MLB commissioner Robert Manfred held a press conference on Tuesday, during which he discussed several topics including ballpark security and Statcast data. One thing he mentioned was the possibility of playing major league games and/or putting expansion teams in Mexico. MLB has only played exhibition games in the country recently — six games of the World Baseball Classic were played there earlier this year. The San Diego Padres and Houston Astros also played two Grapefruit League spring training games in Mexico City in 2016.
The idea of playing MLB games in Mexico intrigues me.
When the World Baseball Classic was played in Jalisco, a state on the west coast of the country, this past March, the games saw attendances north of 14,000 and 15,000. This is significant because Estadio Charros de Jalisco, the stadium they used, only has a capacity of around 13,000.
The table below gives the exact numbers and dates:
World Baseball Classic attendances
|14,296||Mexico vs Italy||Mar 9, Thurs|
|14,806||Venezeula vs Puerto Rico||Mar 10, Fri|
|12,187||Vezezeula vs Italy||Mar 11, Sat|
|15,647||Puerto Rico vs Mexico||Mar 11, Sat|
|11,924||Italy vs Puerto Rico||Mar 12, Sun|
|1,783||Venezeula vs Italy||Mar 13, Mon|
The attendances cleared the stadium capacity three times out of six, two of which came when Team Mexico was playing. The drop in attendance for the final game is somewhat surprising, as it was a tiebreaker game to decide which team would advance to the semi-finals, but it was a Monday night game when the home country wasn’t playing.
Additionally, there is an independent league in Mexico that plays in the wintertime called the Liga Mexicana del Pacifico, or Mexican Pacific League. Founded in 1970, the league has eight teams, including the Charros de Jalisco, whose home stadium was the one utilized during the World Baseball Classic. Minor league and major league baseball players alike go to the Mexican Pacific League to play in the offseason, to hone their skills and get extra work in after their main seasons have finished. This shows that playing in Mexico is not an idea terribly foreign to many players.
Between the attendances beyond capacity and players already being familiar with the country, I think putting expansion teams there could be beneficial to MLB and to the game of baseball on the whole. Commissioner Manfred has been keen on attracting more and younger fans to the sport, and tapping into the thus far largely untapped resource of Mexico would be one way to accomplish that. The Mexican people are already fans of the sport — just not specifically of Major League Baseball. If Manfred decided to give them an MLB team to root for, I’m willing to bet they would do so. This would increase revenue, benefiting everyone involved in baseball, from the owners and fans to recipients of the league’s charities such as the youth baseball RBI program (Revive Baseball in Inner cities).
So overall I think it’s a good idea.
There are of course drawbacks to this. The MLB schedule would be more complicated. There would have to be an expansion draft from the current 30 teams, which isn’t fair to the players, owners and front office executives, or fans. You could argue that going through customs at airports and such would be an unnecessary delay, but the Toronto Blue Jays already play in another country so that’s not really an issue.
One potential problem is that of elevation. We all know how notorious Coors Field, the Colorado Rockies ballpark in Denver, Colorado, is for home runs due to the high elevation. A team playing in Mexico City — presumably where an MLB team would play, as it’s the country’s capital — would have even more of a fly-ball issue. Mexico City is 7,382 feet above sea level, about 2,000 feet higher than Denver.
None of these potential problems or inconveniences are insurmountable.
Sure, it’s a lot to think about. Expansion teams and where to put them is not a decision to be taken lightly. And putting an expansion team in Mexico would have even more to consider than someplace in the US. But at the end of the day, I like the concept.