Dec
30

Thoughts on a third team in New York

By

During Monday evening’s Open Thread, I explored a few economic theories behind the upcoming round of collective bargaining negotiations. As always, the Yankees and their huge economic advantage over nearly every other baseball team will be at the forefront of the 2011 efforts to renew the CBA, and I sketched out a rough idea for a salary floor.

As economic solutions go, a salary floor isn’t an ideal one. Although it would force teams such as the Marlins to spend rather than pocket their revenue sharing dollars, it would create more problems than it would solve. In fact, by forcing teams to meet a minimum salary threshold, baseball would create inflation. To reach the salary ceiling, some teams would be forced to overpay for mediocre talent, and the ripple effect of those contracts would lead to higher salaries — and fewer teams able to afford those players — at the top. That’s bad news for everyone.

With these and other institutional hurdles to a salary cap/floor system, smart baseball minds will look at other ways to rein in the Yankees. In Sports Illustrated this week, Tim Marchman proposed a third team for the New York area. The Yankees, he says, are right now playing within the rules of a system designed to penalize them, and it has mostly stopped accomplishing that goal. They paid $220 million for a World Series winner in 2009 and appear willing to go high in 2010. So let’s add a third team. He writes:

According to the measure used by the Office of Management and Budget, the New York metropolitan region numbers about 19 million people. In other words, New York has one MLB team for every 9.5 million people. Chicago, by this measure, has one for every five million people, just as Miami and Atlanta do. Los Angeles has one for every 6.5 million people, as do Dallas and Philadelphia. (This doesn’t even take into account New York’s vast, inherent wealth.)

As we learned a decade ago, baseball at large is quite willing to jury-rig a silly tax system that only works against the Yankees, because everyone else benefits, be it poor teams getting handouts or rich teams who see the Yankees ever so slightly chastened in their spending. With the collective bargaining agreement coming up for renegotiation, a bad economy and a Yankees team that looks like it will be ferociously good over the next few years even if the likes of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera begin their inevitable decline, it’s quite likely that their continued high spending will provoke some new set of ineffectual regulations meant to reign them in a bit.

The better solution would be to place a third team in New York. That would bring the town’s population:team ratio down to the level of Los Angeles or Philadelphia, and with the same number of people and dollars chasing more baseball, would quite likely bring Yankee spending down a hair without doing anything punitive or unfair.

He further elaborated on this point in a blog post on his personal site. He admits that this plan is both unlikely due to the territorial rights the teams own and unlikely to succeed due to New York’s huge size. After all, the Yankees would still be the top team in town; they would still sell out most of their games; and they would still draw record ratings on TV. Another team in the area would simply become another big market, high spending team that would. As he puts it, “Even with a third team, there would still be about as many people per team there than there are in any other market, and they’d be playing to probably the most baseball-mad population in the country. In the end, it’s about providing baseball to people who want it.”

From a New York point of view, I’d love to see a third team in the city. I’d love to see the regional rivalries reemerge as they did when my dad and grandfather were growing up in New York. I’d love to see three teams compete for air time and fan allegiance. I’d love to see borough-based baseball rivalries renewed, and baseball fever truly grip the city.

It won’t, though, happen. The Yankees and Mets won’t waive their precious territorial rights. The city won’t fund construction for another baseball stadium, and New Jersey isn’t about to foot the bill for a ballpark either. For better or worse, we’ll just be stuck with the Yankees and Mets. A third team also would not address baseball’s financial imbalance.

In the end, we just have to ask if it’s truly a problem. Should we care that the Yankees — as Marchman says, the richest, most powerful team playing in the “richest, most powerful city in the country” — lord over the rest of baseball? Maybe for the health of the game, we should, but I am not ashamed to root for U.S. Steel. Third team or not, it’s a grand life rooting for the Yanks, and the fact is that baseball probably won’t be able to do a thing about it in 2011.

Categories : Musings

48 Comments»

  1. jmas12 says:

    Being purely honest and objective, adding a third team would hurt the Mets more than the Yankees. At least in the immediate future. Maybe a generation or two down the road it would help the competitive balance, but not in the next 25 years.

  2. jsbrendog says:

    my question is where would this theoretical team play? the al east? nl east? it would create an imbalance (even mroe than already exists) divisional division (/division’d!!)

    would it be an expansion team that would water down the available player talent pool, especially for pitchers? or would it be a transplant, a moved organization, even further knocking the divisional balanc eout of whack

  3. AJ says:

    Benjamin is one of the best blog writers out there, great piece.

  4. anon says:

    A cap will never work. The Yankees will find a way. Just like the sex changing dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. The Yankees will find a way.

    Worry about the teams at the bottom. Either fix them, move them, or remove them. The Marlins are no way to run a franchise. Its not enjoyable for anyone watching.

