December 29, 2009
I've always been intrigued by the thought of making New York a three-team town again and I love talking about the possibility whenever anyone brings it up.
Really, can you think of anything in baseball with more storylines? Anything that would cause more debates or grandstanding press conferences?
It'd be a blogger's dream and covering the saga and answering its myriad questions would probably require its own blog. Where would the team play? Would it be a transplanted franchise or an expansion outfit? What would its stadium look like? Who would pay for it? Who would become fans of this new team? What would it be called? What would the uniforms look like?
Oh yeah, how would the Yankees and Mets respond?
I bring all of this up because Tim Marchman of Sports Illustrated broached the subject in his latest column and suggests that adding a third team could be a market-robbing method of reigning in the Yankees and their spending.
"(Adding a third team) 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."
Marchman, of course, notes that baseball's territorial rights rules would provide a major roadblock and he's right. If Baltimore's Peter Angelos can hold off baseball's return to Washington for over a decade, could you imagine what the Steinbrenners could do with the power of baseball's flagship franchise? Still, Craig Calcaterra notes that the owners themselves could nix the territory rules themselves, which would be an easier route than instituting a salary cap, which would involve a bigger collective bargaining fight.
When it comes to Marchman's fracturing of New York, the Mets would be at much more risk of losing market share than the Yankees, who have built a luxury brand that many people equate with status. I suppose there's a point to be made about the Yankees pricing many fans out of their new stadium, but to borrow a page from noted thinker Kanye West, never underestimate the power of people who can't afford a car but name their daughter Alexis.
(In other words, there are plenty of people who will still watch on TV and buy jerseys, T-shirts and hats, even if they have no designs on stepping inside the new Yankee Stadium. Here's betting the third team would be more of a landing spot for disgruntled Mets fans.)
As for Calcaterra's thinking that owners approving a third team would be a relatively lesser path of resistance, I'm not exactly sure that I agree. There seems to be a code of honor among baseball's owners and I'm sure that not screwing with your neighbor's golden goose is among that code's top guidelines. A few of the cash-strapped owners would probably love to get their hands on their share of a big franchise fee, but I don't think there would be enough votes to sell out a few of their own. Those rich folks stick together.