Baseball In 2028 – Part 1: Expansion

Eric Urbanowicz
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In the year 2028, the landscape of Major League Baseball could see many changes. With conversations of expansion earlier this year as well as speculation on the future the Tampa Bay Rays, the 30-team MLB we know could be seeing changes sooner rather than later. Expansion, relocation, and realignment are all things to keep an eye on in between now and then.

Why is 2028 a big year and what does Tampa Bay have to do with it? It’s because that’s when their lease at Tropicana Field expires, meaning they would no longer be tethered there. Tampa Bay already has shown a desire to move if they don’t get a new stadium, which has not seen any movement.

That’s going to lead us to our mini-series, “Baseball in 2028.” We’ll be taking a look at what could be on the horizon. Instead of months though, our timeline will be the end of the 2020 season up until the 2028 season.

This is Baseball in 2028 and this is part one: Expansion.

While it was discussed by sports writers during the downtime in sports due to the Covid-19 pandemic, baseball is seemingly heading for an expansion. It’s been 22 years since Tampa Bay and the Arizona Diamondbacks entered the league. In that time, both have been to the World Series, with one winning it all.

An expansion team’s location needs to somewhere that can be patient but still generate hardcore fans. While the team can take anywhere from one to five years to really make a mark, if fans aren’t dedicated enough to keep going to games then it would be deemed a failure. A failure to draw would stunt the team and open them up for a possible relocation in the future.

MLB needs to avoid another situation like Tampa Bay, making this choice crucial. The ten cities listed below may be the best fits for an expansion. When we get to part three of this series, two of the teams (one American League and one National League) will be chosen and put in the realigned standings.

This is not a top ten list, but rather just a list of ten cities who would be good fits for a professional baseball team.

 

10. Louisville, Kentucky

Two pieces of baseball equipment are known by heart: Rawlings fielders gloves and Louisville Slugger bats. With Rawlings based in St. Louis, home of the Cardinals, it only makes sense to put a team in Louisville, Kentucky.

Given the success of the University of Louisville in all sports, they could pull it off. Also given that the closest team to them is St. Louis Cardinals, you can have the equipment rivalry.

Louisville isn’t often considered for pro sports teams, but this may be the time.

 

9. Las Vegas, Nevada

Everyone knows that it’s a case of when, and not if, Las Vegas gets a professional team in every major sport. Given the success of the Las Vegas Aces WNBA team and the Las Vegas Golden Knights NHL team, who both made it to the finals relatively quickly to their respective sports, new teams will want to open up shop there.

With sports starting to accept gambling to the point major media companies are doing shows with odds and all, now is the perfect time to get into the market. They got the Las Vegas Raiders last year, they could build a baseball stadium near Allegiant Stadium.

The only downside with MLB in Vegas is that the interest may not be as huge as other sports. There’s no money to be made in gambling on baseball unless you do a full season. Betting on one game won’t win you much like it does in the NBA or NFL, so it may not profit the casinos as much as people may think. In Vegas, if the casinos aren’t making money, then no one really is making money.

 

8. Hartford, Connecticut

Nestled in between the major markets of New York and Boston is the small state of Connecticut. In that small state lies the city of Hartford, former home to one of professional sports greatest defunct teams: the Hartford Whalers.

What makes Hartford an attractive market is they’re currently in the middle of developing their downtown area. While initially done for their minor league team the Hartford Yardgoats, adding onto Dunkin Donuts Park to fit a professional team would draw more. Given its early success and popularity, it’s a budding market that MLB would be wise to jump on. Especially as past Governors and current Governor Ned Lamont have been trying for years to get a team back in the Constitution State.

Of course Connecticut’s high taxes may have residents trying to stop it. Connecticut does have some debt problems but have been trying to make the state more tourist friendly for the last year or two. If the matter was on a scale, it would stuck in between good idea and bad idea.

 

7. Nashville, Tennessee

Back in September, fellow 3 Point Conversion writer Courtlandt Griffin did an article on Nashville’s push for an MLB team. In his piece, he highlighted the list of high-profile people involved as well as how the Nashville market has been expanding.

It would be huge for baseball as the potential would team become the first black-owned club. Given that baseball has been trying to improve its diversity, Nashville should be near the top.

