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Expansion Could Alter MLB's Landscape

The winds of change are in the air. Major League Baseball could be nearing an expansion to 32 teams which would signal a large shift in the baseball world. One of the biggest changes would be dissolving both leagues as baseball would shift to a four-division system.

There would be plenty of other changes to make a new system work. Are fans, owners, and players ready for this type of radical change?
Image courtesy of Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Expansion Cities
Montreal has been clamoring for a new baseball franchise since the Expos left for Washington. A strong outpouring of fans has started to clamor for a team to return. There would need to be more support for the building of a downtown park. If Canadian fans can push for the building of a new park, Montreal would be a likely destination for an expansion club.

Portland, Oregon has stadium plans and says it’s prepared if a team becomes available. An ownership group from Japan could be a likely fit since the Seattle Mariners, the closest team to Portland, is owned by Nintendo. While speaking in Seattle this fall, Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke about Portland as an expansion city. “I think Portland is a possibility. If we were to go to 32 [teams], we would need a Western time zone team.”

New Divisions
Minnesota’s new division would include a mixture of familiar and new. The North Division would likely include Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Montreal, both New York franchises and Toronto. MLB’s schedule would be reduced to 156-games so the Twins would face each division foe 12 times (six home and six road games. They would also play every other opponent three times.

If Minnesota didn’t end up in the North, the Midwest division could also be a likely landing spot. Baseball America predicts the Midwest would include both Chicago franchises, Colorado, Houston, Kansas City, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Texas.

Only two teams, the Rockies and the Twins, would be playing out of their time zone.

Playoff Changes
Baseball only recently expanded the playoffs by adding a Wild Card Game. With expansion, the playoffs would change as well. Each of the four division winners would await the winners of four wild card games. Eight other teams with the best records would make the playoffs to square off in a wild card game. Those winners would move to the Division Series then to the Championship Series and the final two would meet for the World Series.

With the expanded playoffs, 12 of the 32 franchises would qualify for the postseason. Minnesota saw more fan interest this year while the club fought for a Wild Card spot. This trend could continue for more franchises with even more teams being in the playoff hunt.

Baseball is a game based on tradition and I don’t know if fans are ready for this radical of a shift. What are your thoughts or feelings about the possibility of baseball expanding? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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125 Comments

I think the dilution of talent among two additional teams could be problematic. I also wonder about the mechanics and strategy of an expansion draft...

In context of the international expansion of the league, I think Montreal and Mexico City make the most sense. Portland is too small, as is Seattle to support teams in both cities, just ask the NBA.
    • spinowner likes this

No matter what they do, we and everyone else will route for their home team and baseball will continue to be the most popular regional sport while football is national.In football no one knows all the linemen - just the stars - in Baseball you have to know the entire starting lneup.In football just remember a few great QBs and they will start every game, in baseball we have five in the rotation and they only pitch half the game.

 

It is a fascinating spectacle and the only reason to expand is to capture more regional markets.  

    • scottz likes this

 

It's always a fun topic. I haven't heard anything on it in a long time... But it is fun... 

 

Here are my four divisions, if those are the two new teams (Portland, Montreal):

 

Midwest: Kansas City, St. Louis, Minnesota, Cubs, White Sox, Milwaukee, Toronto, Montreal.

 

 

Ha Ha Ha!

You cannot imagine the complete distain Les Montrealais would have if they were considered "Midwestern".

 

Maybe switch Montreal and Detroit.

    • ashbury, beckmt and Sconnie like this

 

If Portland and Montreal want teams, Tampa and the Athletics are good candidates.

 

However:

 

Montreal could not support an MLB baseball franchise previously, why would anyone think that it can do it now? 

 

Portland could not support an NBA franchise previously (much less cost btw), I just don't think that it can support an MLB one. Even their AAA team (Beavers) had to leave.Now they got a new AAA team and it averages less than 4K tickets per game. No way.

Excellent question re finances and Montreal.The previous owners were committed to trying to move the team--it really was like the movie Major League.They didn't even have an English language TV deal.New owners would probably have to sign a 20+ year lease.

 

This leads to two major differences in funding now compared to then:

First, Canada has gone from having zero all-sports networks to many 9the family of TSN's in English and French and SportsNet), and they are hungry for programming.There would be decent TV deals.Second, the new stadium would be (I) not only in downtown, but (ii) a baseball stadium with seats that face the field, which would no longer be made of green linoleum.  

 

On a different note:I think moving the A's to Portland and the Rays to, well, anywhere (Nashville, Charlotte, Montreal) might precede any expansion. 

 

Finally, Charlotte's desirability lost some steam following the bank-led Great Recession.

I think expansion will happen someday, but probably (hopefully) not for at least another 20 years. As several have mentioned, the Rays and A's are barely hanging on. Before expanding, first identify the 30 best markets in North America and put the existing 30 teams in those markets.

Expansion should happen only if two conditions are met: One, there are 32 markets capable of satisfactorily supporting a major league team, and, two, there is a talent pool (especially pitching) capable of satisfactorily populating 32 major league rosters. It's kind of fun to think about what expansion might look like if and when that happens but it's essentially pointless until that time. I will say this, however. Instead of creating divisions and then deciding how the postseason would be set up, it should be looked at from the other direction. Decide how the postseason should be set up and then create divisions to facilitate that.

