I’ve long been skeptical of the idea of Major League Baseball moving to Las Vegas. Mostly because I don’t see the economics working out.
The economy is in the toilet. Those who do have jobs and homes that aren’t in foreclosure work a disproportionate number of nights. While there are a lot of moneyed tourists coming through, they’re coming to gamble and party, not sit at a ballpark. And even if they were so inclined, you can bet that the casinos would try extra hard to keep them away from doing things that take them off hotel property for three prime time hours each night. Baseball is not event-driven like boxing or even football. There are 81 home games a year and attendance and television ratings are built on locals buying in to the product day-in, day-out, and that’s not really the Las Vegas profile.
But that doesn’t mean that someone won’t try. Reader Rob Browne alerted me to this story that appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal over the weekend. It’s about developer Chris Milam’s plan to buy the Las Vegas 51s (which he just did) and use them — as well as a Major League Soccer team and, hopefully, an NBA team — to anchor a mega sports complex west of Mandalay Bay, right across the freeway. There’s an artist’s rendering of the complex in the linked article. For baseball purposes, here’s the kicker:
With a 9,000-seat ballpark for the 51s, the proposed center, which will be located on a 63-acre parcel, will feature a 17,500-seat arena designed to house an NBA basketball team and a 36,000-seat stadium for a Major League Soccer squad … The two partially enclosed stadiums will be designed to allow expansion. The ballpark could expand to 36,000 seats to accommodate a Major League Baseball team.
None of that eliminates the demographic challenges baseball in Las Vegas faces. And, if you read the article you can see that such a plan faces all of the usual political and economic hurdles that prevent sexy artist’s renderings from becoming reality.
But the notion of a half-step on the stadium side with an existing, ready-for-expansion building could move the needle a bit in Las Vegas’ direction as far as Major League Baseball is concerned, making a relocation there a bit less of a risk for whoever might consider it.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.