The future of baseball in PSL
As the Mets prepare to break camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla. for another season, it begs the question of how just many more times they might do so. Though the Mets’ lease at Digital Domain Park runs through 2018, the Grapefruit League has evolved to such an extent that it’s reasonable to expect they might not last that long on Port St. Lucie.
Recent years have seen the Dodgers and Indians bolt to Arizona, while the Nationals have been outspoken in their desire to move from the Atlantic side to Florida’s Gulf Coast. Though the Marlins and Cardinals recently agreed to a lease extension that could keep them in nearby Jupiter, Fla. through 2027, they are free to leave if the Nationals or Mets do.
One idea, which Port St. Lucie’s local Treasure Coast newspaper floated earlier this week, would be to recruit another team to share Digital Domain Park with the Mets. “The cost of adding another team to this facility would be minimal,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told TCPalm.com. Such a move would almost certainly keep the Mets in Port St. Lucie for the duration of their lease, but it would also require a team to buck the trend of moving to Arizona or Florida’s Gulf Coast.
That may be hard to do. Those two areas boast clusters of teams in close proximity, allowing clubs to cut down on travel and avoid playing the same teams over and over (the Mets played 22 of their 35 games this spring against the NL East rival Marlins, Nationals and Braves). To stomach a move to the Treasure Coast, a team would need to be comfortable with the idea of playing the majority of its games against just three other teams, the Mets, Marlins and Cardinals. Unless St. Lucie County could sweeten the package with significant financial incentives, it seems unlikely that would happen.
At this point, the Nationals appear to be the fulcrum. If they bolt from Viera, Fla., other teams are almost certain to follow, and baseball may face extinction on the east coast of Florida. If they stay, the area could potentially begin drawing teams back.
Mostly, it’s an uncomfortable position for the city of Port St. Lucie, which has seen an incredible population boom in the 23 years since the Mets began training here. Every February and March, Florida’s Treasure Coast becomes a hub for scouts and executives, as it has been for nearly three-quarters of a century. Now, it seems, that era may be drawing to a rapid close.
—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.