Recently, I pointed out how Major League Baseball has agreed to let the Tampa Bay Rays explore playing some of their home games north of the border, bringing baseball back to Montreal for the first time in 15 years.
I stand by my point Montreal could support a baseball team once again, provided it finds a way to build a suitable venue for the franchise instead of forcing it to return to the same Olympic Stadium that caused the Expos so many headaches. Hey, even the current incarnation of the Alouettes in the CFL had issues getting fans there before permanently moving to Molson Stadium after the 1997 season, and Olympic Stadium could handle football better than it could baseball. However, after doing some more thinking on the matter, I had a thought maybe Tampa Bay wasn’t the ideal team to relocate to Quebec. After some serious contemplation, it dawned on me who might be better: the Miami Marlins.
With all due respect to any of you out there who may be Marlins fans, it just doesn’t seem like the team has the traction in south Florida it had in the 1990s and early to mid-2000s. Yes, the team has won two World Series since its inception in 1993, while Tampa Bay has appeared in only one and lost it to Philadelphia. However, since winning in 2003, the Marlins have had a tough time getting anything going. In 2009, the team finished second in the division but still had a losing record. The team went shopping during the offseason prior to 2012, grabbing a number of the top free agents on the market in an effort to give the fans that year both a brand new ballpark and a team that would be able to compete for the next several years. This was the same roster that ended up in a virtual fire sale at the trade deadline when the team didn’t live up to the expectations some had for it.
More recently, it feels like every time the Marlins have a good player they can build the franchise around, the front office trades them off, building for a future that feels like it’s stuck on the horizon. Giancarlo Stanton went to the Yankees, Christian Yelich was sent to Milwaukee, shortly followed by Marcell Ozuna to St. Louis.
Attendance-wise, Miami has been in the bottom five in the entire major leagues every year since 2012, with the 2018 Marlins not even breaking the plateau of 1 million fans through the gate, the only team not to hit that mark. This year is turning out to essentially the same, as according to ESPN.com Monday night, there have been 61 games played at Marlins Park this year, and in that time frame, a mere 617,012 fans have spun the turnstiles. There have been instances over the past couple of years where the Marlins have had lower attendance numbers than the Jacksonville (Florida) Jumbo Shrimp, their Double-A minor league affiliate.
Another possible reason for Miami to head north is it brings back the dynamic Major League Baseball had before the Expos were sent to Washington, D.C., with both the American and National Leagues having a Canadian franchise. Sure, it would be nice to have a Canadian rival for Toronto that would be in the same division if Tampa Bay moved north, but the thought of potentially seeing an all-Canada World Series is an interesting consideration.
A well-run and competitive Miami franchise would be good for baseball. However, if that becomes a tougher goal to achieve, it might be time to look at possibly moving the team north because it feels like south Florida isn’t going to stomach the team as it currently sits for much longer.