CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Premium and Super Premium Subscribers Get a 20% Discount at MLB.tv!

<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Changes... (05/17)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Twe... (05/14)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: On ... (05/24)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Under The Knife: Blist... (05/17)

May 17, 2007

Lies, Damned Lies

Moving the Marlins

by Nate Silver

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

 

 

If you build it, will they come? Cities that are attempting to procure a major league baseball team invariably find some way to spin the numbers in the most favorable light possible. I found a 1989 New York Times article in which Buffalo Bills owner Frank Rich, then trying to land a baseball expansion team in his city, claimed that Buffalo was the eighth-largest TV market in the country "when you include Rochester, Syracuse and the Niagara Peninsula." Backers of the San Antonio Marlins can cite the large population of the city proper, ignoring that its media market is decidedly minor league.

The market size model that I developed in my last series of columns can be used as a reality check against these claims; we can plant a team anywhere in the United States or Canada and estimate its potential attendance and media markets. Indeed, some of the markets that might seem favorable to baseball at first glance don’t hold up well under scrutiny, while others that might seem like afterthoughts do surprisingly well.

Below, I have listed thirteen markets that could potentially host a major league franchise, in inverse order of their net impact on leaguewide television and attendance markets. These are not necessarily the thirteen most optimal markets for baseball, but they’re markets that have either indicated an interest in acquiring an MLB club, or have demographic credentials of some form or another. We’ll handle everything from the standpoint of potential relocation targets for the Florida Marlins, with the caveat that we are concerned about the welfare of the entire league, rather than just the Marlins themselves. As you will see, there are certain destinations that might benefit the Marlins, but would not be ideal for the sport as a whole.

13. Inland Empire (San Bernardino, CA)
Attendance Projection: 2.0M (30th)
TV Projection: 5.4M (28th)

 

Where They Come From
            Attendance TV
California  1.99M      4.61M
Nevada      0.01M      0.80M

 

 

Who Gets Hurt (and Helped)
Team       Attendance TV
Marlins    -1.93M     -0.75M
Dodgers    -0.17M     -2.17M
Angels     -0.19M     -1.89M
Padres     -0.01M     -0.54M
Devil Rays +0.02M     +2.18M
TOTAL      -2.26M     -3.18M

 

We’ll start with a throwaway example, just to see how this process works. Nominally the largest metropolitan area without a major league team, the Riverside-San Bernardino area is growing quickly but already very well represented by the three established Southern California clubs; nearly 85 percent of the new Land Sharks’ TV audience would be cannibalized from one of the existing teams. We’re projecting a larger loss for the Dodgers than the Angels because the model assumes that they would lose Las Vegas to the Land Sharks; the Angels lose a few more fans in the San Bernardino area itself.

12. Norfolk, Virginia
Attendance Projection: 1.8M (30th)
TV Projection: 5.3M (28th)

 

Where They Come From
                Attendance TV
Virginia        1.67M      3.11M
North Carolina  0.16M      2.05M

 

 

Who Gets Hurt (and Helped)
Team       Attendance TV
Marlins    -2.09M    -0.89M
Nationals  -0.25M    -2.14M
Orioles    -0.18M    -0.70M
Mets       -0.04M    -0.55M
Yankees    -0.00M    -0.21M
Braves     -0.00M    -0.18M
Phillies   -0.01M    -0.17M
Pirates    -0.00M    -0.11M
TOTAL      -2.56M    -2.82M

 

Norfolk was interested in the Expos and is apparently interested in the Marlins as well, but the geography does not work here. Not terribly large unto itself, the Norfolk area is too far from the inland population centers of North Carolina to have any profound influence there, and while Richmond is a slam dunk for TV audience, it’s a bit of a hike for attendance. There are also a number of teams with existing influences in the region, most obviously the Nationals, Orioles, and Braves. The loss for the New York clubs is probably exaggerated by the model, which has no way to account for Mason-Dixon cultural divides, but the Mets are getting credit for their longstanding association with the Norfolk Tides.

