Mexico City: The next franchise frontier

The Chron has a longish article about the prospects of an American sports franchise moving to or being founded in Mexico City. It has the standard reasons why a league (most likely the NBA or Major League Baseball) might do this, but I think it overlooks some obvious reasons why not.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle will be finding a suitable stadium. The mayor has talked of two options — building a new stadium in the district of Azcapotzalco (the northwest part of the city) or renovating and covering the existing Foro Sol, home of Mexico City’s Diablos Rojos of the Mexican Baseball League.

I can think of two other hurdles that would need to be surmounted before anything serious happens. One is distance, as Mexico City is about 700 miles from Houston. It’s a five-hour flight to Mexico City from New York, not much less than a flight to Los Angeles. Any franchise located there will easily have the most grueling travel schedule in its league. Probably not a deal-breaker, but it’s a burden on that club both in terms of player recruitment and player fatigue.

More important is the question of currency. Canadian teams are often at a disadvantage in signing and retaining players because they pay in Canadian dollars and are subject to Canadian taxes. I can’t imagine any player accepting his salary in pesos, and I can’t help but think that having to continually exchange between pesos and dollars will be a big headache, not to mention a unique operating expense. Again, this may or may not be a dealbreaker, but it certainly deserves a mention in a story about the feasibility of locating a franchise in Mexico.

I do think southward expansion is coming, perhaps as a single franchise up front, perhaps as a subsidiary league a la the World League of American Football. It’s been talked about for some time now, though, and I’m not convinced we’re any closer to overcoming the associated obstacles than we were back in 1994 when the Oilers and Cowboys played their exhibition game in Azteca Stadium. I figure I’ll read a lot more of these articles before I read one about an actual relocation or expansion.

UPDATE: I stand corrected. As Greg V. notes in the comments, Canadian sports franchises pay salaries in American dollars as a rule. Of course, while that does mean they shouldn’t have problems with player recruitment as I had thought, the fact that they generate revenues in Canadian dollars serves to support the point I was making: currency conversion issues, especially for a team that will be operating in Mexico, will be a significant obstacle to overcome before a franchise can be located there.

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9 Responses to Mexico City: The next franchise frontier

  1. Jim D says:

    On the other hand, Mexican taxes are lower.

    What concerns me is that it’s not entirely clear if there would be a fan base, since the Mexican league would be major competition.

    I think, more likely is the possibility that a struggling team (perhaps the Montreal Expos, who played several exposition games in PR) would move to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

  2. Mike says:

    Another concern would be security of the players. Those living in Mexico and playing for the Mexican team would require 24-hour security. A few years ago, on a Senior PGA tour stop in Mexico, 4 famous players were robbed while eating dinner at a fancy hotel restaraunt.

    The players assumed it to be a set-up by hotel staff. Thankfully everything passed quickly and they only lost their Rolexes. One of the Rolexes was the only momento one of the players had to remember his father by.

    It doesn’t matter where you stay, you won’t be able to flaunt your wealth like you can in the U.S. or Canada. Let’s face it, those folks love the game, but even more, they love the huge paychecks.

    Overcoming that hurdle will certainly make it very difficult for the Mexican team to retain players after they pass into the free agent eligibility period.

    I may be wrong, but it might make more sense to place an entire minor league down there before placing a single major league type team.

    Wouldn’t you hate to be the first pick in the first round in the draft and have to live in Mexico?

  3. William Hughes says:

    The Mexican League is recognized as a AAA level Minor League by Major League Baseball. The main difference between the Mexican League and PCL / International Leagues is that there are no affiliations in the Mexican League.

    Major League Baseball consider a AAA league with affiliations in Latin America using the Mexican League as a starting point, however, we again have the issue of security. San Juan, Puerto Rico would need to build a new stadium before any franchise could be considered.

    The NBA could consider Monterrey for a franchise, if they could work out living arrangements for their players. The arena is new and the city is supposedly safer than Mexico City.

    The NFL could promote their game by working with the existing Mexican League (all college teams) to develop the players. I can’t see a new franchise there any time soon, since the league is already overexpanded.

  4. Greg V. says:

    Canadian teams are often at a disadvantage in signing and retaining players because they pay in Canadian dollars and are subject to Canadian taxes.

    This statement is false. Players are compensated in US dollars even if they play for teams based in Canada.

    Is this another one of your “opinions” Kuff? Kind of like your “opinion” that March 9, 2004 falls during spring break for a majority of Texans even though every single one of the ten largest school districts has spring break from March 15-19, 2004?

    All I can say for your credibility is, “STEEE-RIKE TWO!”

  5. Well, Greg, if you can cite a link to back up what you say, I’ll make a correction. If not, I hope you’ll understand my not taking your word for it.

  6. Linkmeister says:

    The five-hour trip was one of the major problems Hawai’i had with a AAA team; we ended up with teams here for 8 consecutive days, which got really tiresome for the fans and the players. More here, if you’re interested in the rise and fall of the Hawai’i Islanders.

  7. Steve Smith says:

    I think the altitude would be a killer for any team in Mexico City, and that’s before getting to smog, the language difference, a vast cultural difference, and the distance from the next major league city. I would say that Monterrey is more likely, or even a resort town closer to the border like Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan, where a large American emigre population already exists.

  8. kherr says:

    Havana is the smart choice. Unfortunately until the stupid anti-Castro policies are cleared up it isn’t going to happen. But what better way to promote what we’d like there than via baseball?

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