You would think a state with a nickname as appropriate as The Sunshine State would embrace the boys of summer with a passion usually reserved for long lost loves. But the sun-splashed seats in Miami and the echoes heard at Tropicana Field in Tampa prove otherwise.
This is a state with three World Series appearances since 1997 and two Championships. This is a state with four play-off appearances since 1997. While the Marlins and the Rays have not been the poster children of success, consider the alternative.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, and Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos have a combined one play-off appearance in the same time period. The Marlins have been competitive for a number of years now, and the Rays have managed to stay competitive even after they gutted their team last year.
So where are the fans? While there may be plenty of parks that don’t fill their seats, none rise to the level of vacancy that the Florida Marlins do. Rumor has it a batter can hear a heckler shouting from the outfield bleacher seats. The Rays are not much better. With perhaps their best team in their short history trying to make a run through the 2010 play-offs, players were resigned to take to social media outlets in asking what it takes to fill the seats.
I think it’s time for a change of venue. If not for both teams, at least one. Assuming Las Vegas is not an option what with the rampant gambling, I’ve thought about the viable options and here’s what I’ve come up with:
1) Raleigh/Durham, NC – The North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland area of the east coast is a highly populated region. Travel through this region brings thousand upon thousands of visitors in addition to the residential population. The city has already proven itself able to sustain minor league baseball and professional hockey.
2) Memphis, TN – With professional basketball as it’s only real sports competition, Memphis could definitely support Major League Baseball. They would have to move the Triple-A ball club already there which could be troublesome. Another option would be Nashville, TN.
3) San Antonio, TX – If the 7th largest city in America can’t support a professional baseball team, I would be shocked. And at only 80 miles away, a team in San Antonio would essentially be a home team for Austin as well.
4) Sacramento, CA – With less competition from the coastal California cities, Sacramento could provide an exciting alternative to their NBA franchise in the form of a Major League Baseball team. The city is clearly large enough and they could bring fans from nearby Stockton and Modesto.
These are just a few alternatives. And while size of the city does not alway matter, as proven by Miami, each of these cities has a large enough population to support baseball theoretically. Whether it’s one of the above cities or somewhere else, it’s time for Florida to let go.