11. Las Vegas
Attendance Projection: 1.7M (30th)
TV Projection: 2.2M (30th)

 

Where They Come From
            Attendance TV
Nevada      1.65M      1.80M
Utah        0.01M      0.26M
Arizona     0.03M      0.13M
California  Trace      0.03M

 

 

Who Gets Hurt (and Helped)
Team       Attendance TV
Marlins    -2.24M    -3.97M
Dodgers    -0.00M    -0.72M
Angels     -0.00M    -0.19M
Rockies    -0.00M    -0.16M
Padres     -0.00M    -0.10M
Devil Rays +0.02M    +2.18M
TOTAL      -2.22M    -3.14M

 

This is a bad idea on a number of levels. Las Vegas is growing, but it’s still tiny by MLB standards, and the problem is compounded by the fact that the city is surrounded by mountains and desert on all sides; take a daytime flight into the city, and you’ll be struck by what an unlikely population oasis it is. Of course, Las Vegas does have a large tourist population–-there are about 125,000 hotel rooms in the city, which translates into perhaps 200,000 tourists at any given time. But therein lies the catch-22: if you’re building a baseball experience to cater to the high-rollers, doesn’t that attract exactly the sort of unsavory element that baseball is trying to avoid? The NBA All-Star game experience certainly did not go well, and it’s not clear if tourists would want to stay sober long enough to see a baseball game with so many other entertainment options in the city. Moreover, Vegas is hardly a 9-to-5 city, meaning that a significant segment of the resident population will be working at night, while day games are all but untenable because of the harsh climate–-the stadium would almost certainly have to have a retractable roof, and baseball is less of a draw when the roof is closed. Vegas might work for the NBA, where you have one-quarter as many seats to sell over the course of a typical regular season, but it’s probably at least two decades away from being viable for baseball.

10. Northern New Jersey (East Rutherford)
Attendance Projection: 8.7M (5th)
TV Projection: 10.2M (11th)

 

Where They Come From
             Attendance TV
New York     4.52M      5.15m
New Jersey   3.63M      3.23m
Pennsylvania 0.19M      0.88m
Connecticut  0.37M      0.77m

 

 

Who Gets Hurt (and Helped)
Team       Attendance TV
Yankees    -3.02M     -4.17M
Mets       -2.67M     -3.67M
Phillies   -0.39M     -1.41M
Red Sox    -0.00M     -0.32M
Orioles    -0.05M     -0.28M
Nationals  -0.01M     -0.10M
Devil Rays +0.02M     +2.18M
Marlins    +4.79M     +4.02M
TOTAL      -1.31M     -3.75M

 

Bad Idea number two. The Marlins would almost certainly benefit from a move to New Jersey; there are just so many people in the region that they could hardly go wrong. The problem is that the region is already very much spoken for, not only by the Yankees and Mets, but also by the Phillies, who control the southern part of the state. About 70 percent of the Marlins’ attendance market and essentially all of their TV market would be cannibalized from one of the existing clubs, meaning that the move represents an inefficient allocation of resources for the sport.

You can argue, certainly, that this is a garbage-in, garbage-out result, since we’re capping baseball saturation in any given area at 150 percent of the population, but there are things you can do with two teams in an area that you can’t do with three. The Mets and Yankees can alternate home dates, for example, as they almost always do, and they manage to avoid one another on TV often enough, with one team playing a day game or having the day off or playing on the West Coast. With three teams that becomes impossible, and you can’t watch two baseball games at once, unless you’re using MLB Mosaic.

9. Oklahoma City
Attendance Projection: 1.5M (30th)
TV Projection: 3.1M (30th)

 

Where They Come From
          Attendance TV
Oklahoma  1.52M      2.66M
Kansas    Trace      0.20M
Arkansas  Trace      0.15M

 

 

Who Gets Hurt (and Helped)
Team       Attendance TV
Marlins    -2.40M     -3.08M
Rangers    -0.13M     -1.32M
Royals     -0.00M     -0.18M
Devil Rays +0.02M     +2.18M
TOTAL      -2.50M     -2.50M

 

Another late entrant to the baseball derby on account of the surprising success of the Hornets, OKC is another example of a city that’s potentially large enough for basketball but not enough for baseball. There just aren’t enough people in the area, and a lot of the TV audience will be cannibalized from the Rangers, who have had their Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City since 1983.

8. Buffalo
Attendance Projection: 2.0M (30th)
TV Projection: 3.8M (30th)

 

Where They Come From
             Attendance TV
New York     1.71M      2.70M
Canada       0.20M      0.84M
Pennsylvania Trace      0.24M

 

Who Gets Hurt (and Helped)
Team       Attendance TV
Marlins    -1.96M     -2.38M
Blue Jays  -0.30M     -1.10M
Yankees    -0.03M     -0.30M
Indians    -0.02M     -0.11M
Devil Rays +0.02M     +2.18M
TOTAL      -2.30M     -1.84M

 

Buffalo was a very serious candidate to find a home in the National League in the 1993 expansion round, largely on the strength of the Triple-A Bisons, who had a couple of years where they drew more than a million fans to Pilot Field. The Bisons’ attendance has since receded, perhaps because Buffalo knows that it will never be a major league city; if it wasn’t big enough fifteen years ago, it certainly won’t be now, as the area has continued to hemorrhage population. I had run a beta version of the model where Buffalo had done surprisingly well, but that was because I’d had the coordinates of the Canadian cities messed up, with Toronto placed somewhere near Syracuse. As it stands now, the Blue Jays represent a significant problem for Buffalo; excluding the Niagara Falls region the rest of Southern Ontario is going to remain committed to Toronto.

