The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Of Spurs, Saints And Marlins

Only confirming what we already know, the votes have been tallied, the numbers have been crunched and the best sports franchise in 2005 is... your San Antonio Spurs! According to ESPN.com's Ultimate Standings, the Spurs are the #1 overall franchise in a group that include every MLB, NFL, and NBA team. NHL teams were excluded this year since a lockout precluded them from playing last season. Mixing a scientific poll, with an online poll, with some cold, hard facts, ESPN comes up with these rankings every year. Since they started the rankings in 2002, the Spurs haven't dropped lower than 5th. Some of the categories include- Bang For Your Buck, Affordability, Fan Relations, and Title Expectations.

If you take a look further down the rankings- much further down- you'll find the New Orleans Saints mired in last place, 91 out of 91. While this is in part a function of Katrina and its aftermath, the Saints franchise would still be down in the bottom quarter of this ranking without Katrina. This should serve as a wake-up call to any football-crazed San Antonian. Even if the Saints do relocate permanently to San Antonio (at the very least, they'll play some of their games here again in 2006), we're picking up the historically equivalent football version of the Clippers (but definitely not this year's version).

Another professional sports franchise rumored to be interested in coming to San Antonio, the Florida Marlins, also ranked in the bottom half of this survey- 53rd. Although they did score fairly well in Bang for Your Buck (11) and in Title Expectations (6), this team is in "all of our players must go," furniture salesman mode right now. Although as Michael Wilbon of Pardon The Interruption pointed out yesterday, this is the second time they've done this shortly after winning a World Series crown and they probably still have a better chance of winning a (third) World Series title in the next five years with this baseball approach than the Cubs do with any approach.

The Express-News also carried an article about the Marlins visit (the article in this post is from the AP) and gives us even more insight into who the major players are, what we should be expecting, and what the Marlins are looking for:

Florida Marlins president David Samson came away from Tuesday's tour of San Antonio impressed with both the city and its leadership.

But he wasn't ready to commit to move the Major League Baseball team, which has received permission from commissioner Bud Selig to look for a new home, perhaps as soon as the 2008 season.

"Over the next three to five months, we expect to visit several more cities," Samson said at a news conference after the tour, which was conducted by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, Mayor Phil Hardberger and District Attorney Susan Reed.

"We're going to do our homework, review things like the finances and the fan base, and see what we can do."

Samson did not name the six other cities that have expressed interest, although he said the list was similar to the one Major League Baseball compiled when it announced the move of the Montreal Expos. That list included Portland, Ore.; Las Vegas, and Norfolk, Va.

...

Samson, who was impressed with the city's feel, said the decision about moving the team — which has struggled to attract fans in South Florida — would depend more on a gut feeling among its directors than a set number of commitments for season tickets or corporate sponsorships.

"We expect to move to a good baseball town," he said. "You want a big city that can feel like a town — that makes a good baseball town."

Wolff said the tour included several potential sites for a stadium, which he said would be financed with a public-private partnership that would not include new taxes. The city's Double A Missions play at Wolff Stadium.

"Obviously, we don't know yet where a deal might get done," Wolff said.

A spokesman for a development group looking to build a complex of sports facilities and related amenities on the East Side said it would be willing to put together private investments for much of the cost of a venue.

"If HollyHills can do anything to make the Florida Marlins a reality in San Antonio, then HollyHills is behind this 100 percent," said T.J. Connolly, a spokesman for Los Angeles-based HollyHills Development Inc., which recently unveiled ambitious plans for MLB, NFL and NASCAR facilities near the SBC Center and the city-owned Willow Springs Golf Course.

"We have the plan, the land and the credibility."

I don't know enough about HollyHills to make an informed opinion. But I would be worried that a project of this scale relying on private investment for much of the cost could end up leaving the city with a half-built eyesore and local government footing the bill if that money were to dry up. I also don't know if we could sell 1.5-2 million tickets a year. Finally, what was Susan Reed doing there?

Lisa Sorg has more about the HollyHills Development plan over at the Current, while the Observer wants to know why County Judge Nelson Wolff is part of the vanguard on this issue and not his son, Councilman Kevin Wolff. I think it's in large part because Wolff is the main man for the county and a new baseball park might be built on land owned by the county. Kuff thinks that Portland would probably have the best chance at landing the Marlins should they decide to leave Miami.