Globe reporter says Rays could move to Montreal, because he’s in Canada and what else is there to talk about?

I didn’t report here on the news a few weeks back that former Montreal Expos outfielder Warren Cromartie was leading a campaign to bring major-league baseball back to Montreal, even though 1) Montreal is by far the largest vacant baseball market in the U.S. or Canada and 2) Warren Cromartie, people. Because it was pretty clear that nobody was going to take this seriously, even at the rumor level, not after MLB effectively salted the earth in Montreal by running a bare-bones team there for several years and then yanking it away to Washington, D.C.

But now it looks like I underestimated the North American sports media’s appetite for rumor, especially around opening day of a new sports season, when there’s nothing much else to talk about and tons of airtime to fill. So we have the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo saying on NESN before yesterday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays game:

There’s a lot of money behind this group, and they’re certainly undergoing exhaustive surveys and polls and research… Major League Baseball has been very good about going back to cities that have had teams taken away from them in the past… Montreal just figures that the economics of this is just a lot different from what it was eight or nine years ago when they lost the team, especially with the dollar being about of equal value now, revenue sharing, big TV deals…

Yeah, well, maybe. The Canadian dollar is indeed stronger, and TV deals are bigger now — though they’re bigger in other cities, too, so it’s not like that gives Montreal a big advantage over existing MLB sites. And it’s worth remembering that before MLB was “very good” about going back to Washington, D.C., it spent 33 years using that city as a threat to get other cities to build new stadiums, because Washington was just waiting out there, doncha know.

MLB has lacked that potent threat since the Nationals were created in 2005, but it sounds like Cafardo (or whoever he’s been talking to) is psyched to get Montreal on the map as Washington’s replacement as move threat boogeyman:

Obviously, you look at a team like Tampa Bay, would they move to Montreal? … If Montreal could build a new stadium with a retractable roof and guarantee some income there, would that be a viable possibility?

Then Cafardo immediately called the possibility of MLB returning to Montreal a “longshot” and said it “probably won’t happen anytime soon.” But not before his words got back to Tampa Bay. Before everyone freaks out too much: Just remember that not only doesn’t Montreal have a usable baseball stadium (or any plan for paying for one), but Cafardo has a certain weakness for defending lost causes.

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17 comments on “Globe reporter says Rays could move to Montreal, because he’s in Canada and what else is there to talk about?

  1. “Major League Baseball has been very good about going back to cities that have had teams taken away from them in the past…”

    Like Brooklyn? Sign me up! Now all we have to do is tear down the Barclay center or Atlantic Center or the Ebbets Field houses and we’ll be in business!

  2. The way Montreal got treated is always going to be a sore spot for me.

    And then, they went ahead and allowed Loria to buy another team. How did he get approved twice? If there ever was a time to fully utilize your MLB exemption, that would have been it.

    Gee, maybe the NBA will allow George Shinn to own some future Sacramento franchise, too. That would be a marriage made in heaven.

  3. Let’s humor the unrealistic idea for a minute. Olympic Stadium is just as crappy (if not worse) than Tropicana Field. I would assume the Canadian government is even more reluctant to build a new especially expensive retractable dome stadium. Soured public on MLB & it would be an American League team, so no rekindled rivalries.
    The only other possibility would be Oakland, and that would screw up the divisions, tho they could move the Blue Jays to the Central & the Royals to the West.

  4. Actually, Montreal does have a usuable stadium. The Big O can still be used for baseball on a temporary basis, or even permanently if it gets some quality renos and a retractable roof (currently under discussion).
    If a credible and deep pocketed potential ownership group comes forward, MLB will return to Montreal. It was a solid baseball market from ’69-’94, even a top tier market from ’79-’83. Other franchises like the Braves, Indians, A’s, Mets, Giants have had long stretches of patheric attendance over the past 40 years.

