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Would a Big League Club in Puerto Rico Make Sense?



By Mike Silva ~ July 1st, 2010. Filed under: Mike Silva.

After watching the three game series between the Mets and Marlins at Hiram Bithorn Stadium I wondered if San Juan would be a viable location for a professional baseball team. The NBA and NFL talk about expansion into other regions all the time. Baseball has made it foray into Canada and played series in San Juan as well as Mexico, but never seems to seriously talk about a team in either of those regions. We know the issues with Mexico, another country, but Puerto Rico is a US territory and seems to be a logical choice for relocated a struggling franchise.

If you look at the most recent attendance figures teams like Florida, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Kansas City, and Toronto are at the bottom of the league. Just yesterday Craig Slater of The Leader-Post outlined a grim future for the Blue Jays in a region that has trouble supporting teams that play their national pastime of hockey. Toronto may not be at the level of that Montreal was but, as Slater points out, the days of 4 million plus attendance appear to be over. It wasn’t that long ago the Blue Jays were the drawing card the Yankees are today.

There would be no reason to believe MLB will adopt a financial system of parity that you see in the NFL and NBA. It’s survival of the fittest and organizations can only compete if they know fans will support them in the region. There are success stories, like Minnesota, who survived deaths door and now are seventh in the league in attendance. They had a strong plan in place to compete with a budget payroll, the fans supported a new stadium, and now they are pushing a $100 million dollar payroll. Would you believe just a couple of years ago that Minnesota would be in play for a rental player like Cliff Lee? Now they are. Unfortunately this is the exception, not the rule.

MLB has to start to look at their bottom feeder franchises. If cities like Toronto don’t make sense then maybe it’s time to forgo history and put them in a place where they do. Think about it, if American cities are struggling to support a professional MLB team how can a place like Toronto, under the umbrella of Canada’s obtuse tax system, be expected to?

This is not about picking on the Blue Jays, merely wondering about the future of certain MLB cities. Anyone who doesn’t believe the economic situation in our country is going to affect the national pastime is just simply not paying attention. Bud Selig is always good at gimmicks (see home field advantage at All Star Game), but certain cities need more than radical realignment to survive. An argument can be made they are no longer viable big league towns and relocation to areas that would want to support the team must be seriously considered.

Obviously moving a team to San Juan, Puerto Rico is far more complicated than what can be covered in a simple blog post. Economics, logistics, security, and having a big league facility all are huge hurdles. The reason why the league should spend the time figuring it out should be very clear after the last three days: passion for the game. You have a customer base that yearns for your product. What more can you ask? Do you believe the same can be said for Kansas City?

Puerto Ricans showed up in droves to watch a game between two teams that had nothing to do with their region. A team in Puerto Rico would surely attract those who live in the States and have roots in the region. Even tourists would make their plans around a three game series to visit. You don’t think Mets or Yankees fans would spend a weekend watching their team in San Juan?

Bud Selig needs to realize his game is growing, but not across the country. It’s time to take action and look for where the future strongholds of baseball are. Fan support in Tampa, Miami, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Oakland is dubious at best. Not every region is willing to splurge on a new ballpark like the citizens of Miami recently did. Even with the new facilities I have my doubts about the long term viability of the game in that region. I have no such reservations about Puerto Rico after watching the last three games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

Note: The picture enclosed was taken by NYBD reader RonOK. He was kind enough to allow me to share some others below.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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5 Responses to Would a Big League Club in Puerto Rico Make Sense?

  1. oktoday

    I do not believe that they will get the money to build a proper stadium. Nor do I see them getting an attendance that will make it worth while, even if they do get that stadium.

    And do they have the salaries big enough for the people in that area to buy long term season tickets at America prices? I do not think so.

    And getting 13,000 attendance when the Mets go there as in a special event, and the seating capacity is more then that, does not show that the people will come out any way close enough to make economical sense to me.

  2. Nikki

    oktoday – Puerto Rico’s salaries may not be the highest per capita (granted, we’re not), but don’t doubt for *one* second – we have many, many, many people, families and businesses here who love baseball and have the money to buy seasons tickets at whatever price.

    Don’t judge a book by its cover. Puerto Rico is surprising in many ways, even if we don’t exactly look like it.

  3. Steven

    oktoday-Where did you get your numbers ? Before you make erroneous comments, get your facts straight.
    19,232 fans showed up for the last game of the series in an 18,000 seat stadium.
    18,073 on the First Night.18,373 on the Second Night.
    .

  4. Benny

    Mike:

    With regard to the Blue Jays, Rogers Corporation (a US equivalent would be Comcast), owners of the Blue Jays now have the Blue Jays on their own network which means they control the revenue. Rogers has a lot of power in Canada and has used it to their advantage. Rogers owns the stadium the Blue Jays play in (bought very cheaply I might add which the Ontario government mostly paid for), the channel the Blue Jays games are on and finally the cable network that shows the Blue Jays channel. Very simply this is a gold mine for Rogers and any chance of them moving is ZERO. They are making a profit and in due time will turn their baseball operations around

  5. Yuppiescum

    I think Vegas, Portland, Charlotte, and a number of other mid-tier cities should be much higher up the list. Hell, Boston could easily support an NL team.

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