Friday, May 02, 2003

Talkin' baseball...

Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, took some time from his busy schedule (i.e., obstructing judicial nominees and regulating spam) to lobby Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to give Puerto Rico the Montreal Expos:

Dear Mr. Selig.

I am writing today in support of Puerto Rico getting its own permanent Major League Baseball team.

The strong ticket sales and exuberant crowd reaction to the four-game Mets-Expos series that ended Monday shows that Puerto Rico could support its own Major League Baseball team. Even for those of us who could only watch the games on television, the intensity of the fans at Hiram Bithorn Stadium came through loud and clear.

Over 65,000 tickets we sold to people who were eager to see a Canadian team play a team from New York. The crowd went wild for players from both sides, which bodes very well for the future of a team in Puerto Rico. As you know, baseball teams typically take years to build fan loyalty and ticket sales. Crowds coming out to see their favorite players on visiting teams will boost ticket sales in the crucial first years in the Puerto Rican market.

The experiment of playing big league games in Puerto Rico succeeded beyond anyone's expectations, and Major League Baseball now should give very serious consideration to giving Puerto Rico a team of its own.

Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator

If you're wondering why Chuck cares about this, keep in mind Election Day 2004 is fast approaching, and Schumer is looking to cover his re-election bases. New York has a large Puerto Rican community, and Schumer seems to think putting the Expos in San Juan will make his constituents happy. Not that this makes much sense. After all, Puerto Ricans living in New York who follow baseball are likely Mets or Yankees fans. More importantly, Schumer's economic analysis is wanting. The recently played Expos games in San Juan took place in an 18,000 seat minor league stadium. That's hardly a fair test of Major League potential. Plus you have the fact that there are two U.S. cities—Washington and Portland—which are much further along in the bidding process for the Expos than San Juan.

Schumer's San Juan-lobbying is particularly problematic for Major League Baseball given that other members of Congress have for years threatened to retaliate against baseball if they didn't put a team in Washington. Commissioner Selig must now decide which group of politicians to alienate in the process of making what is, and should be, purely a business decision. Granted, Schumer was simply currying political favor and is unlikely to act should baseball not relocate the Expos to San Juan, but that's not the point. Schumer had no business opening his mouth (in an official capacity anyway) on a private business decision of no relevance to his state.

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