  5. Okay, so I was a little harsh on the Big O — I was at a game there circa 2000, and I didn’t run screaming or anything. As mp34 notes, though, it’s still a worse stadium (both in terms of aesthetics and revenue potential) than just about anything currently existing in MLB, so it’s hard to see an existing team move there without either a new stadium or such extensive renovations that it would amount to a new stadium.

    I like the idea of Montreal getting MLB back in the abstract, but you still need to figure out where the money would come from to build a stadium.

  6. I like the idea of killing 2 birds with one stone. The Big O will not be torn (700 million$, estimate) down but it is need of a major renovation to make it viable for sports and other events once again. There is also talk of the Expos returning and the need of a retractible roof stadium. There will be no public appetite to build a baseball only stadium when Montreal/Quebec has such a huge infrastructure defecit. Seems like a good opportunity to have the private sector partner with the government to upgrade the Big O with modern stadium amenities in exchange for event revenue considerations etc.The Big O has a lot of potential. It already has 30-35000 seats well configured for baseball and plenty of room to build private boxes etc. It is the most architecturally specatacular stadium in North America and it has 2 of its own Metro (subway) stops. The problem is making it seem less cavernous in baseball configuration. This could be acomplished with larger mobile seating sections in the outfield and esthetic improvements in the areas beyond the outfield fence.

  7. I was thinking about this yesterday (as I attended a Rays game). Doesn’t it make sense to move the Rays to Portland? They’re a big market, would give Seattle a great local rival. You’d have to move the Astros (and Rangers?) to the AL Central, and then the Indians (or Tigers?) to the AL East. If you move the Rangers, you get a 4, 6, 5 split which MLB is trying to avoid, but everyone is pretty happy with less travel, more home market hours, and a local rival.

  8. Montreal is a bigger market than Portland and a Montreal rivalry with Toronto Boston and NY in the AL east would be far more significant with no realignment required.

  9. I think if there’s one sport that Las Vegas would be good for it would be MLB. Again, there’s the stadium issue and people don’t go to Vegas to catch a ball game. But, for the locals the tickets would be cheap, you can go on a whim because of that, the games would probably have to be scheduled in the evening though because a Vegas afternoon in July would be brutal heat.

  10. cant wait for the smoke meat sandwiches and the Montreal nightlife. They deserve their team back

  11. Portland would be one of the smallest (and poorest) MLB markets, and it just converted its AAA stadium to be soccer-only. It didn’t get serious consideration when the Expos were being moved, and it wouldn’t today, either.

    Las Vegas is a much smaller market (barely 60% of Portland’s size in TV households), and has no resident population with money to speak of. There won’t be an MLB team in our lifetime unless the league lets a casino buy one as a loss leader.

    Montreal is far the biggest market without an MLB team, and has a decent history as a baseball town. They’d need to find a ton of money for either a new or renovated stadium, though, something that’s likely to be just as hard there as in Tampa Bay or Oakland — and Montreal isn’t obviously a better market than those cities. I expect there’ll be a team back in Montreal eventually, but I’d be stunned if it’s in the next ten years.

  12. Answering some of the comments in descending order…
    Hey MikeM, you weren’t paying attention when Bud the dealer pulled off one of his best ones. Loria was just a beard in Mtl., waiting till John Henry could unload the Marlins so he could get what he really wanted – the Red Sox! BTW – Mtl. was treated as any franchise would be if the ownership was such a mess.
    MLB will never allow a US-based franchise to move to Canada, It’ll be a field day for the pol’s in Cali. or Fla. flogging the tired old anti-trust exemption threat.
    To get to the point of using the Big Owe as a temporary location, MLB will force the city/province/fed’s to actually build a place and previous history as a guide that’ll take at least a decade. Would the Rays/A’s owners just hang around drawing (fewer) flies waiting years for Quebec to get it’s act together ($ wise)? No.
    “…need to figure out where the money would come from to build a stadium…” those little details that those pining for baseball like to overlook.
    The Big O will never house MLB again, any changes are like putting lipstick on a pig.
    It will always be cavernous.
    Portland is a non-starter for MLB, couldn’t even hold on to a minor league franchise.
    Vegas is even further out of MLB contention than Portland.
    I always liked the smoked meat & Labatt 50 but they don’t “deserve” anything, think like an owner not a fan.
    Whoever takes over for Bud, will be someone that he wants in the job and wouldn’t be in any hurry to double back on an important move by his predecessor.
    Even though affiliated minor leagues have fled Canada, Mtl. will have to find a minor league outlet to show and prove that the locals will spend.
    Most of the noise generated about this comes from nostalgia and emotion, MLB runs on cold hard cash flow.

