There’s an interesting story in the Los Angeles Times today about a neat idea the Dodgers had a couple of years ago. The idea: converting a dying mall in the San Fernando Valley into a small minor league ballpark and moving their single-A California League team there.
The plan would cost taxpayers nothing as the Dodgers and the existing landowners would foot the entire bill. It would not add to traffic, parking or zoning problems in the area — L.A.’s mayor said it would have less impact than if a Costco opened on the same property. It would provide cheap, accessible entertainment for an area of the city which is home to almost two million people for whom simply bopping down to Dodger Stadium is a tremendous headache given the traffic and expense. It would also help solve the California League’s problems with a couple of teams located in places where neither the teams nor the towns were particularly fond of one another any longer.
Sounds good, right? Well, it did to everyone but the Los Angeles Angels who, as is their right as co-owners of the Los Angeles Territory, have veto power over a minor league team locating there. They exercised that veto power, the plan died and the parties have all moved on. The land in question is probably going to be redeveloped into some boring mixed-use thing. There might even be a Costco there someday.
You should read the whole story because it provides a great overview of L.A.’s minor league history before the Dodgers showed up and provides an interesting glimpse into both the politics of minor league baseball and the dynamics of suburban/exurban communities for which they’re well suited.
Most importantly for our purposes, though, it reveals how dumb MLB’s territory system is.
In the couple of hours before a typical game time, the Angels are at least a two hour drive from where this park would’ve been, so there’s no reason whatsoever to think that they’d lose a single dime from by virtue of a an A-ball team existing in the Valley. Indeed, the Dodgers current California League team in Rancho Cucamonga is closer. The Angels are, likewise, extraordinarily unlikely to ever attempt to develop a fan base, let alone move the team, to the northern parts of the territory they share with the Dodgers. It makes little sense given their 50+ year history in Orange County and the Dodgers’ dominance in L.A. proper. That aside it strains credulity that, if they changed their mind on that score, a Class-A team would stand in the way of any such effort. Yet their territory rights are their territory rights and thus they had the power to kill this.
Not that we should pick on the Angels too much, of course, as there’s every reason to think that the Dodgers would do the same thing if the situations were reversed. Just as both of them would fight like mad to the point of litigation if Major League Baseball wanted to put a third team in Los Angeles. Just as other teams in other cities would fight just as hard if it was happening to them. This despite the fact that the economics and demographics of the country suggest that, maybe, a third L.A. team — or a third New York team, Chicago team or a second team in any number of other large cities — might make a ton of sense.
It’s unlikely to ever happen, though, because the genius capitalists of the Major League Baseball ownership class seem to value nothing more than their governmentally-granted monopolies and all of the corporate welfare that monopoly power has enabled them to extract over the years.