Timing, they say, is everything, especially in the semi-hilarious baseball blogosphere. Which is why the appearance of two noteworthy news items about gambling at the Baseball Think Factory's Baseball Primer Newsblog today gave me a frisson of delight.
First, Las Vegas mayor-for-life Oscar Goodman leaked a story that his city has been designated an American League city and that talks about building a covered baseball stadium are "serious". Then I see that our old pal John Fay is reporting that the Reds have been given clearance by MLB to honor Pete Rose at a game on the 25th anniversary of Rose breaking Ty Cobb's hit record. What a coincidence!
Whether a team in Las Vegas would come as a result of expansion or relocating a desperate-to-move franchise (cough cough Athletics), the idea of a professional American sport in a town built on the lost paychecks of doughy suckers is a bit unsettling. It's a gambling city! Tie in the fact that the corporate decision makers at MLB are warming on bringing convicted and admitted gambler Pete Rose back into the fold and I smell a trend.
Think about it: with slot parlors, OTB dives, Indian casinos, and Mississippi River gambling boats popping up everywhere, the U-S-of-A is caving in to the cravings of people who desperately want to throw their money away. Gambling in all forms is being legalized at a fast rate in states that are running out of revenue.
So it's no surprise that our national pastime is reconsidering associating itself with Sin City. The greater Las Vegas metropolitan area is the sixth fastest-growing area in the country and has entered the top 30 overall as of 2009. It's a bigger market than Milwaukee and, within 10 years, could be bigger than Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Cincinnati.
Still, I dismissed Vegas as being too small when I ranked the top ten most likely destinations for expansion, and thinking about the town in the Xtreme Depression, there's just not going to be any public money for a stadium. Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the country, the town is broke, so it's going to take a wealthy group of investors to build a new park.
And the only rich folk in Vegas are casino folk. So perhaps the MLB ownership cabal is going to have to warm up to letting casino owners run a baseball team before Vegas ever gets a big league team. Maybe they can hire Pete Rose as a consultant. And, even juicier, as a manager.