Sunday, 8 June 2014

Why Montreal Won't Have an MLB Team Anytime Soon

Oh, this one is going to get some hate.

It may seem unpopular to say this, but the Expos aren't coming back anytime soon. Despite the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets playing a 3 game preseason series at Olympic Stadium, there's little chance the MLB will return to Quebec for decades.

Unlike the other 3 North American sports league, relocating or expanding in the MLB is much harder. The NBA and NHL can expand into any 20'000 seat arena (sometimes smaller) and can use the same arena for both hockey and basketball. The NFL, while it can't expand into 20'000 seat arenas, majority of major cities in Canada or the United States have a football field, for either a University team or is a converted soccer stadium. Baseball lacks that privilege. While the Blue Jays may play in a footbal1 and former basketball arena, the Minnesota Twins used to play in the Metrodome, which, despite being built in 1979, was criticized for being, essentially, a blow up stadium.

Montreal has a "stadium". Olympic Stadium hold 45'000 occupants for a baseball game, but, one thing that had to be noted during this exhibition series, is Olympic Stdaium looked the same in 2014 as it did in 2004 and it did in 1994. Fashion may have changed, but the slightly bluish green tinted turf, undersized jumbo-tron and dark , indoor appearance are part of the Olympic Stadium experience, but in the modern MLB, with Comerica Park, PNC Park, Target Field and Busch Stadium being the league's premier modern fields, as well as the all time classic parks like Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, New Yankee Stadium and yes, even Skydome (I know there are old stadiums, but after the '92/93 world series, it's truly a staple of Canadian baseball), the competition is very stiff.

The MLB also lacks teams to relocate. The NHL and NBA have relocated franchises within the span of year, and plan on expanding(unlikely in the NBA) and relocating more teams. Seattle, Quebec City, Kansas City and Las Vegas are building/have stadiums ready. The Jacksonville Jaguars have been rumoured to be relocating to Los Angeles, and Toronto is vying for an NFL franchise (at least according to some people). The MLB has two teams that NEED a new stadium, Oakland and Tampa Bay.

Supposing these teams get new stadiums, can they play in Montreal while waiting for the new field to be built, yes. In fact, that's probably the best solution to Montrealers who want their baseball fix. However, Tampa Bay can play out of the ESPN Wide World of Sports section of Walt Disney World, where they play some of their spring training and at least one series during the regular season. That leaves Oakland.

Oakland is only a short drive from San Francisco, hence the battle of the bay. Neither team would need to play out of Montreal, and it wouldn't be economically viable for the MLB to move a team up 1000s of kilometres for a single season. Tropicana field opened in 1990, 17 years after Olympic stadium was ready fitted for baseball. Despite the former Thunderdome being a hockey and indoor football arena, it simply has a non retractable roof, and lackluster catwalk. The Coliseum, while having that problem with flooding sewage in the basement and being nearly 50 years old, is in an area where there is decent weather almost every month of the year. Despite the fan made controversy it may cause, the Athletics will just play a season in San Francisco, then get a new park.

But let's pretend Montreal gets an expansion franchise, what happens then?

The MLB has the lowest amount of teams that can make the playoffs in a season in any of the 4 major North American sports leagues.

NHL: (16/30)
NBA: (16/20)
NFL: (12/32) However, playoff expansion is being considered within the next couple of seasons
MLB: (10/30) with the new wild card expansion

Yes, the NFL still has less than half of its teams in the playoffs, but in a 16 game seasons, a team only has to win about 9/10 games to get the wildcard spot, while in the MLB, they have to win 95/97. The MLB has two teams that haven't qualified for the playoffs in 20+ years (Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals) and teams that have gone almost 20 years without a winning season (Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles).

Could an expansion franchise really compete within a 5 year span...probably not.

Like the Hartford Whalers, the logo and charms of the team will keep the Expos sprite alive for many years to come, but as for a Major League Baseball team En Francais....perhaps within the next 15 years, but don't get your hopes up.

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