The “could baseball return to Montreal” thing kind of took off over the weekend, much the way it takes off every year or two. The impetus this year was a study by a Montreal business group that showed, under a certain set of assumption, yes, it could be financially feasible.
Which, yes, it may be under such assumptions or others. As a purely intellectual exercise all manner of things are possible. But understand that it is but an intellectual exercise. There is no one with money or influence in Montreal — be they private citizens or public entities — proposing or pledging anything. There is no one even five steps removed from talking about doing anything in any serious way, let alone turning dirt or moving teams.
I feel like I need to point this out because, whenever something like this study or some release or expression of interest happens, people seize on it a bit too strongly. Lots of places (including HBT) wrote about it over the weekend. MLB Network did a segment about it. I get that because it’s an interesting topic — all potential expansion/relocation stories are — but I feel like we need to be realistic about it for reasons separate and apart from protecting against disappointment.
The biggest reason: our excitement about such things plays right into the hands of those in and around Major League Baseball who would like to extort local governments and taxpayers for new ballparks and tax breaks and the like. It’s in the best interests of baseball ownership and management to have a plausible alternative to a current major league city so that they can bluff their way into free goodies. The NFL does this with Los Angeles. The NBA does this with Seattle. We used to see this all the time when Washington D.C. was a vacant city. Eventually baseball’s moved a team there, and it’s working out for them, but it did cost them a good bogeyman. Now, by bootstrapping some innocuous little studies and some generalized excitement, baseball can, increasingly, point to Montreal as a potential landing pad for teams in cities it deems sufficiently ungrateful or ungenerous.
My guess: baseball returns to Montreal one day. But that day is decades away, not years. In the meantime, Montreal will be used as a point of leverage and not much more. We should all strive to be realistic about that fact.