ MSA stands at 2,080,782 and honestly, the fanbase would most likely be limited to that population. However, the seemingly-smaller population has not seemed to have an effect on the Colts (who sell out every home game) or the Pacers (who fill up 85% of the stadium every time).

Not too shabby either...

Not too shabby either…

Three Fortune 500 companies are located in Indianapolis, and it is generally a Midwest hub for many major companies. The city sure doesn’t struggle financially, and in one that is growing as fast as it is, more and more money should be circulating. Building a new stadium isn’t an issue, because there’s already a 12,000 person one located right in the downtown area. Victory Field, as it’s called, was voted by ESPN the best minor league baseball field in America. And while it would need to be expanded just like Charlotte’s situation, the foundation is there and that’s 90% of the battle.

Overall, Indy falls back in the pack of prospective cities. However, it is certainly a viable option and would add some spice to whatever division it would end up in. I’m sure the people of Indianapolis wouldn’t mind it either.

Facts and photos courtesy of the United States Census, Forbes, ESPN, NBA.com, NFL.com, and tripadvisor.com

Author: Rob Costello

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11 Comments

  1. I agree. Portland joins the American League and Charlotte joins the National League. Also, Tampa Bay and Colorado switch leagues for the following alignment:

    American League
    EAST: BOS, NYY, BAL, TOR
    NORTH: CLE, DET, CWS, MIN
    SOUTH: TEX, HOU, KC, COL
    WEST: LAA, OAK, PORT, SEA

    National League
    EAST: NYM, PHI, PIT, WAS
    NORTH: CIN, CHC, MIL, STL
    SOUTH: CHAR, ATL, TB, MIA
    WEST: ARZ, SD, LA, SF

    Portland would be paired with Seattle in the AL WEST. Charlotte would be paired with Atlanta in the NL SOUTH. Tampa Bay would be paired with Miami in the NL SOUTH. Colorado would be paired with KC in the AL SOUTH (and imagine Coors Field as an AL park).

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    • Texas could put up 10+ runs on average having Coors in their division. That would be fun to watch. Thanks for the great comment.

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    • This proposed realignment seems to make a lot of sense if Charlotte and Portland were added. Much better travel for the current AL West teams, who spread out into the West and South and are paired up with teams no more than 1 time zone away. Most current rivalries remain intact, and new regional ones are added. Well done.

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    • The only drawback I see right now is the Braves beefing that they’re now linked with a bunch of teams from non-traditional markets rather instead of Philly, NY, and Washington. Geographically, however, your proposed divisions seem to be ideal.

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      • I’m actually in Atlanta and a lifelong Braves fan. We were in the NL West until ’95, so the rivalries with the Mets and Phillies aren’t deep rooted and would be topped by Tampa and Charlotte on day one. Granted, Atlanta is a town filled with cold weather transplants, but that extends across the board — there are just as many (if not more) Cubs fans here as Mets fans.

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  2. What about Louisville,ky. We a great city that make the damn bats

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  3. how bout just moving the Rays to Charlotte?

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    • Doesn’t really fix the odd team out problem. Besides, I think Tampa would hate to see the Rays go.

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      • Unfortunately, Charlotte MLB will be a long shot because of venue. I work in Charlotte. The new downtown ballpark BB&T Field for the minor league Charlotte Knights cannot be expanded to MLB standards–not enough land and space at their beautiful site. There was a lawyer who filed lawsuit after lawsuit trying to prevent the minor league Knights from building their new ballpark for this reason–he felt this would hamper MLB efforts in Charlotte (would Charlotte citizens pay for 2 downtown ball parks?). Sadly he may have been right.

        IMHO, Montreal is more of a proper option for the Rays–instant AL East rivalry with Toronto, & Boston/NY fans nearby.

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  4. MLB MUST solve the territorial rights issues with the A’s and the Rays before anything else can be done. The first Two expansion teams should be Monterrey, Mexico and Montreal, Canada. Both are cities outside the tv territories of MLB. This Will create NEW tv territories, actually increasing the overall “profit pie”, without disrupting any of the other tv markets. Both cities also happen to be the only two cities in North America outside of MLB that can claim annual baseball attendance over 900,000 in the last decade.

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  5. Actually, Charlotte is not in the heart of NC. It’s in the southwestern part of the state close to the SC border. Also, Greensboro and its surrounding areas are about 2+ hours northeast of Charlotte. Greensboro and its surrounding areas roughly correspond to the heart of NC. I know. I’m from NC.

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