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March 15, 2007

You Could Look It Up

Take to Your Beds!

by Steven Goldman

One of the items in Baseball Prospectus 2007 that has attracted a good deal of comment is the table on city populations titled, "Pittsburghers, Take to Your Beds!" The government divides the country into Metropolitan Statistical Areas, and we used these as shorthand for baseball team markets. The table, which appears in the Pirates team essay, was used as a component of an argument that the Pirates' protestations of small-market status as the cause of their 14 consecutive seasons with a losing record was overstated and inaccurate, and poor drafting and player development was more to blame.

Of course, Pittsburgh is a small market club. The real question is how small relative to the other markets. Here's a revised and updated version of the population section of the "Take to Your Beds!" table:

MSA                                                    POP
----------------------------------------------------------------
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA    18,747,320
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA                  12,923,547
Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI                    9,443,356
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD            5,823,233
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX                        5,819,475
----------------------------------------------------------------
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach, FL                  5,422,200
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX                         5,280,077
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV           5,214,666
Toronto, Ontario                                       5,113,149
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA                     4,917,717
----------------------------------------------------------------
Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI                             4,488,335
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH                         4,411,835
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA                      4,152,688
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ                            3,865,077
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA                            3,203,314
----------------------------------------------------------------
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI                3,142,779
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA                      2,933,462
St. Louis, MO-IL                                       2,778,518
Baltimore-Towson, MD                                   2,655,675
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL                    2,647,658
----------------------------------------------------------------
Pittsburgh, PA                                         2,386,074
Denver-Aurora, CO                                      2,359,994
Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH                            2,126,318
Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN                        2,070,441
Kansas City, MO-KS                                     1,947,694
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI                      1,512,855

As in the book, these are estimated population figures generated by the U.S. Census Bureau through July 2005. The Canadian figure is for 2006. We've also included Canadian census data (from Statistics Canada), though it's important to note that population figures for cities such as San Diego, Detroit, and Toronto do not include people who live nearby in Mexico, Canada, or upstate New York (respectively) who would logically be considered part of the local market.

In terms of raw population, Pittsburgh is low on the list and slipping; in April 2000, the Census Bureau pegged the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area as hosting a populace of 2.43 million; over 45,000 have left town since. That makes Pittsburgh one of two population losers among major league cities since 2000 (Toronto figure is for 2001):

MSA                                        2005 POP     2000 POP    CHANGE
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pittsburgh, PA                             2,386,074    2,431,087   -45,013
Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH                2,126,318    2,148,143   -21,825
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI          1,512,855    1,500,741    12,114
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH             4,411,835    4,391,344    20,491
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA          4,152,688    4,123,740    28,948
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI                 4,488,335    4,452,557    35,778
Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN            2,070,441    2,009,632    60,809
St. Louis, MO-IL                           2,778,518    2,698,687    79,831
Baltimore-Towson, MD                       2,655,675    2,552,994   102,681
Kansas City, MO-KS                         1,947,694    1,836,038   111,656
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA          2,933,462    2,813,833   119,629
Philly-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD      5,823,233    5,687,147   136,086
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA                3,203,314    3,043,878   159,436
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI    3,142,779    2,968,806   173,973
Denver-Aurora, CO                          2,359,994    2,179,240   180,754
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL        2,647,658    2,395,997   251,661
Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI        9,443,356    9,098,316   345,040
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach, FL      5,422,200    5,007,564   414,636
Wash.-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV    5,214,666    4,796,183   418,483
New York-Northern NJ-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 18,747,320  18,323,002   424,318
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Toronto, Ontario                           5,113,149    4,682,897   430,252
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA      12,923,547   12,365,627   557,920
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX             5,280,077    4,715,407   564,670
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ                3,865,077    3,251,876   613,201
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX            5,819,475    5,161,544   657,931
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA         4,917,717    4,247,981   669,736

Should the current rate of decline sustain through the next census, it's very possible that the Denver MSA could surpass Pittsburgh. Still, it would require a major exodus from the area for Pittsburgh to reach the bottom of the rankings.

Population isn't the only indicator of a market that can sustain a ballclub. The people have to be able to afford tickets. That brings us to another dimension, per capita personal income:

                                               PER CAPITA
MSA                                            PERSONAL INCOME (Dollars)
---------------------------------------------------------------------
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA               51,964
Wash.-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV         49,530
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH                  48,158
Toronto, Ontario                                46,352
New York-Northern NJ-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA      45,570
------------------------------------------------------
Denver-Aurora, CO                               42,574
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI         42,083
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA                     41,661
Baltimore-Towson, MD                            40,846
Philly-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD           40,468
------------------------------------------------------
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA               39,880
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX                  39,052
Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI             38,439
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI               37,862
Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI                      37,694
------------------------------------------------------
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX                 37,075
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA            36,917
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach, FL           36,293
Pittsburgh, PA                                  36,208
St. Louis, MO-IL                                36,174
------------------------------------------------------
Kansas City, MO-KS                              35,859
Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN                 35,618
Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH                     35,542
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA              35,009
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL             33,008
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ                     32,536

These figures are projected for 2005 by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis-it takes the government awhile to generate this data, so in some cases we have to look back rather than use up-to-the-minute statistics.

