I know you’re all dying to hear what I think about the debate that’s been dominating discussion in this great land of ours. I shall not disappoint you: I think it was scandalous how Major League Baseball has treated the city and fans of Montreal over the past ten years. Make no mistake, Montreal in all honesty does not deserve to have an MLB team. However, the governing body of the game has done little over the years to make it easier for a team to succeed in the game’s oddest market (Different economy, different culture, different language). Beginning with the 1994 strike that kept one of the most talented teams in recent memory from getting an opportunity to play in the post-season, nothing good has happened to the Montreal Expos. The owner that kept them afloat moved on when the game couldn’t solve its labor problems. A new owner quite literally ran the team into the ground only to be given a primo deal to buy the Florida Marlins (which he may soon move to New Jersey if he has his way). Meanwhile, the league has run the team for the last three years in the biggest conflict on interest in the history of professional sports. A franchise that had cranked out as much talent as anyone for ten years was suddenly left with only a few decent players and little chance of retaining them. All the while, they were held out like raw meat to cities hungry to snatch up a team of their own. Finally, Washington, DC gained the honor this week of giving baseball yet another chance.
Why does any of this matter? Didn’t I just say Montreal probably doesn’t deserve a team regardless of what MLB has done to them in recent years? It matters because the league basically killed a franchise and no one objected. They couldn’t get a big money owner in Montreal. However, someone in DC, Virginia, Portland, Las Vegas, or some other city would probably be willing to shell out the money for ownership all while getting tax dollars better spent on schools, road, or law enforcement from local governments for a fancy new stadium. What happens when there is no longer Wal-Mart money behind the Royals, the team continues to play poorly, and Kaufman Stadium only gets 12,000 fans a night? Who’s to say the league won’t step in, make things worse than they are, all the make sure Mark Cuban or some other billionaire buys the team and moves them to New Orleans? What if ownership in Oakland gets sick of playing at the Coliseum and the Giants’ claim on the San Jose market? Will MLB make sure the A’s franchise withers up and nearly dies so that the baseball hotbed of Charlotte gets a team? Cities need to lose their franchises fair and square, not with the assistance of the sport’s governing body.
It’s time for regime change. Bud Selig, probably the worst commissioner in the history of professional sports, needs to go.