23 November 2005

Marlins get permission to move from Florida

I'm wrapping all Marlilns-related items into a single post.
New Jersey has stepped into the fray with a plan to attract the Marlins. The plans would call for "retrofitting Giants Stadium into a ballpark," whatever that means. The Meadowlands lies in Bergen County, so if Jersey officials are able to work an agreement between the baseball team, the Giants, and the Jets, there'd still be a nasty little territorial rights problem to figure out. It's somewhat similar to the Giants-A's situation in that on paper, the Marlins would be invading the Yankees and Mets market. The Giants-A's relationship is much more nuanced, but should Jersey's very unlikely scenario go deeper into actual negotiations facilitated by the commissioner's office, it could make for some very interesting fireworks. Again, it's very unlikely.

Unable (or unwilling?) to bridge the funding gap for a new ballpark adjacent to the Orange Bowl, the Florida Marlins
received permission from MLB to talk to other cities. Among the likely candidates: Portland and Las Vegas.

This is, of course, straight of the stadium negotiation playbook. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria declared, "No longer can baseball in South Florida be assured." The Marlins lease at Dolphins Stadium ends after the 2007 season, at which point they could move free and clear with MLB's blessing.

Since that 2007 date coincides with the end of the A's lease (the A's have year-to-year options in 2008-10), it sets up an unusual scenario. The A's and Marlins could both move after 2007. Should that be the situation at that point, it sets up an strange dilemma for the teams and MLB: How can they extract the greatest number of concessions from bidding cities and original cities in an inherently less competitive environment? This isn't like the DC situation, where the principals decided to take care of the details after the team moved. MLB's motivations were a big payoff (which they'll get in the $450+ million franchise price) and a virtually free stadium (which they also got).

This time around, the proposal from Portland will be well-prepared (just as it was before) and Vegas will most certainly roll out the red carpet (though the funding as of now is still a mystery). MLB may not be able to execute the complicated buyout/exchange/contraction operation that facilitated the Expos move to DC, and there won't be a big difference in the Marlins' franchise value if they moved to either Vegas or Portland.

We in the Bay Area can only hope that the A's search for a ballpark doesn't devolve into the bidding war that the Marlins and Miami are entering. If the A's do, you'd probably have the A's dealing exclusively with Portland (vs. the Bay Area) and the Marlins dealing exclusively with Vegas (vs. South Florida). Not having another city from which a proposal could be sent means having one fewer bargaining chip. Could San Antonio or Charlotte enter the picture? I imagine that the Norfolk-Hampton Roads market is now out because of the Nats being in DC.


Anonymous said...

How does Salt Lake City compare?

tony d. said...

This is great news for Maury Brown and all the Portland Partisans. And despite Portands proximity to the Mariners market, I do support Portland landing a MLB team, possibly the Marlins...JUST LEAVE OUR A'S ALONE!!!

Anonymous said...

Do u think this is just a threat to Miami as it has been with previous teams? If you take a look at the past, almost any team that has a new ballpark had to first threaten to leave the city if one wasn't built. And why Portland or Las Vegas? Or even more why Charlotte?

Marine Layer said...

I'll try to get these in order.

1. SLC is small, less than 200,000 in the city and 1.3 million in the metro. Some like to lump in the Wasatch Front, but even that gets them to somewhere around 1.8 million, and that's so spread out it's like lumping Sacramento in with the Bay Area. It's not a terrible radio/TV market, but it's smaller than Portland.

2. The first thing the PDX people have to do is revise their cost estimates and financing plan, reflective of the recent hikes in construction and materials costs. I look forward to seeing that plan.

3. Like I said, this is part of the playbook. Don't be surprised if the A's go the same route should talks with Oakland fail. Though at least with the A's, there appear to be fallback options (Fremont, San Jose). Portland and Vegas are brought up because they were in last year's bidding for the Expos. Portland's already got their machine going, and Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman's probably working the phones right now. San Antonio and Charlotte were both mentioned as possible suitors at one time, but both have just built new arenas with public money. San Antonio is also thinking NFL right now.

Anonymous said...

I hope that the Marlins move to Portland. That would be an excellent city for them. Honstely the Mariners can have no complaint to that. Look how close so many other teams are, there is no way they can claim 2 whole states! Plus the M's get a lot of fans from B.C.

If the Marlins do move to Portland it would also be easy to realign the league. Just move Pittsburg to the east (they'll play more games with cross state rivals Philly which I think would generate more revenue). And then the west would have 6 teams and the central would have 5 each.

Anonymous said...

I mean "... the west would have 6 teams and the central and east would have 5 each."

peanut gallery said...

I think you're right, ML, this is largely a symbolic threat at the moment. But if it should play out with the Marlins moving, I think that is good news for the A's staying local. Why? Well, it will mean one less reasonable market to attract them. Really, none of the available markets are sizable enough to warrant a move. If the Marlins take Portland, there's not much else out there. I don't think Vegas is very realistic due to the sports books and the casinos' desire to keep people in-house, not out at baseball games. The rest are all third-tier cities - less than half the size of the Bay Area. Why move to a much smaller market? Even if you have it all to yourself, your total addressable market is smaller. No business wants to do that.

What do you think? Is this just wishful thinking on my part?

Kevin said...

It is quite possible the A's would go the same route as the Marlins. But think about it for a second.

