Sunday, February 28, 2010

Census 2010 and "Small" Markets

A recent Sports Illustrated article (Hope Springs Eternal, Feb. 22) describes the Twins as a model for small market success. As Nelson Muntz of the Simpsons said after viewing Naked Lunch, "I can think of at least two things wrong with that title." The Twins "success" has been mostly a result of the collective ineptitude of the White Sox, Tigers, Royals, and Indians. Although, that's not really true. The Tigers reached a World Series and the Indians had the Red Sox beaten in the ALCS a few years ago. Meanwhile, both Tampa and Colorado have recently reached the World Series. Heck, Tampa won a division which includes both the Yankees and Red Sox.

The article inadvertently highlights the meaninglessness of the term "small-market." It refers to the St. Louis Cardinals as one of "game's top grossers." A list by Forbes confirms this. I checked some Census data about the Saint Louis metropolitan area. The total population is lower than the Twin Cities by at least half a million people. (The Twin Cities have close to 3,000,000 whereas Saint Louis is no more than about 2,500,000). Moreover, the per capita income of the Saint Louis area is about $5000 lower than the Twin Cities ($29,000 to $34,000). If there are more people with more money in the Twin Cities, then how can the market be the problem? The Twins marketing department loves to convince fans that the team faces a competitive disadvantage. It's much easier to sell Nick Punto as a third baseman when the entire PR campaign aims for nothing more than low expectations.

If Saint Louis is a "big" market, then the only excuse for the Twins would be the stadium. But they built their new stadium and spent all of last season telling us how much greener the pastures (sorry for the pun) would be next year. Who will their next scapegoat be? Will they blame fans for not spending enough money? Maybe if Mauer goes they'll try to blame the "rich" teams. Or the "unfair" lack of a salary cap. If he stays, they'll blame his contract. Well, I shouldn't give them these ideas. If they want my money, they have to convince me that they are making an honest effort to build a world championship club.

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