Baseball writers: Team would fit in Vegas


Expansion isn't even under consideration, and neither is franchise movement.

So Las Vegas city planners, already faced with an economy in a downward spiral, aren't rushing to solicit plans for a new baseball stadium.

But even though Major League Baseball isn't coming to the valley anytime soon, that doesn't mean it shouldn't be here. Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo, who was in town this week covering baseball's winter meetings at the Bellagio, is all for a franchise in Southern Nevada.

"I've always been shocked there isn't a team here," said Cafardo, who covers the Red Sox. "It's a popular place for players. A lot of players live in this area or live in Arizona. I know it's a fun place for them to be. I know there's the issue of the gambling, but if you want to gamble, you can gamble anywhere in this day and age.

"There's a lot of interest in baseball in this area, a lot of transplanted people from places where baseball's important. Again, I'm just flabbergasted there isn't a team here."

Las Vegas was at least in the conversation twice.

The city was under consideration when baseball was looking to relocate the Montreal Expos in 2004 before they wound up in Washington as the Nationals.

In December 2004, Florida Marlins executives met in Las Vegas with Mayor Oscar Goodman.

Now the Marlins are targeting 2012 as the date to open a stadium in Miami. Not so certain is Florida neighbor Tampa Bay. The American League champion Rays are struggling to get a deal done.

Though questions remain, that doesn't mean the Rays are shopping around.

However, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times writer Marc Topkin, who covers the Rays, said Las Vegas would be on the short list of desirable cities for any franchise that includes Charlotte, N.C., Portland, Ore., and San Antonio.

"My ultimate answer is I think it's possible, but I don't think it's likely any time soon," Topkin said.

Legalized sports betting remains the biggest hurdle to getting a team, many writers acknowledged.

But Booth Newspapers' Steve Kornacki, who covers the Detroit Tigers, said baseball holding these meetings here indicates it might be softening its stance.

"They wouldn't be here if there was overwhelming concern about that," he said.

Opinions from other writers about Las Vegas' potential as a baseball city varied.

The Sporting News baseball writer Gerry Fraley: "This is my first time here. I'm a little taken aback. It looks like the economy is hurting here. I don't know if a tourist-based town can support a baseball team because of the fluctuations of the economy."

San Diego Union-Tribune Padres writer Tom Krasovic: "It's certainly a city that warrants scrutiny or strong consideration. I don't think expansion should happen anytime soon. There are probably more teams than there are good players available."

Chicago Tribune national baseball writer Phil Rogers: "I would think if it could support (baseball), it would be a solid candidate. As far as whether it could or not, I really don't have an informed opinion."

Former major leaguer Harold Reynolds, now an announcer with the new MLB Network, played Triple-A baseball at Cashman Field in 1983 and 1984 and saw the potential as a visiting player.

"You're always going to have people coming through," Reynolds said. "It's always going to have money. Back in the early days of the Pacific Coast League, you could tell they had a pretty good fan base.

"You've got some of the best shopping, some of the best everything in the country in Vegas, so that's always an attraction."

For the foreseeable future, the only professional baseball in Las Vegas will be the 51s, the Toronto Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliate.

"You can never predict what's going to happen," MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy said. "You wouldn't have known what was going to happen (economically) over the last six months, but right now the industry is stable financially. Our franchises are stable financially."

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.

 

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