Why is baseball so dead-set against relocation?

The last time a baseball team moved was between the 1971 and 1972 seasons, when the second Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers.

Since then, teams from all other 3 major American sports have relocated, some of them multiple times, apparently without ill effect on the league.

There have been numerous opportunities for baseball teams to move. In the early 90’s, a number of franchises flirted with a move to Tampa Bay, and the Giants even had an agreement to be sold to a Tampa group, but Major League Baseball didn’t want it to happen, and they basically made the Giants owner (Bob Lurie?) take less money in order to sell to Peter Magowan, who’d keep the team in San Francisco.

And most recently, of course, is the Expos situation. You’d think that if the Expos are doing so badly that the other 29 teams have to own and run them by proxy, you’d think that to sell it immediately to the highest bidder and let him worry about the issue of making a profit would be a no-brainer. Still, it’s two years into that, they’e sitting on their hands regarding deciding the Expos’ fate, and next year will be the same?

Why are MLB owners more averse to franchise movement than NFL, NHL or NBA owners?

In fairness, the NFL isn’t too wild about its franchises relocating, either. The big difference is that Raiders owner Al Davis went to court and sued (and won) to move his franchise.

Two reasons, really:

Expansion – if City A seems to be ripe for a baseball franchise, it makes economic sense to put a brand-new franchise there, rather than letting the team from City B move there. City B would then seem like “damaged goods” and be unlikely to attract another team. So by limiting franchise movement, baseball keeps demand high (and gives its owners a valuable bargaining chip when negotiating for new stadiums, etc.)

Baseball (and football) need a lot bigger market area to draw from to fill their stadiums than hockey and basketball need to fill their arenas, so there are fewer markets that can support a baseball franchise.

Stability/tradition – since baseball isn’t perceived as exciting, it figures its best market niche is tradition. The tradition of the Yankees, Cubs, et al, resonates better than the tradition of the Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland A’s – or for that matter, the Rochester/Cincinnatti/Kansas City/Omaha/Sacremento Kings in the NBA.

Let’s not forget the Tri-City/Milwaukee/St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks.

Baseball isn’t trying to sell stability as it is taking advantage of its antitrust exemption which makes it much more attractive for an owner to stay in one place. It’s very easy for one owner to keep out any competition in baseball.

Peter Angelos, owner of the Orioles, has been complaining loudly about how any team in DC would infringe upon “his territory”. However, when the Orioles moved to Baltimore in 1953, the Senators owner complained loudly about that team infringing on his territory.

Actually, the Giants have almost moved TWICE since 1972; in 1976 they were actually sold to a Toronto group and were in the process of moving, but a SF group popped up at the last minute and MLB gave them the team. Threats of a lawsuit led to the granting of expansion teams to Toronto and Seattle. Later, Chicago (White Sox) also threatened to move to Tampa; one of the reasons Tampa got a team was, again, the threat of legal action due to the constant here’s-a-team-no-maybe-not bullshit.

There’s a number of reasons baseball opposed relocation, but most of them are related to money. The main advantage to not relocating teams is that it allows franchises to extort local government for free money, usually in the form of stadium deals. The THREAT of relocation can generate whopping stadium subsidies. Carrying through on the threat, however, means that once a few teams have soaked up the best available locations - right now, Washington and Portland - the threat of relocation would have no impact.

The other financial advantage, of course, is that by using other cities as threats to extort money you can, when absolutely necessary, use those cities as expansion cities from which MLB can extract millions upon millions of dollars in expansion fees. If the Expos move to Washington, MLB gets nothing in the initial transfer. But if an expansion team starts up there, MLB gets a huge pile of dough in up-front expansion fees. They don’t really need it, which is why they’re not in a rush to expand (and there are no good ownership groups anyway) but when the time comes they want that pile of money waiting. It’s worked in other sports, especially hockey; the NHL has stayed afloat for the last ten years pretty much on the back of expansion fees.

