Road To World Series; Viva Las Vegas?

It’s said that good pitching trumps good hitting. I don’t always subscribe to that theory but this year, it works for me. So with the Division Series done with, we’re left with 4 very good teams, any of whom could advance to the World Series. But I’ll go with the teams with the “Aces” and pick Houston and their home advantage over New York in 5 and the surprising Washington Nationals over St. Louis in 7.

In the AL, both teams have pretty solid, comparable hitting but you have to give the nod to the team with home advantage (where they won 60 games this season) and have Gerritt Cole (25 K, only 3 walks, 6 hits in 15 2/3 innings over his two starts vs Minnesota) and Justin Verlander (1 win, 1 loss in his two starts but still… Justin Verlander!) not to mention Zac Greinke.

In the NL, the Cards showed they can hit with the best of them (I had for several months thought Ozuna was under-rated and a good player for Toronto to target this off-season to upgrade their OF hitting and defense; alas, with 6 runs, 9 hits and an .857 slugging percentage in that first series, one must expect his cost just jumped) but then, so can Washington. The Cards don’t have Stephen Strasburg or Max Scherzer, so even with the home advantage, look for those two durable super tossers to tip the scales in the Nats favor.

***

The Nationals were the last team to relocate in MLB, as we remember, moving south from Montreal in 2005. But commissioner Rob Manfred suggested we might see another move soon. He issued a veiled threat to Oakland politicians that the Athletics could be moved to Las Vegas.

The issue is about the stadium the A’s use – now called Oakland Coliseum, previously MacAfee Coliseum, previously Oakland Alameda Coliseum – and fans and players alike abhor. It’s been in use right back to the green-and-yellows West Coast start, over 50 years back. The structure was never ideal, and now is disliked for its old look, uncomfortable seating, small clubhouses and frequent issues with sewage overflowing. The A’s obviously want a new stadium, but they don’t have the finances to come up with a new state-of-the-art facililty themselves and the city, and Alameda Co. haven’t been too warm to the idea of them picking up the tab. To make matters worse, both the city and county co-own the field and the lot it sits on, and right now the city is suing the county over a plan the county liked to sell the stadium to the team, which could redevelop it.

Manfred referenced the NFL Radiers move out of Oakland and said “unless things change, Bay Area fans may be going to Las Vegas or elsewhere to watch the Athletics as well.” He later back-tracked on it, but the Oakland mayor is adamant that he suggested it to the council and specifically referenced “Las Vegas.”

To me, it would be a move which could make sense. Oakland’s stadium is apparently very outdated, and with sewage issues, not a desireable spot for a nice Sunday out. But even if they could get a new stadium, one wonders if that would be enough. While the Bay Area is a large metro area, baseball’s never been king there and the A’s always – always – seem to play second fiddle to the San Francisco Giants across the bay.

To whit, the Giants drew 2 708 000 fans this year, while winning 77 and coming in third in the NL West. The A’s, on the other hand, won 97, made it to the post-season via the Wild Card for the second year in a row, and brought in 1 662 000. that left them 18% below the AL average attendance.

Nor was that a “blip”. For Oakland, the attendance did rise a bit over 2018, and 2017 when their 1 476 000 left them 36% under league average, but still wasn’t good. A team with underdog personality makes the playoffs twice in a row and still draws about 5000 fewer fans a game than an “average” team. The last time they exceeded the league average was 2003. The Giants, on the other hand, have topped 3 million attendance 17 out of the 20 seasons this century, and winning or losing seems almost irrelevent to their fans. Granted a nice, new comfy stadium with plenty of boxes would probably appeal and help them draw more, but one has to question whether there is ever going to be enough interest in the team to bring out numbers, or enough interest in baseball to support two major league teams.

Las Vegas seems overdue, with a city population nearing 700 000 and a fast-growing metro area of 2 227 000, comparing decently at least to places like Kansas City and Minnesota. With its growing population and huge tourist trade, it would seem like a good spot for a team. And being in the far West, it wouldn’t require any shake up of the divsional structure. The A’s would still be a natural fit for the west.

The solution isn’t without problems though. Namely, no one seems to have come forward from Vegas to suggest they’d finance a team and its roster. More importantly, there isn’t a suitable stadium in the city. The AAA team, the 51s (or Aviators as they apparently have been renamed) play at Las Vegas Ballpark, a decent minor league facility with capacity of 10 000. Adequate for minors, not even close to major league ready. The move would necessitate a new stadium, and I dare say, with an average high of 100-degrees or more through most of the summer, a roofed one too (an opening roof would be ideal for those nice summer evenings or 75-degree desert April days). Who’s going to pony up for that, and how long would it take? Clark County isn’t likely to be much more accomodating than California’s Alameda County if they get asked to perhaps throw in half a billion dollars to help bring baseball to the city.

Bottom line. Baseball teams can move, and be successful. On the other hand, new owners and a new stadium can sometimes perform miracles for an existing one. Either way, I hope the A’s find a resolution soon. It’s too bad a team that has over-performed so much of late has so few fans and dollars to show for it.

13 comments

  1. badfinger20

    The Yankees Astros series might be really good.

    With Oakland, it’s hard to say if they will draw people with a stadium. That old stadium they play in was out of date in the 80s so their fans haven’t had the luxury of a comfortable place.

    I don’t understand why a team can’t be responsible to build their own stadium. They would reap the rewards if they did. The Giants built their own stadium…although MLB did not like them doing that because other cities could point that out.

