An NL Team for Boston?

Time to merge caps? 

I’ve been doing some research in Cooperstown, so naturally I’ve been thinking about the National Pastime. A lot of my research involves professional baseball’s early years–back when there were teams in places such as Troy, Hartford, Providence, and Worcester. Those teams are long gone, as are franchises such as the Brooklyn Dodgers, the St. Louis Browns, the Washington Senators, the Montreal Expos, and the Boston Braves. The latter has me thinking.

Boston is a very good baseball town. You have to know someone (or pay a scalper) to get a ticket at Fenway Park, which is sold to 101.5% capacity. The newspapers, local TV, and radio crackle with heated discussions about the Red Sox. In my estimation, Boston cares enough about baseball that MLB ought to consider placing a second team in the Old Towne. Or, more specifically, a new team ought to be just outside the Boston limits–maybe a new park in Foxborough to draw from both the ‘burbs, southeast Massachusetts (New Bedford, Fall River), and from nearby Providence, RI.

Expansion? No way! The talent pool is already clouded by bottom-dweller lineups more suited for AAA than MLB. I’m thinking take a page from the old days and move a team. My prime candidate would be the Tampa Bay Rays. Sooner or later MLB needs to face the fact that Floridians don’t care for major league baseball after April 1. The Rays, a very good team, are 29th in attendance, which what they were last year. They’ve never been better than 22nd, and they continually rank near the bottom of putting bottoms into seats. The average attendance is a pathetic 20,609 per game, slightly above Cleveland. (Cleveland, by contrast, has ranked as high as 4th in attendance in the past 10 years.) Oakland also lurks near the pits, a problem that eventually be fixed by shifting the franchise out of the ghetto to nearby San Jose. The Rays, though, are a hopeless case–bad stadium, an apathetic public, and two cities (St. Petersburg and Tampa) that simply aren’t major league towns. Move ‘em to Boston, I say.

The Red Sox would do everything they could to keep the Rays out of Boston and cry territory infringement, but this can be gotten around. First of all, move the Boston Rays (or whatever they are renamed) to the National League East, thereby creating a second Boston-New York rivalry. To balance the divisions, a team from the NL East would have to move to the AL East–Atlanta would be a good candidate.

MLB has some other critical franchises it may need to address eventually. I think taxpayer money was wasted in Miami, another team perennially at the bottom in attendance. It is averaging 28,405 per game this year–in a brand new stadium! As the slogan goes, wait’ll next year. The park is in Little Havana, a part of the city that (rightly or wrongly) makes Anglos nervous, but even if it was in the heart of Yuppie Miami, Floridians still won’t support the team. Mark my words–in four or five years there will be discussion of relocation. Kansas City could use a change of scenery too–to some city that has entrepreneurs with enough money to spend to put a competitive team on the field. Other candidates for a relocated team: Montreal with a new stadium, Memphis, Louisville, Buffalo, and Monterrey, Mexico. But let’s start small; for heaven’s sake move the Rays to someplace that will support them–like Boston. 

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