7. Portland
Attendance Projection: 2.15M (29th)
TV Projection: 3.5M (30th)

 

Where They Come From
            Attendance TV
Oregon      1.71M      2.77M
Washington  0.45M      0.72M

 

Who Gets Hurt (and Helped)
Team       Attendance TV
Marlins    -1.77M     -2.62M
Mariners   -0.13M     -1.67M
Devil Rays +0.02M     +2.18M
TOTAL      -1.88M     -2.15M

 

The Portland Salmon would have a larger attendance market than the Kansas City Royals, but that isn’t saying very much, and their TV market is significantly cramped. Oregon itself has only about 3.5 million people, and you butt into the Mariners as you head north, the ocean as you head west, and the boondocks as you head east. I could see Portland providing a fair amount of support in the first 10-15 years of the franchise; the Marlins would have the city’s stage to themselves, which is more than you can say for somewhere like Las Vegas. Longer-term, however, it’s hard to envision how the team would not have problems once it ran into some lean years in the wins column.

6. San Antonio
Attendance Projection: 2.3M (29th)
TV Projection: 4.3M (30th)

Where They Come From

Where They Come From
        Attendance TV 
Texas   2.30M      4.33M

 

Who Gets Hurt (and Helped)
Team       Attendance TV
Marlins    -1.63M     -1.83M
Astros     -0.14M     -1.98M
Rangers    -0.01M     -0.22M
Devil Rays +0.02M     +2.18M
TOTAL      -1.76M     -1.85M

 

San Antonio nominally has the seventh-largest population in the country, but that is because essentially the entire metropolitan region is incorporated as part of the city proper; in terms of MSA population its rank drops to 29th. It’s far enough away from Houston and Dallas to have a relatively unique attendance base, but there would be significant overlaps for TV, especially with the Astros. The only mitigating factor is that there is a natural swap to make in terms of baseball’s divisional alignment; the Marlins could swap into the Central, giving the Astros the natural rival that they’ve long desired, with the Pirates going back to the East.

5. Columbus
Attendance Projection: 2.7M (29th)
TV Projection: 5.0M (28th)

 

Where They Come From
              Attendance TV
Ohio          2.59M      4.28M
West Virginia 0.05M      0.37M
Indiana       0.01M      0.19M
Kentucky      0.01M      0.13M

 

Who Gets Hurt (and Helped)
Team       Attendance TV
Marlins    -1.26M     -1.13M
Reds       -0.31M     -1.15M
Indians    -0.28M     -0.83M
Pirates    -0.01M     -0.14M
Tigers     -0.01M     -0.12M
Devil Rays +0.02M     +2.18M
TOTAL      -1.84M     -1.24M

 

To my knowledge, Columbus has never been discussed seriously as a major league city, but I thought it would be worthwhile to test after seeing the comparatively large TV audiences that the model was assigning to the Reds and Indians. It holds up comparatively well, and Columbus has certainly supported both the Blue Jackets and the Buckeyes, but ultimately falls into the close-but-not-quite category.

4. San Juan
Attendance Projection: 2.7M (29th)
TV Projection: 3.5M (30th)

 

Where They Come From
             Attendance TV
Puerto Rico  2.74M      3.51M

 

Who Gets Hurt (and Helped)
Team       Attendance TV
Marlins    -1.19M     -2.65M
Yankees    -0.00M     -0.39M
Devil Rays +0.02M     +2.18M
TOTAL      -1.17M     -0.87M

 

Here, at least, you don’t run into any problems with cannibalization, save for the default 10 percent share of the TV audience that the model has assigned to the Yankees. If Puerto Rico were about 20 percent more populous or 50 percent richer, in fact, you could make a good case to move a team there. As it stands now, however, it probably comes up a little short. Puerto Rico is really quite far from the mainland–-it's closer to Venezuela than it is to Miami-–and the potential market share for an island is inherently self-limiting. I suppose that if you brand the Voladoras as a trans-Hispanic team, you could potentially make some inroads into the mainland, but that is easier said than done, particularly when the vast majority of the U.S. Hispanic population is Mexican rather than Puerto Rican. In an alternate universe where Fidel Castro had remained with the Senators, Cuba would be a no-brainer for a major league franchise, but probably not Puerto Rico.

