Is It Time for Expansion in MLB?

It has been 16 years since a new team was added to MLB.
It has been 16 years since a new team was added to MLB.

It was 1998 when the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks joined Major League Baseball. Five years prior to that, 1993, MLB welcomed the Florida (Miami) Marlins and the Colorado Rockies, 16 years after the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners were added. Now, over 16 years after adding the Rays and Diamondbacks, is it time for Major League Baseball to add the 31st and 32nd clubs, and how would that change the league?

Because of scheduling, there would have to be two teams added, allowing 16 games to be played each night. Currently, with six divisions – three in each league – there are opportunities for five teams to appear in the playoffs, with the three division champions being joined by the winner of a one-game Wild Card play-in. How would this change going forward? Would the top two teams in each eight-team division within a league be the playoff teams, or would MLB want to keep the five participants (with the two weakest records among the top five qualifiers playing each other) or expand the playoffs to eight teams – which seems like going overboard, though there are financial pluses for the league and teams in expanding the playoffs, but playing games in cold cities in November would be horrific.

Adding two teams from warm cities wouldn’t factor into a November playoff being any more or less terrible. The top 10 television markets without MLB teams are currently:

Is beautiful Portland, Oregon the next location for a MLB team?
Is beautiful Portland, Oregon the next location for a MLB team?

Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, Florida

Portland, Oregon

Charlotte, North Carolina

Indianapolis, Indiana

Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

Nashville, Tennessee

Hartford-New Haven, Connecticut

Columbus, Ohio

Salt Lake City, Utah

Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina – Asheville, North Carolina

Further down the list – San Antonio, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, and Birmingham.

Some could argue the vicinity of teams like the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians to Columbus and Indianapolis would make those cities more likely to only have minor league teams, which they both currently do (Indianapolis Indians are the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Columbus Clippers are the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians), than the addition of another club. The Reds, in particular, thrive on fans coming from Dayton, Columbus, Lexington, and Louisville to watch Major League quality play, even though minor league clubs are present in each city. The population doesn’t support an additional Ohio team, especially when the Reds and Indians can’t fill their current stadiums on a nightly basis.

That’s why it is so interesting when Brooklyn gets brought up as an expansion city still today. We all know that the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles in 1957, but could New York carry a third team if ownership doesn’t price out their fans the way that the New York Yankees and Mets have appeared to do within their new stadiums and the expensive, luxury “values” that they are providing now?

Could Charlotte represent the south in MLB?
Could Charlotte represent the south in MLB?

It is worrisome to have so many teams packed into one area, and the east coast is littered with teams, specifically the northeast. However, the addition of a team in Charlotte could be really intriguing for MLB. The south has always been ruled by the Atlanta Braves, and Braves Nation is huge due to the existence of TBS and the games being nationally televised for so many years. I grew up watching some pretty terrible, Dale Murphy-led Braves’ teams. Charlotte opens baseball in the south for the National League, as it could create a new rivalry with Atlanta, while focusing on the markets of Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Asheville, Greensville, and Spartanburg could allow for some lucrative corporate and television endorsement agreements for the club, while expanding baseball in a southeastern region that is heavily populated and not so heavily represented in MLB today.

Additionally, Las Vegas is mentioned often due to its booming population when baseball expansion is discussed. It isn’t even a top 40 TV market, and if it were to earn a team, would the team thrive with so much of the population busy working the casinos and other tourist attractions, while those tourists are busy stuffing themselves with free buffets, drinks, and Celine Dion shows? Can it really support a club when the main economy factor will always be tourists? We’ve seen attendance become an issue in Tampa and Miami in the past due to the tourist ways of Florida populations, so would MLB want another potential revenue draining club?

Portland, Oregon, much like Charlotte, would fit into the Pacific Northwest nicely, creating a natural rivalry with the Seattle Mariners in the American League. There would be some issues with the stadium, as a roof would be necessary, in addition to the fact that Portland has limitations on land due to a pretty strict environmental protection agreement in the area, preventing nature around the city from being destroyed to maintain the area for hikers, tourists, and other green philosophies. Portland is ranked 22nd among all TV markets in the United States, while potentially raking in money from surrounding universities and Nike, among others, in sponsorship and development of the franchise.

