There has been a ton of talk lately about baseball expanding to 32 teams. And the discussion always begins with the notion that once Oakland and Tampa Bay figure out their futures, only then can expansion be dealt with. Apparently, a third team can now be added to the list of teams that need to figure things out.
This past week it was announced that the Brewers might be forced to leave Milwaukee due to stadium issues. Currently, the team does not own their stadium; the state does. They created a lease with the Brewers, which expires in 2030. As part of the agreement, the state is responsible for making all necessary upgrades to the stadium. The governor submitted a $290M package to the legislature, but as of yet, there is no sign they’ll approve what amounts to using taxpayer dollars. And this comes on the heels of the state paying hundreds of millions for a stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Even though we are still seven years away from zero hour, these decisions need years of advance planning with other contingencies in place. So now, on top of the Oakland and Tampa Bay situation, commissioner Rob Manfred has a third team on his plate. There’s been talk of bringing a team back to Montreal. And the league would love to put a team in emerging markets like Charlotte, North Carolina or Nashville, Tennessee. Any one of those three could be landing spots for the Brewers.
But baseball didn’t work in Montreal the first time, and to me, Charlotte is a college basketball town, and Nashville is all about football.
I have a better idea.
Why not move the Brewers to Boston, and make Boston a two-baseball-team town again? Although geographically the market has a far smaller footprint and population than other cities with two teams, like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, the fire for baseball still burns deep in Boston … unlike other cities. And remember, Boston did have the Boston Braves for 83 years from 1870-1953 … before they moved to Milwaukee. In a way, a move back would bring everything full circle, even though that version of the team is actually now the Atlanta Braves.
For 13 seasons, from 1953-1965, Milwaukee had the Braves, who were originally the Boston Braves, and eventually settled in Atlanta. As for the current Milwaukee Brewers, they started with one season in Seattle as the Seattle Pilots, then moved to Milwaukee and played their inaugural season in 1970. And although it is not a straight line, with the same initial franchise of the Braves coming back to Boston, this move makes sense. The area can support two teams. The move back to the Boston market makes financial sense and would be supported in the region. The Sox fanbase has always had a love/hate relationship with the team, and in many ways, a second franchise would be the anti-Sox.
Also, I’m not necessarily suggesting the team be based in Boston-proper. I’m merely suggesting they move to Massachusetts. This would be more akin to the two teams in Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates. Worcester, Massachusets would have been perfect, but recently, the Red Sox moved their Triple-A affiliate from Rhode Island to Worcester, so that move is out. And frankly, anything west of Worcester makes no sense.
But Massachusetts does have another sports franchise with a billionaire owner who is a lifelong hometown resident. Of course, I am talking about the New England Patriots and Robert Kraft. Kraft owns a large parcel of land on the opposite side of Route 1, directly across from Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots play. About a decade ago, Kraft, along with casino mogul Steve Wynn, wanted to build a mega-resort/casino on the parcel, but the residents of Foxboro shot it down. It has been dormant since then. The footprint is more than big enough to build a state-of-the-art facility.
Many steps would have to happen first. The Brewers would need to petition the league to relocate, and at least 75% of owners would need to give the ok. When the Expos moved to Washington DC, Orioles owner Peter Angelos voted against the move. No doubt, if this were to come to fruition, Red Sox owner John Henry would vote against it. The team would be 32 miles away from Fenway Park and 49 miles away from Polar Park in Worcester, where the Triple-A team plays. On the other hand, Kraft has a ton of influence in sports circles, as well as the media, and is a very powerful man. If he added his name into the mix, with some sort of partnership with the current owners, utilizing that parcel to gain a piece of ownership, I’m confident that 75% of owners would jump on board.
When the Red Sox moved the Paw Sox to Worcester a few years ago, they decimated the Pawtucket, Rhode Island area, where they loved that team. The stadium has been unused since then. It would be a fantastic ancillary benefit for the Brewers to bring in their Triple-A team to Pawtucket.
The team couldn’t be named the Braves, but the Boston Brewers has a nice ring to it. No doubt, Sam Adams Beer would be the stadium sponsor. Or, actually, being outside of Boston, Kraft may want to throw the “New England” tag on them, similar to the Patriots and the New England Revolution soccer team. Massachusetts is known as the Commonwealth. The new team name could be the New England Commons, or the Massachusetts Commons. It would be a tough argument for the Red Sox to claim to be New England’s team if a different baseball team were actually named “New England”.
Where there is a will, there’s a way. Kraft has the influence, power, infrastructure, land, and, most importantly, money, to make it happen. Necessity may force the issue for the current owners in Milwaukee. And commissioner Rob Manfred is desperate to plant his flag onto the game with expansion and relocation.
Keep in mind, the first professional baseball franchise in Boston was not the Red Sox; it was the Braves, who predated them by 30 years. The Sox have had a monopoly in Boston since 1953. It’s been a good run, but the time is long overdue to bring back a second team into the Boston market.