It’s an effort that won’t pay off any time soon, but former Expo Warren Cromartie says he’s meeting with local business owners to bring Major League Baseball back to Montreal.
MLB teams don’t move very often — in the last 30 years, the only team to move was the Montreal Expos, ironically — so obviously an attempt to bring in a team would be historic. And while there are no teams seeking a move right now, we’re guessing at some point Oakland and Tampa will talk move if new-ballpark efforts fail. Plus, MLB certainly likes to have another market in the pocket while new ballparks are being discussed — even if it’s not used, the threat of franchise movement must be taken seriously — and with cities like Charlotte, Las Vegas and San Antonio lacking in any credible MLB efforts, MLB really needs Montreal as a stalking horse.
We’ve heard former Expos broadcaster Rodger Brulotte discuss a potential ownership group coming together last year, and now we have former Expo Warren Cromartie stepping up to say locals are still talking about a team. Montreal went from being a good market to a bad market to potentially a good market again, if the numbers are true. And while Montreal was probably never as bad a market as argued by MLB in the Expos’ final days — Jeffrey Loria pretty much salted the market before the MLB purchase of Les Expos — it’s very much true that the economic outlook in Montreal is much brighter than it was during the team’s final days at the Big O.
It won’t be cheap to bring MLB back to Montreal. Start with $500 million or so for a team, add in another half-million or more for a new ballpark, and you’re in for a billion before a single pitch is thrown. Add to that the difficulty of convincing MLB owners to give Montreal another chance, and you’re talking major feat. (Countering that: the media landscape in Quebec is totally different; money from a 24-hour sports network may end up bringing back the NHL to Quebec City, so extrapolate from that.) Not impossible, but certainly very, very difficult.
“I want to be just like Magic Johnson,” Cromartie said. “I don’t have the pockets like Magic, but I’ve got the smile and the personality like Magic. And I would think baseball would like to see another black owner, especially in Montreal where Jackie Robinson started his career.”
It won’t be easy. Cromartie does not have Magic’s wealth, and Johnson’s ownership group drove up the price of baseball teams this spring when it paid $2 billion for the Dodgers. The Padres are reportedly selling for $800 million. Plus, Montreal almost certainly would require a new stadium to replace Le Stade Olympique….
“This is an ambitious project. I understand that, but it’s a journey,” Cromartie said. “Washington had three chances, and they’re doing well with it now. They look like a playoff team. We’re hoping that somewhere down the line, MLB will give us a second chance.”
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