Idea One:

With Charlotte and Portland added to the league, this is what MLB would look like with two, eight-team divisions, where the top two teams in each division would be the four playoff teams for each league:

American League

AmericanEast                                                            West

Baltimore Orioles                                   Houston Astros

Boston Red Sox                                       Kansas City Royals

Cleveland Indians                                  Los Angeles Angels

Chicago White Sox                                Minnesota Twins

Detroit Tigers                                          Oakland Athletics

New York Yankees                                 Portland Franchise

Tampa Bay Rays                                    Seattle Mariners

Toronto Blue Jays                                  Texas Rangers

National League

NationalEast                                                           West

Atlanta Braves                                         Arizona Diamondbacks

Charlotte Franchise                               Chicago Cubs

Cincinnati Reds                                      Colorado Rockies

Miami Marlins                                       Los Angeles Dodgers

New York Mets                                       Milwaukee Brewers

Philadelphia Phillies                            St. Louis Cardinals

Pittsburgh Pirates                                 San Diego Padres

Washington Nationals                       San Francisco Giants

Idea Two:

MLB could have four divisions in each league with four teams in each league, with division winners representing the four playoff teams for each league:

American League 

AmericanEast                                           South

Baltimore Orioles                 Houston Astros

Boston Red Sox                     Kansas City Royals

New York Yankees               Tampa Bay Rays

Toronto Blue Jays                Texas Rangers

North                                       West

Chicago White Sox             Los Angeles Angels

Cleveland Indians              Oakland Athletics

Detroit Tigers                      Portland Franchise

Minnesota Twins               Seattle Mariners

National League

NationalEast                                          North

New York Mets                     Chicago Cubs

Philadelphia Phillies         Cincinnati Reds

Pittsburgh Pirates               Milwaukee Brewers

Washington Nationals     St. Louis Cardinals

South                                      West

Atlanta Braves                     Arizona Diamondbacks

Charlotte Franchise           Los Angeles Dodgers

Colorado Rockies               San Diego Padres

Miami Marlins                   San Francisco Giants

Major League Baseball is as successful financially as it has ever been in 2014. With MLB Advanced Media revenue, local and national television contract revenue, and merchandise revenue continuing to fatten the pockets of existing owners, it is time for the league to open the door for another group of billionaires to take over new franchises. There is plenty of talent out there in MLB, so much so that teams are allowing players who can help them now, like Gregory Polanco of the Pirates and Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals, to rot in the minors to avoid salary issues in the future. If owners are so willing to obviously take on losses to save a player, how about players get taken away through an expansion draft. Now is the time. Expansion should be upon us, and whoever the next commissioner of baseball is going to be, it would be a huge splash to add two franchises as his first act as the league’s new fearless leader

 

 

 

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14 thoughts on “Is It Time for Expansion in MLB?

  1. That’s a really stupid idea. The last thing MLB needs right now is a couple more floundering small market teams. The reason Polanco and Taveras are being kept in the minors right now is the super-two rule. It cost the Phillies $17 million when they brought up Cole Hamels too soon. They need to get rid of that rule and while they’re at it do something to shorten the length of games. There was a recent 9 inning game that went over 3 hours and 40 minutes, and there were only 6 runs scored in the game. Fans are leaving games in droves after 6 innings because they have to get up in the morning. Correcting those situations is far more important than bringing Major League baseball to Charlotte, Portland, Brooklyn, or any other town that doesn’t already have a team.

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  2. Salt Lake City would be an ideal location for a Major League Baseball Team. The market already has the highly successful Salt Lake Bees Triple-AAA Franchise, and the market would easily embrace another top-level sport to fill out the void that exists between the end of the Utah Jazz season and the start of college football season in Utah. The market has proven that it can support other pro sports, as current Major League Soccer member Real Salt Lake is among the most successful, well-run, and highest-attended franchises in the league. People in Utah love baseball, and would easily support having a team here. The new franchise (probably just taking over the current Salt Lake Bees moniker) would join the American League West Division, and would play at the current Smith’s Ballpark that the current Triple-AAA Bees play at. The field is designed after Fenway in Boston, and sits 15,000+ people. However, there is potential to expand the stadium to Major League levels because there is no permanent seating behind the outfield fence.

