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MLB in Las Vegas? It’s not as crazy as it sounds

Updated August 3, 2019 - 7:59 pm

It’s safe to assume now that there are legs to the notion Las Vegas might one day house a Major League Baseball team, perhaps not as swift as those of Adalberto Mondesi but sturdy all the same.

Henderson sure seems tired of acting the part of bridesmaid when it comes to featuring professional sports across Southern Nevada, the city’s latest push into such a domain being discussions with the Arizona Diamondbacks about relocating them from Phoenix.

In records obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the newspaper reported this past week that Henderson officials last year had conversations with the Diamondbacks regarding such a move.

There were slideshows and renderings of a retractable roof stadium that reportedly would carry a $1 billion price tag, development plans for retail and offices and residential buildings, and even a few emails between the parties screaming with excitement.

I’m not a big exclamation point guy, but they sure made things appear as if this was more than a passing idea.

The Diamondbacks then told the Review-Journal that their central hope always has been to remain in Arizona, which is exactly what you say when a report leaks that you never wanted made public and feel a need to backpedal so as not to completely tick off those in the league office.

Or this is all just a leverage play against Phoenix, which is as plausible a truth as any.

The team denied that.

Of course it did.

But things seem far enough down the baseline that the same question should be asked as when the city of Las Vegas and Golden Knights owner Bill Foley expressed separate interests recently about bringing Major League Soccer to Las Vegas: Does the country’s 39th media market really need to add another professional sports team and challenge for even more discretionary dollars?

When it comes to baseball, it’s simple: Owners don’t care.

Heck, a third of them really don’t even try to win. There is tanking all throughout the game every year.

TV contracts, national and local. Internet. Luxury tax. Teams make hundreds of millions of dollars whether you show up or not.

The Miami Marlins made $224 million in revenues last year.

They get like 10 people to games.

That’s baseball in 2019, man.

So even when you see a near-empty stadium in Miami and sparse crowds in Tampa and the Diamondbacks struggling to draw 27,000 on a good night, the idea that such disinterest also could find its way to a venue in Henderson might be true but certainly isn’t a deal breaker.

Those inside baseball want 32 teams. They no longer want those fighting for a postseason berth to be playing interleague games in the final weeks of the season. They also now realize that weeks of spring training in Florida and Arizona can negatively affect those teams in their markets once the season begins.

You have a commissioner in Rob Manfred who more than once has said how Las Vegas is a viable market for a team. I’m not sure it is, but that won’t stop billionaire suits from looking this way.

They saw the instant success of the Golden Knights and have read about how well suites and tickets are being sold for the Raiders and want in on the party.

Change is coming

It wouldn’t help the Aviators or their sparkling new ballpark in Summerlin at all, because if you’re going to spend a small fortune on a craft beer, well, you’re most always going to choose a major league product.

I’m guessing Henderson doesn’t care much about the local Triple-A affiliate. It has a Raiders facility and one for the Knights on deck, the latter so the team has a hockey presence on both sides of town.

Henderson obviously wants more sports and has the land and, apparently, public support to back such political dreams.

It might one day mean the Diamondbacks. It might not.

But change is coming to the game’s current structure, and that means adding and moving teams.

There are a lot of “what ifs” being circulated within baseball right now …

What if Charlotte …

What if San Antonio …

What if Portland …

And, yes, what if Las Vegas …

Could be a leverage play in some instances.

Could be much, much more in others.

But none of it will be decided on the projected number of fannies in seats.

That’s the last thing baseball seems to care about.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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