If you hadn’t heard yesterday’s afternoon news due to cramming for the NBA draft, the Tampa Bay Rays have gotten permission from the MLB commissioners office to explore becoming it’s first1 two-city team along with Montreal. The Expos were last an MLB team in 2004 when the team migrated south to the US capital and became the Washington Nationals and fans of the team have been clamoring to the MLB to either expand or move a team to its city for years. The Rays are the perfect match for this experiment as the team can hardly gather a crowd for a first-place team as is, and would allow the franchise to have a warm-weather home when the season starts in late March/early April.
BREAKING: The Tampa Bay Rays have received MLB's permission to explore becoming two-city team: the Tampa Bay area and Montreal, sources tell ESPN. The plan: Play early-season home games in the Tampa Bay area and finish the season in Montreal. News at ESPN: https://t.co/X6uSt4KLfC
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 20, 2019
This, of course, got me to thinking of the chances this becomes a fad. Small market teams using another city to help cushion some of the financial burdens that come with housing a team makes sense, while the new city would be able to enjoy MLB games for half the season. Fans of the Tribe and many writers here have been critical of the front office and ownership for not having enough cash on hand to be able to put a quality enough product on the field, imploring us to “enjoy him” when asked about Francisco Lindor and the chances the team forks over the requisite cash to sign the phenom to a long term deal. Imagine the influx of cash the team could see if they were to draft in a whole other city to the teams’ home games. So where and who would be the best matchup for Cleveland? Someone with the perfect combination of “wants an MLB team”, helps with the weather,2 fits within the AL Central division,3 etc. Let the record show I have (mostly) no idea if these cities have Triple- or Double-A franchises in them, there are simply too many minor league affiliates to rationalize all of it. Here’s my list:4
Not sure where they rank on the “Want an MLB team” rankings, but a matchup with Cleveland is as sweet as barbeque sauce. Nashville comes in at no. 23 in the top 50 of cities population-wise, so you know that there are enough people to possibly fill the stadium with fans, a necessity if this will work out. The climate would provide decent cover for the beginning of the year weather-wise, as anyone who has visited Pigeon Forge or gone to the Grand Ole Opry can attest…it gets quite warm in Tennessee. As an added bonus, the musical background of the city matches up perfectly with Cleveland’s Rock and Roll vibe, allowing for the new team name to take hold: The Rockers.
2: San Juan, Puerto Rico
There are few places like Puerto Rico and the feeling of the series played by Cleveland in the home country of Francisco Lindor and Roberto Perez was as breathtaking as almost anything I’ve watched in sports. Obviously, the weather speaks for itself, more than adequately replacing possible 40-degree Cleveland home openers with temps over 80 on the regular. And as much as it makes sense for MLB to expand back into Canada, getting into Latin America and setting up a pro franchise in the possible 51st state would be a great foothold. Plus there is the pandering to Lindor to re-sign with Cleveland so that he can play half his games at home.
3: New Orleans
The Bayou Bears, the new team name for the franchise, would be the only game in town, baseball-wise, for a city that loves its football. Does that translate to also loving baseball? Who knows? It doesn’t in Cleveland, as we can all attest, as the frenzy of Browns news over training camp schedules takes precedent over a Tribe team that is on the up and up lately. Maybe the synergy from the hometeam Pelicans getting Zion Williamson in the draft last night will connect up with the baseball team, ala 2016 when the buzz in Cleveland was hyped to the max after LeBron James and the Cavs won the title. Getting to June or July would still allow those in the swamp to be excited about LSU football.5
With all the buzz emanating out of Cleveland prior to the draft, trade talks galore about the No. 5 pick, JR Smith’s cap-clearing contract on the block, a possible Kevin Love trade…the NBA Draft ended up being kinda boring for Cavs fans. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited about Darius Garland, the point guard from Vanderbilt that only actually played in five games in college, but the night was built up to be so much more. Maybe it was Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charnia tweeting out the picks moments before the telecast, ruining the lead up to Adam Silver making the announcements. Maybe it was the fact that so much was already known ahead of time: Zion No.1, Ja Morant6 to the Grizzlies, RJ Barrett getting his wish to play for the Knicks, that by the time the Cavs were on the clock, it was boring.
As uneducated as I am about the NBA< I am excited to see what Garland can do next to Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman. As Sexton said last night when the idea that Garland would be the pick came to mind, I instantly thought of Portland and their two demi-guards,7 Damian Lilliard and CJ McCollum.8 For a more in-depth look at the picks, check out our Josh Poloha’s write-ups last night, as again, I am not the NBA guy. You can find Garland’s here, Windler’s here, and finally Kevin Porter Jr’s here.
Koby Altman said the Cavs spoke to Collin Sexton before the draft about picking Darius Garland. Said Sexton was “great” about it and immediately brought up Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) June 21, 2019
This much I do know about basketball: coring the most points is how you win most sporting events. Duh. And a team with Sexton, Garland, Osman, Kevin Love, Larry Nance JR, Jordan Clarkson, and others should have no problem getting the ball in the basket. Add in Kevin Porter Jr and Dylan Windler, the two “forgotten” picks at the end of the draft, scoring should be a hard thing for Cleveland to be able to do going forward.