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  3. I would also re-align your National League set up. My divisions would be as follows: West:
    Diamondbacks
    Dodgers
    Giants
    Padres

    South:
    Braves
    Charlotte Franchise
    Marlins
    Nationals

    East:
    Mets
    Phillies
    Pirates
    Reds

    North:
    Brewers
    Cardinals
    Cubs
    Rockies

    To put the Rockies in a South Division where they would play the majority of their games on the other side of the country is simply not fair. However, Colorado could not be in a four-team West Division because there are already 4 teams there. However, placing them in a hypothetical North/Midwest Division with the Brewers, Cardinals, and Cubs would be much closer and fairer to the Rockies. It would make much more sense for the Washington Nationals to play in the National League South, and for the Cincinnati Reds to play in the National League East.

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  4. I like Matthew Castleton’s proposed alignment very much. I also agree with him that Salt Lake City would definitely be an ideal location for a new AL West team.

    As far as the cold weather considerations are concerned, you can easily tweak both the regular season schedule and the postseason to avoid those, or at least minimize them.

    Ideally, I would envision a regular season schedule consisting of 144 games; 72 games within division (24 games each x three opponents) and 72 games outside division (six games each x 12 opponents) with no interleague play.

    What we would more likely see, however, is a 150-game schedule, with 54 games within division (18 games each x three opponents) and 72 league games outside division (six games each x 12 opponents), supplemented by a 24-game interleague slate (six games each x four opponents). Divisions would be paired off against each other on a rotating basis. This would make it possible for every team to play all the other teams within four years.

    If interleague play is retained, I would also eliminate the current practice of scheduling interleague series between “natural” regional rivals every season. Not every team has such a rival, and it would also create a redundancy for those teams that do have them when those teams’ “natural” rivals are already on the schedule as a result of the divisional rotation.

    Either way, reducing the regular season from the current 162 games to 150, or better yet, 144 games would have the effect of shaving two (or three) weeks off the season while still staging enough games to make a “legitimate” season. The regular season would begin a week (or two) later than it does now, and it would end a week (or two) earlier than it does now. You wouldn’t be playing regular season games in March, nor would you be playing World Series games in November; especially with the postseason scheme I envision:

    Having four division winners totally eliminates the need for the wild card berths. (I’m one of those who disdains wild cards; I believe a team should have to actually WIN something to qualify for postseason.) I would retain the current three-tier postseason format, but I would abbreviate the Division Series from best-of-five to best-of-three, revert the League Championship Series to the pre-1985 best-of-five format which should never have been expanded in the first place, and keep the World Series as a best-of-seven affair.

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  5. I like Matthew Castleton’s realignment proposal very much. I also agree with him that Salt Lake City would be a great choice for a new team in the American League West.

    As far as the cold-weather considerations are concerned, those can be minimized, if not totally eliminated, with some intelligent adjustments to the regular season schedule and the postseason format.

    Ideally, I would propose abbreviating the regular season from the current 162 games to 144; 72 divisional games (24 games each x three opponents), 72 league games outside of division (six games each x twelve opponents), and no inter-league play.

    We would more likely see, however, a 150-game regular season schedule, consisting of 54 divisional games (eighteen games each x three opponents), 72 non-divisional league games (six games each x twelve opponents) and a 24-game inter-league slate (six games each x four opponents). Each division would be paired off against a division in the opposite league on a rotating basis; this would make it possible for every team to play all of the other teams in the opposite league within four years.

    If inter-league play were to be retained, I would recommend eliminating the current practice of scheduling the “natural” inter-league rivals (Dodgers and Angels, Mets and Yankees, etc.) to play each other every year. This creates two problems. One, it causes either a void in the schedule or a redundancy when the rival teams are already scheduled to play each other as a result of the divisional rotation. Two, many of the teams in Major League Baseball have no “natural” inter-league rival.

