There are many cities across the U.S.A. and North America that have 2 or 3 out of 4 major sports teams, but a majority of these cities are missing an MLB team. As the MLB has changed the pace and style of play to help obtain more fans, simply moving teams to uncovered areas might be a better solution. The MLB does not do a good job of scattering teams across the country, and that is a great concern to a league falling fast behind the NFL and the NBA.
Baseball is a sport that is much more enjoyable to watch live than on television, and unfortunately many people across the U.S.A do not have that option. The O.co Coliseum (A’s) and AT&T park (Giants) are separated by a mere 15.8 miles, while the closest stadium to Suntrust Park is Tropicana Field, 495 miles away. Not only isn’t enough of the country covered, some teams have been unable to complete new stadium deals (Rays and Athletics in particular), which has left those teams with terrible complexes that scare away fans and is a bad look for the MLB. Here are five cities who need an MLB team.
If the Stanley Cup Finals said anything about Nashville, it’s that Nashville is a sports city. Nashville already has an NFL team (Titans) and an NHL team (Predators) who attract many fans (64,659 per game for the Titans and 17,159 per game for the Predators). Nashville is home to over 600,000 people and would be an adequate place to have an MLB team. Nashville is also a college town (Vanderbilt) and Vanderbilt’s baseball team has been dominant for the last decade, which means baseball would do just fine in the Music City.
Just under a decade ago, the Seattle Sonics moved to Oklahoma City, and the Oklahoma City fans have been extremely supportive of their Thunder. While Oklahoma City is one of the smaller markets in the NBA and has a population of just over 600,000 people, the team always finds themselves in the top half of the league in attendance and had a sellout streak reach 200 games in the 2015 season, which shows the passion the fans have. A move to Oklahoma City would also give Houston and Texas a close rival, which could lessen traveling to the west coast as often (if they chose to realign divisions).
New Orleans would help cover an area that the MLB hasn’t, which is the 800-mile distance from Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas to Suntrust Park in Atlanta, Georgia. The Saints, no matter bad or good, are always top 10 in the NFL in attendance, and even though their defense was absolutely horrible, their fans still rocked the building on third down, which speaks to their passion they have for their team. An MLB team in New Orleans would cover a huge gap in baseball geography and would be great for the MLB and New Orleans.
The Montréal Expos left for Washington D.C. in 2004 after spending 35 years north of the border after the city of Montréal would not help the Expos with a new stadium. Olympic Stadium, which was a complete dump, hurt the attendance and that led to the departure. A strike throughout the MLB in 1994 forced the Expos to sell some of their best players, and after a stadium deal could not be reached, the MLB bought the team, which did not go well (average attendance under 10,000 fans a game).
Toronto has shown the MLB that the league needs to be in Canada, as Toronto is 6th in the MLB in attendance. The interest in Montréal is certainly high, as all the Blue Jays exhibition games played in Olympic Stadium are always sold out. A Montréal-Toronto rivalry would be great for the MLB, and if Tampa Bay cannot get a new stadium, the move to Montréal could be very realistic, and Montréal is closer to all the other AL East teams than Tampa Bay is.
During this year’s World Baseball Classic, commissioner Rob Manfred emphasized the importance of diversity in the MLB. Mexico hosted a first-round pool play group, which drew an enormous number of fans. The MLB has expanded north of the border, and a move to Mexico City would allow the MLB to cover all North America, which is something the NBA, NFL, or NHL have not done.
Mexico City accounts for roughly 20% of Mexico’s population (8.8 million), so it would obviously be a large market and there would be a lot of fans who would be willing to see baseball. Latin America makes up close to 20% of the MLB’s players, so a move to Mexico City would be a big step in the right direction. Baseball is also very popular in Mexico with many professional teams in the country. Travel wouldn’t be an issue, as for east coast teams, Mexico City would be closer than teams on the west coast. If baseball is trying to become more diverse, a move to Mexico City could increase the support from Latin America.