3. Orlando
Attendance Projection: 3.1M (25th)
TV Projection: 8.7M (20th)

 

Where They Come From
         Attendance TV
Florida  3.07M      8.70M

 

Who Gets Hurt (and Helped)
Team       Attendance TV
Devil Rays -0.36M     -2.13M
Marlins    -0.86M     +2.54M
TOTAL      -1.22M     +0.41M

 

The easy way out for the Marlins, Orlando would allow them to become the dominant TV team in Florida, but almost all of their gain in TV audience comes at the Devil Rays' expense. The problem is that Florida is right on the fringe between being able to support one or two major league franchises; how you permute those teams between Orlando, Miami, and Tampa-St. Pete does not matter very much.

2. Montreal
Attendance Projection: 3.9M (21st)
TV Projection: 6.2M (24th)

 

Where They Come From
         Attendance TV
Canada   3.60M      5.09M
Vermont  0.01M      0.29M
New York Trace      0.20M

 

Who Gets Hurt (and Helped)
Team       Attendance TV
Blue Jays  -0.00M     -0.84M
Marlins    -0.22M     -0.56M
Red Sox    -0.01M     -0.24M
Yankees    -0.00M     -0.13M
Devil Rays +0.02M     +2.18M
TOTAL      -0.21M     +0.42M

 

Even before making any sort of adjustment for Francophone culture, Montreal rated as a fringy major league city. Montreal itself is fairly large–-it has the 15th largest MSA population in North America–-but its broader region is not as dense as Toronto's, and it is not especially close to any significant U.S. population centers. Applying even a 25 percent discount for cultural factors would place both its attendance and TV audiences right toward the bottom of the scales. In other words, it is not clear whether the Expos' demise was the result of the club’s mismanagement, or was more or less inevitable. Montreal does have the advantage of being relatively far removed from other MLB markets, which is why it rates as neutral-to-positive overall even though both the Marlins and the Blue Jays are projected to lose market share. The choice between having two major league teams in Florida and two in Canada is probably close in the abstract, but given Montreal's bitter experience with the Expos, it is probably no longer close in practice.

1. Charlotte
Attendance Projection: 3.1M (25th)
TV Projection: 9.3M (18th)

 

Where They Come From
               Attendance TV
North Carolina 2.35M      5.77M
South Carolina 0.68M      2.46M
Virginia       Trace      0.60M
Tennessee      Trace      0.36M
West Virginia  Trace      0.01M

 

Who Gets Hurt (and Helped)
Team       Attendance TV
Braves     -0.06M     -2.76M
Nationals  -0.00M     -0.91M
Reds       -0.00M     -0.18M
Orioles    -0.00M     -0.10M
Devil Rays +0.02M     +2.18M
Marlins    -0.83M     +3.17M
TOTAL      -0.87M     +1.29M

 

There is, to my mind, exactly one place that would clearly be viable for the 31st major league franchise, and that place is Charlotte, North Carolina. The South as a whole is underrepresented in the major leagues, which is what enables the Braves to control such a substantial TV audience. Charlotte is no metropolis, but it is conveniently located at the center of several mid-size markets, including the Winston-Salem/Greensboro/Raleigh-Durham corridor along I-40, and Columbia, South Carolina. What’s more, the area is growing rapidly, and would give both the Braves and the Nationals a natural rival in the NL East.

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

1 comment has been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Changes... (05/17)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Twe... (05/14)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: On ... (05/24)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Under The Knife: Blist... (05/17)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article Raising Aces: The Rabbit Hole
The View from the Loge Level: The Diversific...
Barbecue State of Mind
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Give the Red Sox Your ...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Astros, Marlins, Swap ...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: The Great Big David Pr...
Trade Deadline

MORE FROM MAY 17, 2007
Premium Article Under The Knife: Blisters, Breakdowns, and B...
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Changes of Scenery
Nippon Prospectus
Schrodinger's Bat: Organized Common Sense

MORE BY NATE SILVER
2007-06-14 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: The 2008 Chicago White So...
2007-05-31 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Look Sharp
2007-05-24 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: On the Bubble
2007-05-17 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Moving the Marlins
2007-05-14 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Tweaking the Market Size ...
2007-05-04 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Defining a Market, Part T...
2007-05-03 - Lies, Damned Lies: Defining a Market, Part O...
More...

MORE LIES, DAMNED LIES
2007-06-14 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: The 2008 Chicago White So...
2007-05-31 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Look Sharp
2007-05-24 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: On the Bubble
2007-05-17 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Moving the Marlins
2007-05-14 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Tweaking the Market Size ...
2007-05-04 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: Defining a Market, Part T...
2007-05-03 - Lies, Damned Lies: Defining a Market, Part O...
More...