    Either way, abbreviating the regular season schedule would effectively shave two (possibly three) weeks off the regular season while still staging enough games to comprise a “legitimate” regular season. There would be no regular season games in late March, nor would we see any World Series games in November; especially if the postseason were abbreviated as I also recommend:

    The addition of two new divisions and their corresponding champions would effectively replace the current “wild-card” berths”. So I would eliminate the “wild-cards” altogether, since they would no longer be needed. (Personally, I look askance at “wild-cards”; I believe very strongly that a team should have to actually WIN something to qualify for the postseason). The current three-tier playoff system would remain in place, but I would abbreviate the Division Series from the current best-of-five to best of three, and revert the League Championship Series to its original best-of-five format. The World Series would continue as a best-of-seven event.

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  6. As an alternative alignment, I would propose the following:

    NL East–Miami, New York Mets, Philadelphia and Washington
    NL Central–Atlanta, Charlotte (expansion team), Cincinnati and Pittsburgh
    NL Midwest–Chicago Cubs, Colorado, Milwaukee and St. Louis
    NL West–Dodgers, Arizona, San Diego and San Francisco

    AL East–Baltimore, Boston, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay
    AL Central–Chicago White Sox, Cleveland, Detroit and Toronto
    AL Midwest–Royals, Houston, Texas and Minnesota
    AL West–Angels, Oakland, Salt Lake City (expansion team) and Seattle

    The rationale here is that Chicago is much closer to Cleveland, Detroit and Toronto than Kansas City, Dallas and Houston are to Tampa. Conversely, Tampa is much closer to Baltimore, New York and Boston than it is to Houston, Dallas and (especially) Kansas City.

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    1. I would put Charlotte in the AL South, and Brooklyn/New Jersey/Montreal in the NL East. I would then return Houston to the National League and move Colorado to the American League:

      NL
      West – Arizona, LA Dodgers, San Francisco, San Diego
      South – Houston, Atlanta, Miami, St. Louis
      North – Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh
      East – NY Mets, Philadelphia, Washington, Brooklyn*

      AL
      West – Colorado, LA Angels, Oakland, Seattle
      South – Texas, Charlotte*, Tampa Bay, Kansas City
      North – Chicago White Sox, Minnesota, Cleveland, Detroit
      East – NY Yankees, Toronto, Boston, Baltimore

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  7. I like your idea, but you skipped over Sacramento which (according to your link) is the second largest TV market without an MLB team. Sacramento has better (dryer and warmer) weather than Portland has has shown better support for Milb than Portland has. That being said, I think the better move would be to move the A’s 80 miles east from Oakland to Sac. This would keep the A’s near their fans yet give them their own market and region. I like Charlotte, but I would give the second one to Indy. It is another great minor league baseball town that supports NFL and NBA franchises. My realignment idea is a bit more radical, but here it is:

    National League

    West
    Seattle Mariners
    Sacramento A’s (Relocation)
    San Francisco Giants
    LA Dodgers
    LA Angels
    San Diego Padres
    Arizona Diamondbacks
    Colorado Rockies

    Central
    Minnesota Twins
    Milwaukee Brewers
    St. Louis Cardinals
    Kansas City Royals
    Chicago Cubs
    Chicago White Sox
    Cincinnati Reds
    Indianapolis (Expansion)

    American League

    East
    Boston Red Sox
    New York Yankees
    New York Mets
    Detroit Tigers
    Toronto Blue Jays
    Pittsburg Pirates
    Philadelphia Phillies
    Cleveland Indians

    South
    Atlanta Braves
    Baltimore Orioles
    Washington Nationals
    Tampa Bay Rays
    Miami Marlins
    Houston Astros
    Texas Rangers
    Charlotte (Expansion)

    This obviously changes the leagues drastically to an NBA like East – West rivalry. In my opinion the leagues already favor these coasts. Sox and Yankees in the AL. Dodgers and Giants in the NL.
    I would have the 4 division winners with an automatic in and then the second and third place teams play each other in 1 game wild card games (3rd @ 2nd). That would leave you with 8 remaining teams for playoffs. Anyway I know it is radical, but it’s an idea.

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  8. I think Raleigh NC would be a better market than Charlotte since they have an NHL team to balance out the teams. This would give Charlotte the brown ball sports and Raleigh the stick sports. Maybe NCSU could build a new football stadium that can be converted into a baseball stadium like the now defunct Metronome.

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  9. there shouldm’t be 2 Pennsylvania teams in the national league 1 should be in the American league 1 should be in the national league

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