    I’m not against cities paying for it but if ball clubs thought long term…building their own would make a lot of sense. They would get to keep everything without signing crazy leases. They would make money on everything that moved in the park.

    You are right though. Las Vegas would be a prime location and probably will get the next expansion team if not Oakland. Of all the teams though…Tampa is the one that should move…they have a non-existent fan base.

    I don’t trust ball clubs that say if they are given a stadium, they will improve their spending habits. Look at the Florida Marlins…” give us a new stadium and we will spend more money” yea that lasted a year.

    • Dave

      I agree with you on the stadiums. I’m much more in favor of government-involvement in many things than most Americans, I believe (function of Canadian upbringing) but I’m not a big backer of taxpayers footing the bill for fancy stadiums that make private corporations money. Besides, like you say, in the long run, wouldn’t the club owner benefit from taking all the advertising revenue, naming rights (The “Flo’s Low-rate Insurance That Costs 24% Less Than Geico Insurance Stadium At Clark County” anybody?) and part of the take home from concert tickets etc. instead of having those things go elsewhere and have to pay rent?
      No doubt a new stadium could help in Oakland (it would too in the FL Bay Area- apparently St. Pete’s is horrible to get to and it needs to be on other side of bay in actual tampa area) but not sure that it would be enough to make them financially relevent, which is a shame since the team is well-run and gets results. I think LAs Vegas would be good for them, and Charlotte for the Rays, but obviously, some one in those cities would have to come forward and new facilities would be needed.
      Wow, how about that Sanchez last night? Hadn’t even factored him in as a Washington strength…

  2. badfinger20

    The “Flo’s Low-rate Insurance That Costs 24% Less Than Geico Insurance Stadium At Clark County” That is great Dave! lol
    I think the Rays would go well in Montreal. There should be a team there again…if they would have been run right…they would still be there.

    I’m not against government involvement either to a point. Now I do believe the city or state should give some financial breaks to whoever builds the stadium. It brings jobs and increases foot traffic to their city. Both parties should benefit out the stadium but no… the city shouldn’t be on the hook for everything because they won’t be making a ton off of it… if anything.

    Green Bay is interesting…It’s the only publicly owned football team and in that case…I see building a stadium. I wonder if that would work in baseball? To the best of my knowledge, there is no other team in the 4 major sports owned that way…but that is a different story for a different post I guess.

    The Marlins really soured me on building a stadium for a team.

    • Dave

      True enough – I WOULDN’T object to the team getting a break on land tax or even having the land donated within reason, if it is municipally-owned land, because it should boost the local economy. But I’d draw the line at actually bank-rolling the stadium itself.
      Miami has been horribly run ever since day 1, World Series notwithstanding. A shame for the city and all the fans in that area.
      Milwaukee had a second chance with a team and it worked, perhaps Montreal could too. Obviously a new stadium would be a necessity- one of the only teams ever I reckon that had to play some ‘home” games in the opponents stadium because their own was unsafe to be in due to falling concrete! My thought though is actually Vancouver might be very good if Canada could get a second franchise. It’s a good size (similar to other “small” markets like Minny and Seattle), it’s growing fast, quite affluent and would be a great rival for Seattle (about 80 miles to the south) which doesn’t have one really right now. Plus, I think they have a stadium which is probably adequate with just a few cosmetic changes.

  3. badfinger20

    Yea I don’t like MLB pressuring cities to give in…When MLB looks at what Miami did how can they be surprised at other city’s rejection of it.

    Yes Montreal I think could make it and yes Vancouver would be fine. I know someone who wanted to move there so bad. He worshipped that city and wanted in but said you had to go through some things to get in. I never understood that.

    • Dave

      I saw yesterday that Elton John is living in Vancouver, when not on the road I guess.
      Both cities, as well as Las Vegas, Charlotte, Portland maybe your Nashville seem like good possibilities for either expansion or moving of A’s and Rays.
      Looking back a month, I would never have expected Washington to be looking like they were going to the World Series. Go figure. Guess by now any fans who were mad at management there over Harper are forgiving!

      • badfinger20

        It does strike me as funny….the Nationals break the bad playoff streak of not winning …. without Harper!
        That pitching staff is tough

      • Dave

        precisely what I was thinking – man, its got to make the Phillies fans even madder seeing how he fared with them this year and seeing what his old team does now without him. Not exactly a “franchise player” even if he does increase shirt sales.
        What’s surprising me is how many Canadian fans are backing the Nats because they USED to be the Expos, so many years ago!

      • badfinger20

        That is good to hear about them backing them. I want them to win. They are not as talented as the Astros or Yankees except…that pitching staff…if they continue to roll…they can take the Series.

      • Dave

        Well, Houston-Washington. Should be quite good. I give edge to Astros but could go 6 or 7 and maybe we’ll see some memorable pitching duels. What do you think?

      • badfinger20

        You know… The Nats have that something about them. I don’t believe in… I guess a destiny team but they are hot and if their pitchers keep this up… they could pull this off.

      • Dave

        they do have momentum and some great players but I still pick Houston. Could be a good series though . I was surprised Houston was SUCH an overwhelming betting favorite… would’ve thought oddsmakers would have it as somewhat close but they don’t.

      • badfinger20

        That surprised me also Dave…I saw that earlier…I get Houston being a favorite but they cannot dismiss that pitching staff.

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