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Bad arguments against MLB expansion into Mexico

A lot of the arguments against MLB expansion into Mexico are bad and need to be addressed

Ever since Rob Manfred expressed his desire to place an MLB team in Mexico City in 2016, many baseball writers have spent quite a bit of internet space arguing why it would be a bad idea. Most of the points these writers bring up are bad, so let’s take a look at the main ones, one by one:

Mexico is a “developing country” 

The biggest point people like to bring up usually involves finances: Mexico is poor and therefore could not support an MLB team. This otherwise excellent article from the Hardball Times examining potential MLB expansion cities calls Mexico a “developing country,” which is a loaded phrase often reserved for the global south that rarely differentiates between tiny nations and legitimate global powers like Mexico.

Mexico has the 15th highest GDP in the world, above other countries like The Netherlands, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, who many people would hesitate to call developing countries. Mexico’s economy is also growing at a rate about three times that of the United States’s economy, and it’s not inconceivable that they’ll finish the decade as one of the ten largest economies in the world. That seems kinda big for a developing country. 

Median income isn’t high enough to support a baseball team

Continuing with the “Mexico is poor” theme: Yes, Mexico’s median household income is low, ranking in the 40s around countries such as Tunisia, Azerbaijan, and Colombia. But when we’re talking about the country hosting an MLB team, we’re not talking about Mexico as a whole–we’re talking about Mexico City, which has a median household income of around $17,000/year, putting it around wealthy countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Australia. 

This argument often comes up when discussing how fans in Mexico City would be able to attend 81 games a year, which seems to discount just how giant the capital is. With a city population of over 9 million people (larger than any US city) and a metro population of over 21 million (again, larger than any US metro area), it shouldn’t be too difficult to find 30,000 people to fill a stadium every night.

Also, ask the owners at América, Cruz Azul, and Pumas how they’re able to find fans to fill their stadiums. It must be so hard for them to split an area as poor as Mexico City. 

Mexico wouldn’t be able to build a new stadium up to MLB standards

Have you seen Monterrey’s new stadium? Mazatlan’s? Have you seen where Chivas plays? How do you think those stadiums got there? Aliens??

And yes, building a baseball stadium is expensive, especially with the low chance that MLB will be able to siphon public money for the construction cost. But if MLB owners ponied up $10 million dollars each towards the construction of a new stadium, they’d likely make that money back in the first year with a national television deal. 

And if the owners don’t want in on a deal like that, wouldn’t you know it, Los Diablos Rojos already play in a a state-of-the-art baseball-specific stadium in Mexico City that’s architecturally as beautiful as anything you’ll find in the United States. A size increase would probably be necessary, but it’s hard to see what MLB standards Estadio Harp Helú might not fit.

It’s too far away from the United States

California wasn’t too far away for MLB when the Dodgers and Giants moved there in 1958 and the closest team was 2,000 miles away in St. Louis. Are the 1,400 miles between Mexico City and Houston now too far in 2022? Have planes gotten slower in the last 60 years? 

It’s too dangerous

Parts of Mexico City are certainly dangerous. But just like Dodgers players don’t live in the dangerous parts of Los Angeles, or Tigers players don’t live in the dangerous parts of Detroit, and Orioles players don’t live in the dangerous parts of Baltimore, MLB players would likely avoid the same spots in Mexico City. 

Baseball isn’t the most popular sport in Mexico

Baseball isn’t even the most popular sport in the United States! It barely cracks the top five in Canada! But despite these unfortunate truths, MLB teams exist and thrive in both countries.

Soccer and boxing will likely always be more popular than baseball in Mexico, but there isn’t much that can challenge baseball at its third-place position. Just like they do north of the border where MLB ranks behind the NFL, college football, and NBA in popularity, people will still watch baseball games in Mexico. 

The currency exchange makes financing difficult

Finally! A real issue! 

Managing a team in a country that uses a different currency as the rest of the teams in a league is a very real problem that even the Canadian NHL teams suffer from. This could be a potentially big issue with a currency that fluctuates as dramatically as the Mexican peso, especially if there’s only one team in the league that has to deal with this particular currency exchange.

I am not nearly qualified enough to talk about the financial challenges MLB would face working with a new currency. All I will say is that the Blue Jays have been operating successfully using the Canadian dollar for the last 45 years, and that if MLB can find a way to make it work with the loonie they can find a way to make it work with the peso. 

With nearly 130 million people in a country without an MLB team, MLB would be making a bad decision not to consider Mexico City as a serious destination for their next expansion team. Arguments against Mexico City expansion will probably pop up until the day a team finally gets to call Mexico its home–just remember that most of these arguments are bad and none of them should be deal breakers.