  5. CountryClub says:

    The Yankees have ruled baseball for almost 100 years…and the game is still thriving.

  6. yankee1977 says:

    Tim Marchman mention’s in his article under the “rich get richer” that in the NY area there is 9.5 Million people each for the yankees and the mets but its funny he fails to mention Redsox at all. The redsox has a bigger market having 14,303,542 million people according to Wiki(2008 estimates)in the new england to have all for themselves. Should there be a 2nd team in New England?

    • 28 next year says:

      but teh Red Sox are a small market team…

    • While the Sox do misrepresent the size of their market in order to make their market seem smaller than it is, it’s also misleading to say their market includes all 14M+ people in New England. That includes areas of CT that are closer to NY than Boston and areas of other states that are very far from Boston – that population is very spread out and part of it isn’t really in close proximity to Fenway. The more accurate question would be whether there should be a second team in Boston, not New England. Where else in New England are you going to put an MLB franchise? Providence? Hartford? Those probably aren’t viable MLB markets.

  7. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    Well, maybe if people would have kept rooting for US Steel, there would be a US Steel.

    /missing the point’d

  8. AndrewYF says:

    “It won’t, though, happen.”

    Why not “It won’t happen, though”? C’mon, Kabak!

  9. HC says:

    As a Yankee fan I’d welcome a team in Brooklyn, the only realistic place I can think for a new stadium (Red Hook w/enhanced train/bus/ferry access). Everyone always says NJ but there is no city in NJ and nobody wants to go to a suburban stadium (although Bailout Park is fairly suburban there is subway access). Look at the joke the NJ Nets and Devils were in The Meadowlands- football works anywhere, baseball should be urban.

    As a Yankee fab I’d much prefer to waive the territorial rights as long as every other team waived their rights. As far as your estimate of Bostons addressable mkt, not sure you can count all of New England as Southern CT is fairly split. Still, they are isolated from competition by mountains and the ocean. If a team like The Rays decided to move there where would they go? I lived in that crap town for a brief period but don’t remember much about it.

    • “As a Yankee fan I’d welcome a team in Brooklyn, the only realistic place I can think for a new stadium (Red Hook w/enhanced train/bus/ferry access).”

      A related question would be: Where would MLB have to put the new team in order to get the Yankees and Mets to agree to waive their territorial rights? If they were amenable to thinking about waiving their rights, the only place I can think of that they’d allow it to happen, that’s in close proximity to NYC, would be in New Jersey. Neither team is going to allow a team to build a stadium in Manhattan, and the Mets would never allow another MLB team to exist in Long Island or Brooklyn (the Yanks probably wouldn’t allow it, either).

      • HC says:

        The Yanks/Mets might waive it in return for no salary cap or revenue sharing and an agreement that every other teams territorial rights are also waived. NJ is Yankee territory right now. BK is supposed to be Mets b/c Wilpon thinks they are the BK Dodgers but there are actually more Yanks fans there. Put a team in Red Hook.

        • “The Yanks/Mets might waive it in return for no salary cap or revenue sharing and an agreement that every other teams territorial rights are also waived.”

          Maybe for the first part, but definitely not for the second part. Why do the Yankees or Mets care if other teams waive their territorial rights? How does that help the Yankees or the Mets? What does it do for them? That’s not a useful concession for the Yanks/Mets to seek in this situation, the territorial rights of other teams are completely irrelevant to them in this context.

          “NJ is Yankee territory right now. BK is supposed to be Mets b/c Wilpon thinks they are the BK Dodgers but there are actually more Yanks fans there. Put a team in Red Hook.”

          We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. While none of this is realistic, in the incredibly unlikely instance that the Yanks/Mets agreed to consider allowing a third NYC area team, I think it’s a virtual certainty that they would not allow that third team to play within the borders of New York City. Both the Yankees and Mets draw a lot of fans from Brooklyn, in particular, and I just can’t see them giving up a territory within the city that they own.

          The Mets, in particular… In addition to the fact that the Mets think they’re the modern-day Brooklyn Dodgers, which we may think is silly but they don’t (and their opinion and perception of reality is what matters here, not ours), they also draw most of their fans from Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island. Why would they allow a team to move into Brooklyn and take a good portion of the Long Island crowd? I’d argue a team in Brooklyn would steal a lot of fans from the Mets, since LIRR runs right into downtown Brooklyn. The Mets would never, NEVER, allow another MLB team to play in Brooklyn. It’s complete a non-starter. Brooklyn would be one of the first locations, if not the first location, taken off the table.

          And, even if I assume they would put a team in Brooklyn… Red Hook? I mean, maybe, I guess… But, like you said, you’d have to substantially upgrade the public transportation to get there… I mean, there’s no subway to get there. You can take the F to Smith/9th and walk a bit, but come on… It’s the freaking F train, and it doesn’t even actually go to Red Hook. And even if you fix the public transportation problem, you have to deal with the fact that putting a team in Red Hook would create intense traffic issues.

