Angelos accidentally makes argument for a DC franchise|
Peter Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles, argues that putting a team in DC would interfere with the Baltimore market. He argues that attendance would suffer if there was a team a mere 40 miles away. The argument is that "You wouldn't put another team in the same market with Boston or in the same market with St. Louis or the same market with Minnesota."
Hmmm, let's think. Boston did have two franchises concurrently for 51 years the Braves/Beaneaters and the Pilgrims/Red Sox. St. Louis had two as well and one of them became the Orioles. Minnesota has only had one major league baseball franchise, but they support the St. Paul Saints as well. (Living in the Twin Cities, they could put another major league franchise in St. Paul; attendance would probably exceed 2,000,000 for each if you pitted it as a rivalry. These towns hate each other).
Let's compare the history.
In 1953, the St. Louis Browns were struggling. While a scant ten years earlier, during the war, they made the World Series, they finished the season 54-100, the seventh straight season of 90 or more losses. Only 3,174 fans showed up to the final game, an 11 inning loss to the White Sox. They finished 46 1/2 games back of the Yankees.
The next day, baseball's owners agreed, unanimously, to move the Browns to Baltimore. The 1953 team included some interesting names: Satchel Paige; Don Larsen (Rookie); Vic Wertz; Max Lanier. Apparently, St. Louis fans were too close to their Cardinals.
In 1954, Baltimore draws over 1 million fans its first year in just 67 home dates, twice as many as the 1944 pennant winners. They finish 54-100, 57 games back.
However, there was already a team in Washington DC. In 1953, The Washington Senators finished .500 with about 600,000 attending the games. The next year, they lost 100,000 in total attendance, but for a much worse team (66-88). Until 1961, the team itself got worse and worse, never winning more than 63 games until their final season in Washington (1960). After that season, despite a resurgance in attendance (743,404) and the ball club (73-81), the team moves to Minnesota.
The American League immediately awards expansion franchise to Washington, D.C. following transfer of Calvin Griffith's franchise to Minnesota. Attendance for the newly arrived Twins is over 1,250,000 despite a 70-90 record and an awful rookie #4 pitcher named Jim Kaat. The new Washington Senators win only 61 games and draw 600,000. The third-place Orioles (91-57) grab 950,000 in attendance.
On Sept 20, 1971, with 10 days left in the regular season, the Senators get approval from the American League owners to move to Texas, to a 36,000 seat stadium (moving from RFK which held about 45,000).
Being the only game in town and having gone to the World Series and lost in seven should have boosted the Orioles attendance in 1972 right? No erosion should have been seen from those Washington leeches. Wrong. Baltimore drew over 1 million in 1971 and in 1972 drew just under 900,000 finishing third. In 1973, they crept back to 950,000 winning the division. Attendance was similar in 1974 and hit 1 million in 1975. It's not until the bicentennial year, 1976, that they eclipsed the 1971 mark.
But let's compare numbers for these four metro areas. According to the Census Bureau, here's a recent breakdown:
|Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN-WI||2,872,109|
|St. Paul, MN||256,213|
|Boston-Worcester-Lawrence, MA-NH-ME-CT ||5,667,225|
|St. Louis, MO-IL ||2,569,029|
|St. Louis, MO||333,960|
|Figures from 1999 estimates|
What's interesting about this table is that Washington-Baltimore has a 4 1/2 million population advantage over Minneapolis and almost 2 million over Boston. The Washington-Baltimore metro area is larger than San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA by a half million. Only Chicago-Gary-Kenosha, IL-IN-WI (almost 9 million total), Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County, CA (16 million), New York-Northern N.J.-L.I., NY-NJ-CT-PA (20 million) have
a larger population base to draw from than Baltimore. And last I checked, Chicago has two franchises, New York has two franchises, and Los Angeles has two as well. The number five market supports two franchises as well. So Baltimore, sole representative for the fourth largest metro area in the United States, has been experiencing a luxury to live without competition.
Essentially, Peter Angelos has the made the exact argument that Washington, DC should be given another franchise.
Portland-Salem, OR-WA has a metro population of 2,180,996 (503,637 in Portland itself). The metro area is larger than Cincinnati, Kansas City, and Milwaukee, just being beaten out by Tampa-St Petersburg-Clearwater, FL. Sacramento-Yolo, CA is larger than Milwaukee-Racine, WI (the smallest MLB market) by about 100,000. Taking half of the Washington-Baltimore metro area would still leave Baltimore move the market to the range of Seattle's metro area and still slightly larger than Oakland and San Francisco's market share and much larger than both Minneapolis and St. Louis. Seattle drew 3.5 million fans in both 2001 and 2002; San Francisco about 3.3 million both years; Oakland drew 2.15 million both years; Baltimore 3 million in 2001 and 2.6 million in 2002.
Peter, given that Seattle is a success, San Fran is a success, and Oakland, despite a 34 year old ball park, did okay as well; there should be no obstacle to maintaining current attendance levels. In fact, with a local rival, they might actually rise again. But to get more people to come, improve the product.
Just as an interesting note: The St. Louis Browns were themselves a moved franchise. In their inaugural season of 1901, they were Milwaukee Brewers they moved immediately and won 30 more games the next year. The New York Yankees actually began as, you guessed it, the Baltimore Orioles.