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Baseball: MLB representation in the largest metropolitan statistical areas (USA & Canada). «

June 9, 2018

Baseball: MLB representation in the largest metropolitan statistical areas (USA & Canada).

Filed under: Baseball — admin @ 1:19 pm

Baseball: MLB representation in the largest metropolitan statistical areas (USA & Canada).

By Bill Turianski on 9 June 2018;
Sources…[note: data was retrieved on 2 March 2018; some population data may have changed depending upon when the links below are later accessed]…
-List of metropolitan statistical area [in the USA];
-List of census metropolitan areas and agglomerations in Canada;
-San Juan, Puerto Rico (

The chart shows all cities in USA and Canada which have a metropolitan statistical area population of over 1 million. The MLB teams from each city are shown at the far right (via current [2018] home ball-cap logos).

I made this chart because I am trying to understand why MLB is so reticent to pull the plug on the dismally-drawing Tampa Bay Rays (and perhaps the similarly-dismally-drawing Oakland A’s).

And if you think I am exaggerating the problem, that would mean you have not been looking at attendance figures recently, because it really is that bad…currently [June 9 2018], the Rays are drawing 13.8 K and the A’s are drawing 15.4 K (plus the Marlins are drawing 10.5 K, but they’ll never move the Marlins out of Miami, which has to be the worst sports-supporting town in America). Here are the current MLB attendance figures {}.

I think, and a whole lot of other people also think, that MLB should be sending the Rays (and perhaps the A’s) to somewhere else…somewhere else where attendance would be much, much higher than the 14-or-15-K-per-game that the Rays (and the A’s) have been drawing. Like Montreal [the 16th-largest city in USA-and-Canada]. Or maybe Portland, Oregon [the 28th-largest city in the USA/Canada]. Or maybe Charlotte, North Carolina [the 25th-largest city in USA/Canada]. Or maybe San Antonio, Texas [the 27th-largest city in the USA/Canada].

-Montreal Expos ownership group positioned for MLB relocation (by Mat Germain on April 12 2018 at
-How Portland lands a Major League Baseball team… (by John Canzano on June 5 2018 at

Anywhere else? I doubt it. I don’t really think there are any other cities that could support an MLB team. Because that entails 81 home games a year. And that entails having the wherewithal to fund and build a modern venue. And that entails having the possibility of creating a fan-base capable of supporting the team. And that also entails a situation where the other major league teams there (or the big-time D-1 college teams, there) wouldn’t siphon off a big chunk of support from a theoretical MLB team there.

What I am saying is this…It is a lot harder to successfully maintain an MLB team, than it is to maintain an NFL or an NHL or an NBA team. And I don’t think Vancouver or San Juan or Sacramento or Las Vegas or Austin or Columbus or Indianapolis or Nashville or Virginia Beach/Norfolk or Providence are capable of supporting an MLB team.

But San Jose sure as heck could support an MLB team. However, moving the A’s slightly south to San Jose is impossible, in the current climate, thanks to the restraint of trade that the San Francisco Giants and the MLB front office is engaging in. Restraint of trade that is screwing the Athletics’ franchise {see this, U.S. Supreme Court rejects San Jose’s bid to lure Oakland A’s ( from 2015)}. Lawyers representing the city of San Jose: “More baseball fans [would] watch the A’s in San Jose than in Oakland, and they [would] enjoy the games in more pleasant surroundings,” the city’s lawyers said. “To bar the A’s from moving is to reduce consumer welfare, for the sole benefit of a competing producer, the [San Francisco] Giants. This is precisely the harm that antitrust law is designed to prevent.” (See 2 paragraphs further below, in the B. section, for more on that).

The subtitle of this chart could very well be “one reason why the Cleveland Indians draw so poorly”. I say that, because look how small metro-area Cleveland, Ohio is now…it is only the 36th-largest city in the USA-and-Canada these days. Cleveland’s population hasn’t shrunk as much as that of the uber-Rust-Belt city, Detroit, but it is close. Once upon a time, in 2000, the Cleveland Indians actually had the highest attendance in MLB. But that was because, back then (18 years ago), the Indians were a very good ball club PLUS the fact that: the Indians had a shiny new stadium, the Cavaliers sucked back then, the Browns were bad and were just out of “hibernation” (from 1996-98), the local economy wasn’t so ravaged, and the metro-area of Cleveland was about 20% larger. The population decline in Cleveland is even worse if you look at from a long-term perspective…since 1950, the city of Cleveland has lost 58% of its population {see this, Philadelphia Is Bouncing Back From Problems Still Plaguing Cleveland (by Carl Bialik from July 2016 at}.

As to the smallest city to currently host an MLB team, that is Milwaukee, Wisconsin [the 43rd-largest city in the USA-and-Canada]. Home of the Milwaukee Brewers. Well, hats off to Wisconsinites. I say that because the folks of Greater Milwaukee have been giving the decidedly small-market Brewers some pretty darn good attendance figures. {Which you can see, here, in my latest MLB paid-attendance map [2017 figures].} And think about it…the Brewers, from just the the 40th-biggest city in America, have to compete for fans with the nearby and vastly popular Chicago Cubs (as well as the White Sox), plus they also have to compete for fans with the somewhat nearby Minnesota Twins. But the Brew Crew still drew over 31 K per game last year, which was 10th-best in MLB. (By the way, the Brewers are doing very well at the moment, with the best record in the National League (at 38-25 [June 9 2018].)

Some things you should know about the population figures on the list
A). The definition of these metropolitan statistical areas are pretty broad. (If you are curious, click here; then click on links there, to see each city’s defined metropolitan statistical area [as defined by the US Census Bureau]).
B). And there are some overlaps…For example, Baltimore is part of Washington DC’s metropolitan statistical area, yet Baltimore, Maryland is also part of its own metropolitan statistical area. Which makes sense, when you think about it, because if you are in downtown DC, it is not that much of a schlep to get to the Orioles’ ballpark. Ditto the case with San Jose, California. Not that San Jose has an MLB team. (Though the Oakland A’s sure have tried to move there. But MLB has blocked that, and, supported by court rulings, MLB continues to unfairly allow the San Francisco Giants to own the territory of San Jose, thus effectively utilizing a government-sanctioned form of restraint-of-trade to undermine the Oakland A’s viability as a northern-California-based MLB franchise.) And speaking of San Jose, that city is actually larger (by population) than the city of San Francisco is, these days (true story).
C). I included San Juan, Puerto Rico because Puerto Rico is part of the USA (Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States); plus, the late and lamented Montreal Expos played a bunch of games there, back in the day, right before they moved to DC, to become the Washington Nationals (in 2005). Plus the Twins and Indians played two games there in 2018.
D). I kept the list going well after the smallest MLB city (again, Milwaukee), because I was curious. Plus, I couldn’t resist including my humble town…Rochester, NY…the largest city in the USA without any major league team nor even a D-1 college basketball team (sigh). In case you’re wondering, the second biggest city in that category is Grand Rapids, Michigan, but they got Western Michigan Broncos D-1 football/basketball/hockey just down the road in Kalamazoo. But I digress.
E). If I continued the list, below cities which have a metro-area-population of 1 million, the next cities on the list would be: Honolulu, HI; Tulsa, OK, Fresno, CA; Bridgeport/Stamford, CT; Worcester, MA; Omaha, NB; and Albuquerque, NM. That would take it to all cities in USA and Canada with a metropolitan statistical area population above 900 K.
F). I know this chart is about major league cities in baseball, but it is ultimately also about major league cities in general (and I will be posting a similar chart for the NFL on the 16th of June 2018). So, in that vein…Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, is the second-smallest market in the USA-and-Canada to have a major-league team (in NFL, MLB, NBA, or NHL), and has a metropolitan statistical area population of just 778,000.
G). Green Bay, Wisconsin, the smallest city…by far…to have a major league team in the USA-and-Canada, is only the 157th-largest city in the USA, with a metropolitan statistical area population of only 318,000. Go Packers.
Thanks to Wikipedia for data.

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