People in Montréal say: Baseball, sure, that’d be fine

The folks trying to get a new baseball team in Montréal released a poll of residents yesterday, and, shocker of shockers, people there wouldn’t turn up their nose at a baseball team if one were handed to them:

The poll of 1,589 people taken by Leger Marketing showed 69 per cent were in favour of baseball’s return to the city. Only 11 per cent were opposed, and those mostly due to what it may cost.

It doesn’t look like the poll actually asked people what they’d want to spend to build a new stadium to get a team — the full poll results haven’t actually been released — but that’s certainly the plan. The Montréal board of trade is looking at getting a downtown stadium built for a potential team, and formerExpo Warren Cromartie said, according to the Montréal Gazette, that “three potential sites downtown have been identified, but he preferred not to say where.” The Gazette added that Cromartie “said his talks with Major League Baseball officials have been ‘very positive,’ but that there were some still opposed to a return to Montreal.”

All of which doesn’t add up to much: We knew that Montréal had a lot of baseball fans, that it’s big, and that MLB would be stupid to turn up its nose at putting a team there if it offered a new stadium. As when the Expos were still extant, though, the trick is going to be getting the stadium built, or rather figuring out who would pay for it. I wonder what ever happened to the money from that “buy a brick” campaign the Expos ran for their attempt at a new ballpark? Probably sitting in one of Jeffrey Loria’s desk drawers…

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.