A sports franchise is a defining aspect of a city. It gives residents something to rally around and, in the right circumstances/location, can help support a local economy.
While Major League Baseball is probably at its optimal number of 30 teams, it's hard to argue that the 30 teams are in the 30 best markets. Markets like Tampa Bay and Oakland have continually shown a failure to support their teams (even when they're winning), and Miami failed to support its team in 2012 despite a brand-new stadium (and fans are now feeling the repercussions, with the team dumping almost all of its payroll just after the stadium's opening, causing anger in the region from taxpayers who funded the stadium just to have the team's owner pocket almost all of the stadium's profits).
It's hard to imagine MLB expanding in the next decade or so, but with several markets failing to attract fans and the Marlins' debacle making it less likely that a city or state will publicly fund a new stadium, we may see relocation coming.
Here are 10 cities that deserve consideration for a major league team.
Lead image courtesy of invisibleagent.wordpress.com.
As the country's 12th largest city, Indianapolis deserves to be in the discussion for a major league team. It supports the NFL's Colts well enough to warrant a new stadium that opened in 2008 (having two franchise quarterbacks for the last decade-and-a-half has helped).
However, fans have failed to support their NBA team, the Pacers, who ranked 29th out of 30 in attendance in the 2011-2012 season.
Indianapolis has a Triple-A team (the Indians, who are currently affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates) and a jump to a major league team is not that far-fetched.
But the question for Indianapolis is: Would residents support the baseball team like they support the Colts, or the Pacers?
Until this fall, Brooklyn had been without a professional sports franchise since the Brooklyn Dodgers departed in 1957. Now it has the NBA's Nets, so why not bring baseball back to Brooklyn?
Brooklyn has about 2.5 million residents, which on its own would make it the country's fourth biggest city, and a well-placed stadium near subway lines would make it easily accessible from Manhattan and the rest of the region. With the support the Nets have received so far in the Barclays Center (filling about 94 percent of the arena, on average), a baseball team would be well-received.
It's unlikely either the Yankees or Mets would waive their territorial rights to Brooklyn, which would have to happen for the borough to get a team, so Brooklyn probably won't happen for Major League Baseball. But New York City certainly has the population to support a third team, and the franchise would probably be welcomed by Yankee fans frustrated with the team's reckless spending and Met fans tired of the team's mediocrity.
Picture courtesy of LasVegas360.com
It's only a matter of time before a professional sports team ends up in Vegas, so why not a baseball team?
The city's population is larger than other cities that do have teams (such as Atlanta, Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis), and it also has a larger tourism industry than any of those cities. There are enough people to go to games and enough casinos and business to purchase luxury boxes on a season-ticket basis or during conferences/conventions.
One problem Las Vegas will have in luring a team to the city is how it will handle gambling, both on the games and surrounding the players. But that can be resolved and the "Las Vegas 21s" can be baseball's newest team.
Despite not having a major league sports team, Louisville is a sports city. Residents love the University of Louisville's basketball and football teams, the Kentucky Derby is held in the city every year and the well-known Louisville Slugger baseball bats are made there.
Louisville is the biggest city in Kentucky and attendance for its Triple-A team, the Louisville Bats, is near the top of the International League every year.
A city this rich in American sports history deserves at least one professional team, and why not a baseball team?
San Jose has been close to getting the Athletics for the last few years, only to be stopped by the San Francisco Giants' territorial rights claim over the region.
Unfortunately, it does not seem like this issue is going to be resolved anytime soon.
San Jose is already a professional sports city, playing host to the San Jose Sharks of the NHL. The fans there love the Sharks. The team has averaged 100 percent attendance every season since 2008-2009.
It remains to be seen whether the City of San Jose will file a lawsuit to override the Giants' right to keep San Jose from getting a team or try to reach a settlement with the Giants, but if San Jose is able to get a team, it will bring Major League Baseball to America's 10th most populous city.
Oklahoma City only has one Big Four team at the moment (the Thunder of the NBA), but the city loves them. They've averaged close to 100 percent attendance in each of the last four seasons and have become one of the loudest arenas in basketball.
It's also only about 100 miles from Tulsa, another major city in Oklahoma.
There's every reason to think the city would support a baseball team, as well, which is what should make Oklahoma City appealing to a major league club. Not all markets have passionate fanbases and any city that will come out in droves deserves to have a team.
The State of Tennessee deserves to have a baseball team, either in Memphis or in Nashville.
Memphis has the country's 20th largest population; Nashville has the 26th.
Memphis has the Grizzlies (NBA); Nashville has the Titans (NFL) and Predators (NHL).
Both cities have big enough populations to support a baseball team and have shown already that they can support a major professional sports team.
If baseball does decide to go to Tennessee, the city to get the franchise may be the one that offers the most money to build a stadium.
Because it only has one professional sports franchise, San Antonio is not thought of among the country's biggest cities. But it's the seventh most populous city in America, bigger than San Diego, Dallas and San Francisco.
The city has had no trouble supporting the Spurs and has another major city within 80 miles of it in Austin, Texas' capital city.
A third team in Texas would be a lot, but it has the population to support another franchise and the "San Antonio Alamos" has a nice ring to it.
Portland has been rumored to be in the hunt for a major league franchise for several years, and it makes sense for a couple reasons.
First, it has a large enough population to support a professional team (almost 600,000 and growing). The city also loves sports, averaging a sellout this season for its Major League Soccer club, the Portland Timbers.
Second, Portland makes sense geographically. It's far enough from Seattle and San Francisco/Oakland that a team in the region would not step on any other teams' metaphorical toes but would also fit in with either league's West Division.
If the Athletics can't work out a deal with the Giants to move to San Jose, Portland would make a lot of sense for them. Because of its location on the West Coast, the A's could move to Portland without upsetting the current division structure of the major leagues like, say, a move by Tampa Bay would.
A baseball team in Portland isn't imminent, but it's probably close to the top of the list of options to get a major league team.
North Carolina is one of the highest population states in the country without a major league team and it's growing, including Charlotte, which has grown an estimated two-and-a-half percent in the last year.
Charlotte has an NFL team and an NBA team, supported by a wealthy population (Charlotte is the second-largest banking headquarters in the United States, hosting Bank of America's headquarters and Wells Fargo's East Coast headquarters).
Also within 100 miles of Charlotte are Greensboro, NC, and Columbia, SC.
Much like the geographic convenience of Portland for a move by the Oakland Athletics, Charlotte would be a logical landing spot for the Tampa Bay Rays if the team can't reach a stadium deal with Tampa or St. Petersburg.
With a potential major corporate sponsor like Bank of America or Wells Fargo (or both) in the picture, a stadium deal in Charlotte could be had.