Excellent question re finances and Montreal.The previous owners were committed to trying to move the team--it really was like the movie Major League.They didn't even have an English language TV deal.New owners would probably have to sign a 20+ year lease.
 
This leads to two major differences in funding now compared to then:
First, Canada has gone from having zero all-sports networks to many 9the family of TSN's in English and French and SportsNet), and they are hungry for programming.There would be decent TV deals.Second, the new stadium would be (I) not only in downtown, but (ii) a baseball stadium with seats that face the field, which would no longer be made of green linoleum.  
 
On a different note:I think moving the A's to Portland and the Rays to, well, anywhere (Nashville, Charlotte, Montreal) might precede any expansion. 
 
Finally, Charlotte's desirability lost some steam following the bank-led Great Recession.


Charlotte is booming again. As someone who has lived in DC, Cincy, Nashville, Buffalo, Twin Cities and now Charlotte i can honestly say that they could support a team. Charlotte is hungry for baseball. The banking sector is BOOMING in Charlotte and they have scores of other business now. The AAA Knights have ranked #1 in attendance since 2014 after BB&T ballpark opened downtown. The AAA Nashville Sounds also have high attendance numbers and Nashville has a vibrant growing downtown and is a central distribution center for companies in the midwest. Both cities are ripe for MLB baseball in my opinion.

I can see expansion but they had better keep the Twins out of the same division as the Yankees are in. That would be a disaster for this franchise. Oh, it may help attendance for home games vs the Yanks but I do not think they would get a good chance to compete with the big money Yanks (not to mention the Mets and Boston as well). Hopefully they can keep us in a Central division with teams like Cleveland, both Chicagos, Detroit and St Louis and Pittsburgh. Maybe put Philly in that North division. If they keep the American and National Leagues, then have 2 divisions of 8 teams each with 8 teams in each league making the playoffs and reduce the regular season to end in mid-September then start the playoffs with best of 5 series.

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diehardtwinsfan
Oct 18 2017 06:36 AM

 

that seems unlikely for travel, safety, and other cultural reasons. Mostly travel. 

 

To a point. Baseball is very popular in Central America, and there are huge cities that could support teams. I agree on travel/safety (depending on where they go), but those west coast trips are long too. I just don't see Portland/Montreal being a success. Montreal already failed once, and did so miserably. Portland isn't big enough. Indianapolis is a much larger market without a team (and I don't see one here either).

 

and yes... expansion without fixing revenue inequality will kill the sport.

 

The minute we started interleague play baseball has been moving towards this. I’m assuming DH for all and doing away with the National and American Leagues. I don’t like it.

I say add a team to each league, have 4 divisions of 4 teams and do away with interleague play and return to how it was and quit messing with it. And align teams to keep them in the leagues they are in already but create the extra division.
NL:
East - Mets, Nats, Phillies, Pirates
South - Braves, Reds, Marlins, expansion team tbd (not Montreal)
Midwest - Cubs, Brewers, Cards, Rockies
West - DBacks, Dodgers, Giants, Padres

If Montreal is the team in the mix, put them in the East Division and move the Nats to the South Division.

AL:
East - Boston, NY, Orioles, Toronto
South - Tampa, Astros, Rangers, KC
Midwest - Cleveland, Detroit, ChiSox, Twins
West - Seattle, A’s, Angels, expansion team tbd (assuming Portland)

As for playoffs not sure how I’d work it. No WC game. Four division winners play a best of 5, then best of 7 for league championship, then onto WS. If the goal is to expand the playoffs then the top 2 of each division play a best of 3 series.

Yeah, I like ground rules and the DH/Pitcher swings the bat is the ultimate ground rule.

"Rays and A's are barely hanging on highly profitable despite bad stadium situations"

 

Fixed that for you.

 

"Indianapolis is a much larger market without a team"

 

In what world is Indianapolis a 'much larger' market than Portland or Montreal? It is smaller than both of them and considerably smaller than Montreal.

 

I think people underestimate how poorly managed the situation in Montreal was before they left. There was the MLB strike, followed by a fire sale of a contending roster. They repeatedly screwed up the marketing and then sold to Jeffery Loria so he could actively sabotage things to the point where he could relocate.

    • caninatl04 likes this

 

1) After 1983, they were generally near the bottom of the league in attendance.

2) Didn't the owners get the Marlins, and the league took over the team for a while? So it wasn't just one capricious ownership group.

 

They literally did not offer salary arbitration to Cliff Lee and 4-6 other good players, and let them all walk. That's when the attendance plummeted, and rightly.

 

Yes, the league ran them the year after the league voted to contract Montreal and MN, and literally had to hire a manager a few weeks before the season, because the FO had fired everyone making money. They also took all the computer equipment and most everything else to Miami, leaving the team with almost no FO, scouts, etc....

 

It wasn't the fans that betrayed the city/team....