  13. Saying this as a former fan of the Expos…

    Not happening. Ever.

    A bunch of posers wear jerseys and hats (which oddly became fashionable two years after they left) and yell about them coming back. The game of baseball is dead in Quebec, especially West Montreal.

    Stade Olympique is just not suitable to baseball anymore, and the renovations required would be far below Bud’s standards even as a honeypot to lure a team.

    The Expos in the 1960s were a symbol that Montreal was among the North American elite. In postmodern times, it doesn’t matter anymore. I’d say they could have been resuscitated, but not reborn.

  14. Sorry to split my comments, but to be clear, Montreal WAS a successful MLB city….when standards were different. When selling out the opener and then getting 23k a game was considered bankable. When you could bring a can of Coca-Cola to the stadium and get discounted cheap seats.

    T-Bay and Oakland would, if you put them in the 80’s, be considered successful MLB cities. The bar has just been raised so high by Boston/SF/NY etc., that the league expects 80% full plus a game. Montreal can’t, and will never be able to, do that.

  15. Olympic Stadium’s total cost ended up being $1.61 billion Canadian – for a stadium built in the mid-1970s & has some terrible baseball sightlines and doesn’t have the luxury suites or technology. Plus the interest just realistically isn’t there. The MLB market is over-saturated as it is & the only reason why ballparks got built in DC & Miami was because of shenanigans.
    The Portland rumors should finally stop by now.

  16. The only thing worse than MLB in Canada is MLB in Tampa. Portland should be next on MLB’s list. The weather’s obviously more conducive & both Oregon & Oregon State just made College Baseball Power Seeds. Baseball doesn’t have much influence up there- just as NHL doesn’t have much influence in Florida… Florida’s not a Hockey state & Canada’s not a baseball country. Simply looking at a map of MLB team by how they’re spread out makes Portland an even more obvious choice. I completely understand how Portland lost the bid to Washington DC when they moved from Montreal… that’s understandable, but they left for a reason! Canada is a great place, especially for the NHL & they deserve more NHL teams. 2 additional franchises to be exact. And a decent place for the NBA too, but fan turnout is anemic at best with MLB up there. Unlike the previous team to relocate several years ago- it’ll be infuriating if MLB overlook Portland the nest time a new city gets a new team & I’m not even an Oregon native. Johnny Pesky would roll over his grave if they did.

  17. Oh, and to the guy saying Portland can’t hold a minor league team… MOST minor league team fail in the long term due to players coming & going, so most place “can’t” support a minor league team… I mean, the Frisco Roughriders have a really nice stadium, but NO ONE goes to those games & Frisco, Tx has been in the top 10 fastest growing cities in America for the past decade. Minor league teams are a terrible formula for loyal fans, but the fact that anyone would correlate MINOR league teams to MAJOR league teams & deducing that- is not very judicious to say the least.

    The only reason they weren’t “seriously” considered is because they were up against the nation’s capitol… that speaks for it self. Moving baseball to Canada over Portland would be absurd! It makes since if you look a map. It makes since if you compare the weather. And the x-factor called the “be human & not a venture capitalist” is not purely about market size though that is vital- Portland the largest DOMESTIC city without an MLB franchise. Thereby the x-factor is culture. Oregon is relevant in college baseball right now & they would in MLB if people weren’t closed-minded. Some reason I have hope people will come to their senses, but maybe I’m being too reasonable…

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