I think they are afraid that moving will get someone so angry that Congress will act to take away its antitrust exemption. Although that can hardly explain the Expos situation. I think that no city/ownership group has put up enough money to interest major league baseball. I wonder what is going to happen when their current TV contract expires and they are offerred a mere fraction of what they are getting now. Fox no longer needs MLB to establish its bona fides and then where will the money to pay the montrous contracts come from Expect a leaner meaner league by 2010–if there is one at all.

I agree about football, but is this really true in baseball? Let me ask the question another way: has there ever been a sold-out, regular season baseball game in the history of MLB?

Yes. Oodles of them. The Orioles did it for several straight years. Ditto for Toronto and Cleveland.

Very, very many of them.
From what I understand, the Red Sox (in your area) do it frequently.
The Indians in Jacobs Field sold out 455 in a row (every game from June 7, 1995 to April 2001). The Giants in Pac Bell Park sold out every game of the 2000 season.

A minor nitpick to the OP: Seattle has had two major league teams: The Pilots lasted only one year (IIRC) before becoming the Milwaukee Brewers; the Mariners replaced them (again under threat of lawsuit IIRC). I’m not sure whether this precedes or follows the Senators[sub]2[/sub]>Rangers move.

With D.C./NoVa actively seeking a team, and the Twins looking to move up until they made the postseason last year, I had hopes that they would rvert to their original identity.

As I understand it, part of the Expos migratory home games is testing the market for a major league team in various other locations, including San Juan. Does anyone know what cities are under consideration for the Expos or a new franchise?

It does. The Pilots became the Brewers in 1970.

But, Polycarp, to the best of my understanding, there is no illusion that San Juan is being tested as a permanent home for the Expos. As it stands, the only relocation sites being considered for the Expos are Washington, Northern Virginia and Portland. The games in San Juan are merely a revenue device.

Chaim Mattis Keller

What cities could financially support a team? Portland? DC? Las Vegas? New Orleans? San Antonio?

Right now NYC, LA, Chicago, SF have two teams. If DC were added basically you would have a DC/Baltimore as a TWO team city. (DC and Baltimore are what like 40 miles apart. When I lived there you easily got TV from both places) Could any other large city support TWO teams. Philadelphia and St Louis used to have two teams.

Another point to consider about baseball’s obsitance, is that Commissioner Bud owned (still owns, sorta) the team formerly known as the Seattle Pilots.

Anyway, the real reason that baseball teams don’t move and NFL (Houston-to-Nashville, Cleveland-to-Baltimore), NBA (Charlotte-to-New Orleans and Vancouver-to-Memphis), NHL (Canada-to-Southern U.S.) teams change cities pretty regularly is that Major League Baseball has an exemption from the Sherman antitrust laws and therefore can act as a monopoly and stop its franchises from relocating.

As for why Selig & Co. stops them, it beats me. The promises of future expansion fees from the “new” cities and stadium extortion deals from current ones make the most sense.

should be “Another point to consider about baseball’s obstinance…”

I nede me a prufe reedur or a leste a spel cheker.

Thanks for the info, I am surprised that so many baseball games are sellouts. I would have thought more people had jobs.

I found an article confirming the Indians streak. I begins with a comment about how the trend to build bigger stadiums was reversing, contributing to more sellouts. It then goes on to say that the stadium was scaled back from 78,000 seats to 43,000.

43,000?! That’s a damn site more than I thought would ever be in attendance for a regular season game. I’m impressed.

Most of the new baseball stadiums are built with smaller capacities than before. You don’t want to have a huge stadium because then no one will want to buy season tickets because you know you can get a ticket just about any time.

That theory is a little less important now since the majority of baseball season tickets are bought by corporations, but it still is valid in my opinion.

As for the games being sold out, most teams get the majority of their sellouts during the summer when school is out. Some teams that had long sellout streaks: Baltimore, Colorado, and Cleveland, have now dropped in attendance. Mainly because the teams aren’t as good anymore and the novelty of the stadium has passed.