          I don’t know, man… The big Red Hook residential rush didn’t really work out the way people thought it would. There are myriad reasons why Red Hook is a weird little isolated area, and all of those reasons cut against it being a viable location for an MLB franchise.

  10. Hughesus Cristo says:

    The Braves’ territory is insane. Must be like 40 million people with little to no regional competition.

  11. Evil Empire says:

    While I don’t see a third team in NY happening anytime soon, I do think it would be fun to see another expansion eventually.

    NOLA seems like the most viable market for a new team, from my amateur lens.

  12. A third-team in New York wouldn’t bother me, but what has been bothering me is the idea that they can just come in and drop a new stadium here somewhere in a location people will want to go to and it’ll be no big deal. Since this SI article came out, I’ve been getting annoyed all over because people seem to think that’s just how it will go.

    The idea that they’ll just come in and eat the Yankees market share is also funny, since that didn’t happen before when the Yankees took over the city in the first place.

  13. A third team to take some of the Yankees market share wouldn’t work.

    The Yankees are a marketing machine with the richest history in all of competitive leisure, next to Monopoly of course.

    An upstart expansion team would have little to no fans and like previously was mentioned, probably just Mets fans that face palmed yesterday when Jason Bay was signed.

    It would take a decade for any real impact to be felt and again, it wouldn’t be for the team in the Bronx.

    Pittsburgh could use another team though, just so Pirates fans can not be Pirates fans anymore and can start with a clean slate. That’s an idea worth exploring.

  14. Chris says:

    I would add 2 teams, go to 16 teams in each league, and change from 3 divisions to 4. The second team should probably be in Vegas or Portland.

    AL East: Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, New NY Team
    AL North: Indians, Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays
    AL South: Rangers, Royals, Rays, White Sox
    AL West: Angels, Mariners, A’s, New West Coast Team

    NL East: Mets, Phillies, Nationals, Pirates
    NL South: Braves, Marlins, Astros, Diamondbacks
    NL North: Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, Cubs,
    NL West: Rockies, Dodgers, Giants, Padres

    • Just a nitpick, but flip-flop the ChiSox and the Tribe (Chicago is further north than Cleveland) and call the AL South the AL Central.

      You also have some alignment issues that might necessitate some reshuffling. For example, I don’t think the Braves and D’Backs can/should be in the same division, and having the Rays in a division with teams in Dallas, KC and Cleveland or Chicago seems less than optimal.

      • Charlie says:

        I agree.

        But at the same time, I’m pretty glad Chris put the new NY team in the AL East. I actually think this would accomplish both the job of attracting revenue and attention away from the Yankees and also drawing interest to the Mets. The Mets would become somewhat unique; the only NL team in New York, whereas the Yankees and the new NY team would compete for attention much the way the Dodgers and Giants did.

        I’m aware it will never happen, but I’ve long thought this the best idea for baseball. In general, it would bring more attention to the sport. But more specifically, you can’t take revenue away from teams that get it, it’s anti-competitive. Rather, relocate teams to locations with better revenue and encourage them to take advantage of it. On a side note: I’d also like see to see a team an NL in Vancouver.

        I was debating this with a friend recently, and we wondered, what would you call this team? The Highlanders is obviously out. The New York Americans? I don’t know, I’m stumped.

      • Chris says:

        The problem with the Rays is that there aren’t any AL teams near them, so whatever division you put them in is a problem. Perhaps the solution is to swap the Rays and Diamondbacks.

        Then the NL South looks like: Braves, Marlins, Rays, Astros

        And the AL Central is: Rangers, Royals, White Sox, Diamondabacks

        That would address both issues in one move.

  15. The other thing I just thought of is that it could quite easily turn into a Dodgers/Giants vs Yankees dominating the world again if everybody had all this magical New York money and that would probably be very bad for MLB’s national audience, no?

  16. Michael says:

    Maybe Bloomberg will buy the Dodgers and move them back to Brooklyn.

  17. That would be a terrible idea. The traffic is awful on game days as it is. This would just cause more congestion.

    Also who would root for this third team? The fan base in this area is already established. It would take decades before they could establish a real fan base.

  18. Boogie Down says:

    The new team would only serve to hurt the Mets fan base. Yankee fans aren’t going anywhere.

  19. Bo says:

    The people that want a team in Brooklyn arent dealing in 2010 reality. The borough doesnt have the same demographics that it had in 1945.

    If they had put a team in the area they’d obviously move it to North Jersey.

  20. [...] concerns — and concludes that such a move is more of a pipe dream than anything else. I’ve explored the idea before, and while it makes for some good discussion, it probably won’t [...]

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