Baseball will grow again.
In the modern era, there never has been a longer expansion drought.
Perhaps once the stadium situations involving Oakland and Tampa Bay are settled, baseball will consider expanding for the first time since admitting the Diamondbacks and Rays in 1998. (It’s possible that teams like Tampa or Oakland would relocate, but research by Craig Edwards earlier this week revealed how infrequently MLB teams change addresses.) Perhaps now that baseball owners have cashed in some of their investment in MLB Advanced Media, expansion talk will become more serious in the coming years. Having a new CBA agreement could also help.
Wherever, whenever baseball expands, at some point, every business seeks new markets to enter.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred expressed interest in expansion last year and is in favor of targeting international markets like Mexico City and Montreal . There are also domestic contenders often cited like Charlotte, Las Vegas, Portland, San Antonio. Some believe a third team would do well in the NYC market, though territorial rights – among other issues – complicate matters. Back in 2012 for Baseball Prospectus, Maury Brown used a thorough methodology to rank expansion candidates.
Given the game’s history in Montreal (the Expos drew 2.1 million or more fans four times in five years from 1979 to -83), and the recent successful exhibition games there, I suspect Montreal is a favorite to land a team. Who wouldn’t love to hear more of this:
Assuming the sport reaches 32 teams in the not-too-distant future, assuming one team is placed in each league for an even 16-16 split, MLB then would be met with interesting logistical issues. Baseball could perhaps remain with the status quo of three divisions in each league, but having unbalanced divisions seems awkward and unfair to teams in those divisions. Asked about division setup, Manfred indicated it’s unlikely the sport would remain with the three-division setup
“From a technical perspective it would be easier to divide the schedule up by four. Having five teams in the divisions is problematic from a scheduling perspective.”
So with expansion, baseball will have have to redraw its maps, and there would be some interesting issues to work through.
Issue No. 1
Are four-team divisions in each league optimal or two eight-team groupings?
Issue No. 2
Should MLB expand the playoffs to six teams per league, or keep the field at five?
Issue No. 3
Should MLB realign teams by geography, or try and preserve as many of the rivalries and division arrangements as possible?
Issue No. 4
Should MLB keep interleague play or abolish it? (With teams evenly distributed in leagues, interleague play is no longer a scheduling necessity.)
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