Tipping Pitches: Sports: Brewers to Orlando? Hahaha... Oh crap...


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sports: Brewers to Orlando? Hahaha... Oh crap...

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So word out of Orlando is that Armando Gutierrez, a real estate developer, is trying to get money together to get a Major League team in his city. He's running for Congress.

Mark Boyle of local station WFTV speculated that "one team that could possibly relocate is the Milwaukee Brewers."

Let's forget for a second that the Brewers called this claim "ridiculous," "irresponsible" and "hilarious." Let's forget that the Brewers, small market or not, had the ninth highest attendance in 2009. Let's also forget for a moment that the Brewers' lease of Miller Park runs through 2030 and includes a non-relocation agreement.

Let's also forget that the state of Florida can't even support two Major League teams (Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays).

Okay, so it's highly unlikely the Brewers move. But, you've gotta think they are on... if not the short list, the half-league list of teams that could possibly move.

Milwaukee is a small market. The Brewers are doing well financially right now. They are able to field a roster that costs over $80 Million, which puts them right in the middle of the league. This is pretty amazing since the size of the Milwaukee market would put them at the very bottom.

But the Brewers also have an exciting product. Kudos to the Brewers organization, from top to bottom. They have exciting players to watch, like Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Yovani Gallardo. They have an owner in Mark Attanasio and a solid GM in Doug Melvin who are willing to spend money and make big moves to remain competitive. And they have one of the better ballparks in the league, and do a great job of finding ways to attract fans to watch games.

But, for a moment... Let's assume the worst happened. They can't keep Prince Fielder. The likelihood they keep him is close to nothing. He's gone. They trade him for prospects. Let's assume that the prospects that come back don't amount to much of anything (wouldn't be the first time).

Yovani Gallardo throws his arm out. Ryan Braun breaks a leg. The farm system isn't able to produce the prospects that made the Brewers competitive in the first place.

When this happens and you are a small market ball club, you can't buy a competitive roster. You rely on your farm system. And since attendance will undoubtedly drop, the amount you can spend on free agents and retaining your own players drops considerably.

Suddenly, you are the Pittsburgh Pirates.

This can happen in just a matter of two years. The Yankees can overcome these disasters. The Brewers cannot.

Suddenly, such discussion about the Brewers relocating is not so crazy.

Suddenly, the Brewers can't field a competitive team, can't attract fans, and are losing money because they committed money to players who aren't performing.

Suddenly, Mark Attanasio is looking at ways around his lease agreement with Miller Park.

If the Brewers left...

It's something I have to think about. I don't know how I'd handle it. It's worse than Brett Favre retiring, unretiring, retiring, unretiring, and playing for the Vikings.

Baseball is in my blood. But Baseball is in my blood because of my allegiance to the Milwaukee Brewers. I may be able to casually root for the Orlando Brewers for a year or two, but eventually they would just be any other team.

And if I no longer have a team, then what?

I am passionate about baseball. Passionate about the history of the game. Passionate about passing on this obsession to my sons.

But if the Brewers are no more, my passion disappears. I simply cannot imagine my life without baseball.

That may sound dramatic. In a way, it is over the top. It's not like losing a spouse or a child.

But it's losing a part of my childhood. Losing a source of my inspiration. Losing a big part of what makes me... me.

Suddenly, I get it.

If you move your team, you'd better damn well know what you're doing. While you may be losing money, there is no guarantee your new fans will make you richer.

And even if the new fans make you richer temporarily, those aren't real fans. Those new fans are new fans for a reason. They either didn't care about baseball before or were so casual a baseball fan that they easily switch allegiance.

After such a move, you need to make a sudden impact and maintain excellence to develop new, loyal, lifelong fans.

Meanwhile, you -- and Major League Baseball -- have lost some lifelong, passionate fans who would root for your team no matter what.

Is it worth the risk?

This is why I feel bad for the fans who have lost a team. It's why I have no respect for the fans of a recent expansion team, particularly one that has had some recent success.

And I certainly don't have respect for baseball fans in the state of Florida, who can't adequately support two teams that have produced two World Series in the past decade-ish.

I no longer live in Wisconsin, but if the Brewers ever leave Milwaukee I am done with baseball. And this is coming from one of the biggest fans the sport has.


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