Some “meat on the bones” for speculation of baseball’s return to Montreal

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I still tend to think that baseball’s return to Montreal is a pipe dream. That no amount of nostalgia for the Expos (which, if that was so great, why didn’t it support a team back in the day?) and no amount of criticism of the market in, say, Tampa Bay (which, if that is so bad, why are the Rays’ TV ratings so good?) can overcome the basics on the ground.

Those basics: no team is currently for sale or particularly vocal about moving, there are no obvious people with the billion or two required to get the Expos version 2.0 off the ground. And that there is no public appetite to build a ballpark.

None of that is likely to change quickly, but Jeff Blair notes today that at least part of it could be changing, however slowly and slightly. Specifically, the identification of some some money and some interest in a baseball team in Montreal:

That’s why a report on Friday in the Montreal French-language daily La Presse, providing the names of businesses and individuals quietly funding a year-long study into the feasibility of a major-league team in the city, is so interesting . . . The La Presse story identified Stephen Bronfman, son of former Montreal Expos owner Charles Bronfman and executive president of the Bronfman family’s Montreal-based holding firm, Claridge, Inc., Bell Media, Dollarama chief executive officer Larry Rossy and Mitch Garber, head of Caesars Acquisition Company, an online gambling and interactive gaming company worth $1.38 billion.

Interesting. By no means definitive or even necessarily meaningful, but more meaningful than an exhibition game or two and the sale of some Expos gear driven by nostalgic 40 somethings or hipsters.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.