Expansion time again? Major League Baseball more than a quarter of a century ago put out the word that eventually the business needed 32 teams and six franchises would be added. Baseball went from 26 to 28 teams in 1991 for two reasons. The business needed to recoup $280 million when an arbitrator ruled against the owners and found them guilty of collusion and suppressing salaries and there was political pressure from Congress to open up businesses in Colorado and Florida. Expansion to Denver and Miami got the owners $200 million. In 1995, Major League Baseball realized that money for a Phoenix stadium was going to disappear if the owners did not act fast and there was an empty building in St. Petersburg, Florida so the business grew to 30 teams.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred now is laying out a case to expand again and has two suggestions. Montreal and Mexico City. Montreal did have a Major League team between 1969 and 2004 but Major League Baseball ran the operation in the last three years of the Montreal run and then moved the franchise to Washington. The Montreal problem was caused by not getting a new publicly funded stadium, a weak Canadian dollar and a weak local broadcast deal. The stadium problem still exists, the Canadian dollar has bounced around from extreme lows to being on par with the American dollar and there probably is a good, solid TV deal that could be had. Mexico City is a complete unknown at this point. But before baseball gets to expansion and the billions that owners can split from expansion fees, two problems have to be solved. The collective bargaining agreement is expiring and Oakland and St. Petersburg stadiums need to be replaced. Maybe that’s another reason Manfred is talking about Montreal and Mexico City, leverage for Oakland and Tampa Bay owners in their quests to get new stadiums.
By Evan Weiner for The Politics of Sports Business.
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner