Baseball's New Franchises


Baltimore's sports fans can certainly sympathize with Washington's. We have lost a sports franchise, too, (our football Colts, their baseball Senators). We know what a void it leaves. We also know what it is like to anticipate getting a replacement (the Cardinals), then seeing the prize going to the Rocky Mountains (Phoenix). Now Washington's anticipated expansion baseball franchise is going to Denver. In time the Rockies may crumble, but for the immediate present they're doing all right.

Baltimore's baseball fans have mixed selfish feelings about Washington's loss, to tell the truth. On the one hand, we would all like to see the National League stars play in a ball park less than half as far away as Philadelphia's. On the other hand, we can't help but wonder if diluting the income from the television market and fan support in the Washington area might doom the Orioles to mediocrity for years to come. We believe the current mediocrity is a temporary thing.

The winning bidders for baseball's new franchises were not cities but regions. The leading name for the new team in Denver is said to be "Colorado Rockies." The legal name of the bidding group in Miami was "South Florida Big League Baseball." In this connection we would note that many geographers and businesses now consider Washington and Baltimore a single regional entity. We would also note that many, many Washington area fans will be closer to the stadium at Camden Yards than many, perhaps most, South Florida and Rocky Mountain fans will be to their new teams' stadiums.

South Florida Big League Baseball is basically a single mega-wealthy individual who wants a team for his home area and was willing to put up almost all the total cost in cash. As local Bird watchers know to their sorrow, that species is not native to these parts. The Denver ownership is something else. It may be the model for the post-Eli Jacobs Orioles. Six general partners are investing 25 percent of the cash needed; nine limited partners are investing the rest. The partnership intends to borrow only about 20 percent of the full cost of the team. The investment group is dominated by locally based institutions and by individuals who live in the area or plan to move there. That sort of involvement is a lot better than a 15-year lease.

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