Wednesday, February 24, 2010

History of Baseball expansion

From 1903 – 1960, MLB operated with 16 teams. Over a 38 year period from 1960-1998 the league added 14 teams in 6 installments. If you look at how the league expanded it paints a picture of a pretty conservative approach to expansion. Take a look. I’ve added very little factual evidence in this discussion. Mostly observational.

1. 1961 – Washington Senators and LA Angels
a. The 1960 Senators moved to Minneapolis to become the Twins. The 1961 Senators were the expansion team. So really the new market explored here was the Minnesota market. But this wasn’t a case of MLB deciding to move into Minnesota, it was more Clark Griffith searching for greener pastures. This counts as a move, and not an expansion.
2. 1962 – New York Mets and Houston Astros
3. 1969 – KC Royals, Seattle Pilots, SD Padres, Montreal Expos
4. 1977 – Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays
5. 1993 – Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins
6. 1998 – Arizona D-Backs, Tampa Bay D-Rays

That’s the list. Of the 14 teams, 8 of them were teams added to existing markets, or pre-existing markets, and demographics. I deem these to be low risk expansion efforts because a precedent already existed.

1. Senators (replaced the first incarnation that moved to Minnesota)
2. Angels (MLB places a second team in southern Cal)
3. Mets (MLB restocks the NY market after having lost two teams to Cali).
4. Royals (KC gets another shot after the A’s moved to Oakland)
5. Padres (SoCal gets a third team)
6. Mariners (MLB has mercy on Seattle after the Pilots moved to Milwaukee after one season)
7. Blue Jays (Second Canadian team)
8. Rays (Second Florida team)

That leaves six instances where baseball owners decided to go out on a limb and put a brand new baseball team in an area that previously did not have one.

1. 1962 – Baseball moves into Texas with the Astros
a. This has to be considered a success. The Rangers came to the state too when the second version of the Senators moved here.
2. 1969 – Baseball moves into the Pacific Northwest with the Pilots
a. Had it not been for Nintendo, Ken Griffey, Randy Johnson, Ichiro, and SafeCo Field, baseball would have failed in the Pacific Northwest. But they seem to have a good thing going here
3. 1969 – Baseball moves to Canada with the Expos
a. I think the decision to move to Canada was probably a good one. The thing that killed the Expos, and Jon probably has more to say on this than I, is the strike and impatient ownership. The strike angered all the French Canadians, but the Expos had good baseball people in place to keep the team relevant. Problem though is that the people who owned those teams became frustrated with the methods of the baseball people and next thing you know the Expos are playing games in Puerto Rico and Quebec gave up on the team. Now we have the Nationals. I think Montreal has the fire power to support a team.
4. 1993 – Baseball moves to Colorado
a. Seems to have worked
5. 1993 – Baseball moves to Florida
a. I’ll come back to this
6. 1998 – Baseball moves to Arizona
a. Seems to be working

The baseball in Florida thing is still up in the air. Miami and Tampa Bay have their own sets of excuses for why things haven’t gone according to plan. Miami’s market potential will be put to the final test in 2012 and beyond when their long awaited stadium opens. Tampa Bay….we all know the issues here.

In the spirit of keeping this a baseball talkin forum, I’m going to refrain from stadium talk. But this little exercise was intended to break down baseball expansion into larger categories and illustrate how fortunate Tampa Bay is to have gotten a franchise.

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