Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Small Market Baseball Teams

As I have made clear to you imaginary readers, I loved the book Money Ball. Part of my enjoyment of that book came from my appreciation of small market baseball and all that is wrapped up in the twin concepts of winning with fewer resources and competing as a team as opposed to as a cluster of stars with a supporting cast.

By most informed opinions, market size refers to the population of the team's geographic audience or team's cut of income derived by the league from TV revenue. Both of these are reasonable proxies for "how much total revenue can the team generate". Turns out, "small market" is a nebulous term and some of the teams that I thought qualified for inclusion in this group actually play in large markets.

I loved the Money Ball premise of getting value for players to compete in an economically unbalanced league. The Oakland A's were the example in that book and the evidence was compelling that they had found a formula for success. Since reading it, I have kept a keen eye on the success of Oakland, Minnesota, San Diego, and Kansas City, as teams I considered to be "small market" because their star players always seemed to end up in New York, Chicago, LA, or Boston through free agency.

Somehow, I have come to equate "no stars" with "small market" which still seems like a reasonable perspective. That is until you look at the statistics below:

Markets of more than 10 million people

21,199,865 New York Mets, New York Yankees
16,373,645 Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers

Markets of 5-10 million people

9,157,540 Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox
7,608,070 Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals
7,039,362 Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants
6,188,463 Philadelphia Phillies
5,819,100 Boston Red Sox
5,456,428 Detroit Tigers
5,221,801 Texas Rangers

Markets of 3-5 million people

4,682,897 Toronto Blue Jays
4,669,571 Houston Astros
4,112,198 Atlanta Braves
3,878,380 Florida Marlins

3,554,760 Seattle Mariners
3,251,876 Arizona Diamondbacks

Markets of 2-3 million people

2,968,806 Minnesota Twins
2,945,831 Cleveland Indians

2,813,833 San Diego Padres
2,603,607 St Louis Cardinals
2,581,506 Colorado Rockies

2,395,997 Tampa Bay Devil Rays
2,358,695 Pittsburgh Pirates

Markets of 1-2 million people
1,979,202 Cincinnati Reds
1,776,062 Kansas City Royals
1,689,572 Milwaukee Brewers

Oakland plays to a bigger audience than Boston? St Louis, recently glamorized in this blog for their star studded history, is in the bottom few? Beneath Minnesota and San Diego? What gives?


  1. Anonymous9/28/2009

    Interesting. This may need further research. Maybe "small market" really means "cheap owner". RF

  2. consider the florida marlins. 3-5 millions people *not* watching. i think its not about the population of the market, but the saturation of baseball fans. St Louis, smaller market, probably has a higher percent of baseball-lovers when compared to oakland, which has way more people, and thus, more diverse interests... football, soccer, rioting. whatever your sport of choice

    and the "catch up on commenting on den's blog wednesday" CONTINUES!