If given the choice, I think Wolff would rather have a team in SJ than in Oakland, or anywhere else in the Bay Area. What's his next move come April 2006 should Oakland not come through? Does he burn that bridge and move on to San Jose and/or Fremont, or does he give Oakland more time but still threaten them with a move? Turning his attention to San Jose certainly won't gurantee him anything, what with the territorial and voter approval issues. And, with all due respect to the citizens of Fremont, I really don't think he wants to relocate to Fremont.

The Marlins' situation only complicates things for Wolff. What if none of the Bay Area sites workout? Wolff will then be forced to look elsewhere. He would then be competing with the Marlins for the better market, whether it be Vegas, Portland, San Antonio, etc.

The next 6-8 months should be very interesting. Or course he could right now be sitting back sipping his cup of coffee knowing that MLB will force the Giant's to give up their territorial rights:)

Maury Brown said...

Here's where one starts on this bit of news, "Hello, Mr. Samson. We'd like to open up a dialog when the time is appropriate." Certainly the Marlins are going to see what options transpire in South Florida now that the relocation threat is very real.

Calls have been made... things are in motion... Portland, like any other jurisdiction, will need to move on the Marlins timetable. Far too early to say the Marlins are all out of options in South Florida, but it does give a relocation candidate, such as Portland, the ability to pursue matters outside of scenarios of the purely hypothetical.

Anonymous said...

Who really knows what will happen with the A's. But my bet is that 10 years from now we will probably still be having this conversation. Whatever options Wolff has will take some time. People fail to realize that the public, the money, and the building of a stadium all takes a significant amount of time to deal with each. So the A's will more than likely christen their new ballpark in say 2014?

Anonymous said...

Who really knows what will happen with the A's. But my bet is that 10 years from now we will probably still be having this conversation. Whatever options Wolff has will take some time. People fail to realize that the public, the money, and the building of a stadium all takes a significant amount of time to deal with each. So the A's will more than likely christen their new ballpark in say 2014?

I whole heartedly agree with the above statement. The OAKLAND A's will still be here in Oakland, but I truly believe they will be playing in a new park. Either north of the existing site or somewhere downtown. Remember how many times they were moving to Denver and other far flung cities before?

So lets not panick and believe they will remain in Oakland, not San Jose nor Fremont.

Georob said...

When all is said and done, does this all just come down to who can get a ballpark up first?

Regardless of the size and viability of those markets, I often wonder what would happen if someone in a place like Salt Lake, Nashville, Charlotte, Vegas, or even Honolulu just put up a stadium with no commitments from MLB. I think they'd have a team within 5 years, that's what.

Why did Oakland get the A's back in '68? It's because they had a FINISHED stadium ready to go. Not on the drawing boards or under construction, but finished. The same thing happened this past year in DC. RFK is as flawed as our Coliseum, but it was THERE, READY, and USABLE(at least for a few years)

No other city can say that

tony d. said...

Damn Raiders!!
For the record, a hypothetical move of the Marlins to Northern New Jersey is not similar whatsoever to an A's move from Oakland to San Jose. Something similar to the A's relocating to San Jose would be the Mets or Yankees moving to the New Jersey Meadowlands (with the region remaining a two-team market). Let's not forget that the A's are already a part of the Bay Area market and that San Jose is not trying to attract a MLB team from thousands of miles away, thus making the Bay Area a three-team market.

jrbh said...

I've thought for years that one of the answers to the dominance of the Yankees is getting another team in that area. I think it would be great for baseball if the Marlins moved to the Meadowlands.

Georob said...

New York had three teams for a long time with no problems, and the population of the region has probably doubled(at least)since 1958. Of course the Mets and Yankees will cry that a big chunk of their current fan base comes from the Jersey suburbs, just as the Giants claim that San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are where their core fans live.

I know little about the territory up there, but I would guess that if the Marlins were to look deeper into New Jersey(to satisfy any NY concerns), they would then risk upsetting the Phillies fan base in the southern part of the state.

MLB needs to venture into new territories, and if Lew Wolff can pull off his plan to finance a stadium by way of selling condos and surrounding commercial space, we're going to see it repeated elsewhere; possibly opening the way for Portland, Charlotte and other places that in the past would have been shut out.

Marine Layer said...

The New Jersey market will always be attractive based on the sheer size of the tri-state area. But we're forgetting that several generations of fans have been raised as Yankees or Mets fans, and that just because a team is planted in the Meadowlands doesn't mean people will see it regularly.

The attendance for the two indoor sports (Nets, Devils) have been abysmal. Why would that improve for a Meadowlands-based baseball team? NJ Transit only has buses going to the Meadowlands. A ballpark in Northern NJ might follow attendance patterns similar to Milwaukee, where Cubs games are the only guaranteed sellouts (Yankees/Mets in NY).

jrbh said...

The media deals alone would make putting a team in New Jersey worth it, and New Yorkers had no trouble adjusting to the Mets when they appeared on the scene in '62. I don't know why they'd have any trouble with the New Jersey Pine Barrens, or whatever they'd be called.

Marine Layer said...

The Mets were placed in Queens to address the obvious void created when the Dodgers and Giants left Brooklyn and Manhattan, respectively. Thus the blue and orange colors. There's been no such void in Hoboken. Or Newark. And the value of broadcasting deals stems in part from the popularity of the team. Planting a team in NJ won't automatically assure them of a 1/3 share of the total media pie. In fact, it is entirely possible that such a team would have to position itself as the low-cost alternative to the other two. That makes sense when talking about airports, but major league baseball teams?

IIRC, "Pine Barrens" was one of the better "Sopranos" episodes.