We can use the Bureau's 2003 figures to track the change in per capita income in major league cities over time:

MSA                                PER CAPITA      2003
                                   PERSONAL INC.   PCPI    CHANGE    PCT CHANGE
                                   (dollars)
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria     49,530         43,913  5,617     12.8
DC-VA-MD-WV
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA   51,964         46,652  5,312     11.4
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long   45,570         40,679  4,891     12
Island, NY-NJ-PA
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH      48,158         43,345  4,813     11.1
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA   39,880         35,620  4,260     12
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Baltimore-Towson, MD                40,846         36,757  4,089     11.1
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX      39,052         35,304  3,748     10.6
Los Angeles-LB-Santa Ana,CA         36,917         33,318  3,599     10.8
Miami-Ft Lauderdale-Miami Beach, FL 36,293         32,762  3,531     10.8
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington,     40,468         36,971  3,497     9.5
PA-NJ-DE-MD
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Denver-Aurora, CO                   42,574         39,212  3,362     8.6
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington,   42,083         38,836  3,247     8.4
MN-WI
Pittsburgh, PA                      36,208         32,987  3,221     9.8
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA         41,661         38,447  3,214     8.4
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX     37,075         34,109  2,966     8.7
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ         32,536         29,609  2,927     9.9
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI   37,862         34,949  2,913     8.3
Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH         35,542         32,651  2,891     8.9
Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN     35,618         32,738  2,880     8.8
Kansas City, MO-KS                  35,859         33,191  2,668     8
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tampa-St. Petersb.-Clearwater, FL   33,008         30,341  2,667     8.8
St. Louis, MO-IL                    36,174         33,667  2,507     7.4
Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI 38,439         35,967  2,472     6.9
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA  35,009         32,739  2,270     6.9
Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI          37,694         36,330  1,364     3.8
Toronto, Ontario                    46,352         N/A     N/A       N/A

Finally, using data from Nielsen Media Research we can check on Pittsburgh's health from the point of view of television households:

MSA                                           TV HOUSEHOLDS    % of US
----------------------------------------------------------------------
New York-N. New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA  7,366,950        6.616
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA          5,611,110        5.039
Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI           3,455,020        3.103
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD   2,941,450        2.642
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA             2,383,570        2.141
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX               2,378,660        2.136
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH                2,372,030        2.130
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV  2,272,120        2.041
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA            2,205,510        1.981
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX                1,982,120        1.780
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI                    1,938,320        1.741
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL           1,755,750        1.577
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ                   1,725,000        1.549
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA                   1,724,450        1.549
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI       1,678,430        1.507
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach, FL         1,538,620        1.382
Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH                   1,537,500        1.381
Denver-Aurora, CO                             1,431,910        1.286
St. Louis, MO-IL                              1,228,980        1.104
Pittsburgh, PA                                1,163,150        1.045
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Baltimore-Towson, MD                          1,097,290        0.985
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA             1,030,020        0.925
Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN               913,280          0.820
Kansas City, MO-KS                            886,910          0.797
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI             882,990          0.793
Toronto, Ontario                              N/A              N/A

As with all of these studies, Pittsburgh comes out in the bottom half of the standings. The city lacks the advantages of many or most other major league hosts. Yet if the Pirates are not viable, then the same can be said of several other cities. None of them, however, are threatening to make a run at the 1933-1948 Phillies' record of 16 consecutive losing seasons.

In fact, although the Phillies of 1933-1948 were perhaps the most abjectly miserable, least talented team of all time, the Pirates' losing streak is more astounding as a feat of baseball incompetence. The Phillies were the second team in a two-team town, trying to survive the worst economic crisis in American history and World War II. They had no television revenue and early radio revenues were miniscule. There was no amateur draft, they had limited funds for a farm system, and participated in baseball's conspiracy against African-Americans. They had no access to players from Japan, Puerto Rico, or the Dominican Republic, only the occasional light-skinned Cuban. There were no major league free agents. Until 1938, they played in the Baker Bowl, a miserable little ballpark which lacked the revenue-generating amenities of modern stadia. After 1938 they played at Shibe Park, a somewhat nicer, albeit decaying ballpark which lacked the revenue-generating amenities of modern stadia. Revenue sharing was not yet a glint in Bud Selig's pants.

In contrast, baseball hands everything to the Pirates on a silver platter, including a traditionally soft division, which is why they've won 44 percent of their games over the last 14 years rather than the Phillies' 36 percent. They can take credit for so very little of what they have accomplished, while so much of the blame is rightly theirs to carry.

Perhaps someday they'll acquire competent management and will learn to build through the draft. Until then, Pittsburghers really should take to their beds. It's usually more fun than watching a bland team lose, and a local baby boom would remove one of the props by which team management alibis its lack of performance.

Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Steven's other articles. You can contact Steven by clicking here

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