 

6. Portland, Oregon

Portland has become the home to two soccer teams in the last ten years, in addition to boasting an NBA team. All three have had one thing in common: a hardcore fan base. That’s something baseball needs.

Financially, the city is ideal with a $1.3 billion commitment. Also they have plenty of developmental land for a new stadium. That combined with their fan base and it’s the perfect spot for a team.

The one major downside is that there’s a question of investors. Most believe that the potential investors that would come with Portland may not stick around for more than five years. If they can’t keep investors around, their team may decide to move after a while.

 

5. Atlantic City, New Jersey

From 1998-2009, Atlantic City was home to the Atlantic City Surf, an independent league baseball team. In that time they won an Atlantic League championship in their first season. However, due to an issue in the sale of the team, leading to lack of ownership, the team folded in 2009. Despite an attempt to revive the idea in 2018, plans were killed off the next year.

If Atlantic City is serious about reviving the team, this could be a better situation. Given its prime location along the east coast, the weather would provide warm summers and brisk autumns, perfect for baseball. Add to it the feel of Las Vegas with its casinos combined with night life, and fans would flock.

The one downside to this is that if an owner can’t stick around, then MLB would have to step in. MLB stepped in with the Miami Marlins, and they’ve struggled for over a decade. If a good product can’t be put on the field, then they’ll be doomed to fail.

 

4. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque may seem like one out of left field, pun intended, but it could be the next major market to blow up. As it stands, there’s no big four professional sports teams of note. However, their minor league team, the Albuquerque Isotopes draws around 8,000 fans a night. That’s impressive.

With Sante Fe, the capital of New Mexico being close, as well as a major distance to other professional teams, baseball could put their stamp before anyone does. Add to it that Albuquerque has more than a million people the metro area, in addition to what Santa Fe may bring in and there’s a big chance that they could become a major player in baseball.

The one question with Albuquerque is: why haven’t they before? Is there an issue with money, maybe no interest for potential owners? Given that it has a lot of what could make it a worthy home to a team, it’s very questionable why no organization has decided to invest there.

 

3. Salt Lake City, Utah

Many people may not realize this, but Salt Lake City has a dedicated fan base for its lone big four team: the Utah Jazz. Even their soccer team, Real Salt Lake, has a fervent fan base. Given that baseball needs to reestablish a hardcore fan base, this would be perfect.

Add to it the major role that Salt Lake City played this year and they could have a case to be rewarded. It was one of the most important cities for baseball as it was the home of Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory, which handled COVID-19 tests for the league. With the fan base and that debt of gratitude, what’s stopping it?

Well it’s the fact they are low in the pecking order. Baseball seemingly has a few markets ahead of them, including a campaign by Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson for Portland. Salt Lake City would make a nice home, no one would question that, but it doesn’t have the flair or backing to give them a team.

 

2. Charlotte, North Carolina

Outside of cities in the state of Florida, Charlotte is one of the faster-growing areas on the East Coast. Home to the Hornets, Panthers, NASCAR and various sponsors including Lowe’s, Tyson Foods, and Bank of America, there’s a lot of potential in this city in terms of growth and expansion. Financially they’d have sponsors to be able to fund a team like crazy.

The problem is, would they make the investment? While it’s fun to think they definitely would, the sponsors have a huge pull on NASCAR and college sports: they may not want to spend more money on a new project. Considering it’s also technically a small market, it could be hard to show the appeal of it.

If done though, Charlotte would definitely add a much needed Atlantic Coastal state to the mix. It would also has a rich history of professional baseball including the likes of the minor league team the Charlotte Hornets from 1901-1973. They’ve been rumored for years since to get another team known as the Charlotte Pines, but it’s never happened.

 

1. El Paso, Texas

It may sound odd to put another baseball team in a state where football reigns supreme. That said, consider the area: its over 400 miles from the nearest stadium, Arizona’s Chase Field, and its on the border of Mexico. With baseball’s increasing Hispanic influence, it would make all the sense in the world.

But would there be interest in a third team in Texas? While Houston and Arlington are hikes, to add a third team could eat into their respective attendances. Also add that it may raise political questions as fans from Mexico could want to buy tickets but Texas may say no as to avoid illegal immigration.

It’s a slippery slope either way but it could be worth it. While San Antonio and Austin are also tempting, the chance to gain the Hispanic market would be hard to pass on.

Eric Urbanowicz

Connecticut

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