    • caninatl04 likes this

To a point. Baseball is very popular in Central America, and there are huge cities that could support teams. I agree on travel/safety (depending on where they go), but those west coast trips are long too. I just don't see Portland/Montreal being a success. Montreal already failed once, and did so miserably. Portland isn't big enough. Indianapolis is a much larger market without a team (and I don't see one here either).

and yes... expansion without fixing revenue inequality will kill the sport.

One point the article made was that the lost revenue in going to 156 games would be made up in lower travel costs because of realignment. Thats why everyone is emphasizing locations as they are. It’s not just about being viable in community and financial support, but is also viable in location.

They literally did not offer salary arbitration to Cliff Lee and 4-6 other good players, and let them all walk. That's when the attendance plummeted, and rightly.

Not sure what Cliff Lee has to do with 1983-97. Some highly-presentable teams were put on the field, including that phantom championship team of 1994 due to the strike. Top-half performance on the field many years, bottom-half attendance consistently. They did not have a long run of losing seasons until the late 90s. I agree we should not to judge the city once the bottom fell out with the team.

 

You and I have different ideas on what makes a good baseball town.

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nicksaviking
Oct 18 2017 09:39 AM
How about Vancouver instead? Then you'd get your Pacific Northwest team and your Canadian team all in one package. Then you can do whatever is the biggest market lacking a team.

But I vote no on all of this business. I'm not against change, but I am against my team getting shafted and nothing in this proposal looks beneficial to the Twins. Is rather go the relocation route as sad as I'd feel for some of those fans.
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nicksaviking
Oct 18 2017 09:40 AM

One point the article made was that the lost revenue in going to 156 games would be made up in travel costs with realignment. Thats why everyone is emphasizing locations as they are.


Except for the Twins who lose the game revenue and have way more travel. That's a recipe for having the lowest payroll in baseball.

Except for the Twins who lose the game revenue and have way more travel. That's a recipe for having the lowest payroll in baseball.


Exactly. That’s why I think the article is kind of ... not well thought out and why everyone is proposing their own realignment. And I even mentioned that in previous posts. I even went so far as to compare actual mileage with some to try and put the best workable solution to that.
    • nicksaviking likes this

Thinking about 4 division winners and 8 wildcards.. what if it were 4 division winners and 4 wildcards.. the wild card series are 2 or 3 game series where the wild card team has to sweep a division winner to advance?

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diehardtwinsfan
Oct 18 2017 11:30 AM

 

"Rays and A's are barely hanging on highly profitable despite bad stadium situations"

 

Fixed that for you.

 

"Indianapolis is a much larger market without a team"

 

In what world is Indianapolis a 'much larger' market than Portland or Montreal? It is smaller than both of them and considerably smaller than Montreal.

 

I think people underestimate how poorly managed the situation in Montreal was before they left. There was the MLB strike, followed by a fire sale of a contending roster. They repeatedly screwed up the marketing and then sold to Jeffery Loria so he could actively sabotage things to the point where he could relocate.

 

OK... went and looked it up. :)You're right on Montreal. It's quite a bit bigger than both. Indy and Portland are very comparable for the record.

They didn't have an English language broadcast for several years also....

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diehardtwinsfan
Oct 18 2017 11:33 AM

 

Not sure what Cliff Lee has to do with 1983-97. Some highly-presentable teams were put on the field, including that phantom championship team of 1994 due to the strike. Top-half performance on the field many years, bottom-half attendance consistently. They did not have a long run of losing seasons until the late 90s. I agree we should not to judge the city once the bottom fell out with the team.

 

You and I have different ideas on what makes a good baseball town.

 

I wonder if Montreal is to MLB as LA is to the NFL. LA is a huge market that should have been able to support two football teams, but could not. Now you have two teams going there and they still have problems with attendance.

    • Mike Sixel and Vanimal46 like this

I think this is how I'd go. Colorado is kind of misplaced but they don't really fit anywhere. Maybe adding a team in Charlotte or Nashville instead of Portland would make more geographic sense and then Colorado could slide west.

I'd also allow teams to set their own ground rules as it regards DH / pitcher batting. Must be declared for entirety of season and then maybe required 2 years to change.

 

NORTHEAST
NY Mets
NY Yankees
Boston
Philadelphia
Montreal
Pittsburgh
Washington
Baltimore

 

GREAT LAKES
Detroit
Cleveland
Milwaukee
Minnesota
Toronto
Cincinnati
Chicago Cubs
Chicago WS

 

SOUTH
Texas
Houston
Colorado
Kansas City
Saint Louis
Atlanta
Miami
Tampa

 

WEST
Seattle
San Francisco
Oakland
LA Dodgers
LA Angels
San Diego
Arizona
Portland

    • SQUIRREL, nicksaviking and caninatl04 like this

 

Charlotte is booming again. As someone who has lived in DC, Cincy, Nashville, Buffalo, Twin Cities and now Charlotte i can honestly say that they could support a team. Charlotte is hungry for baseball. The banking sector is BOOMING in Charlotte and they have scores of other business now. The AAA Knights have ranked #1 in attendance since 2014 after BB&T ballpark opened downtown. The AAA Nashville Sounds also have high attendance numbers and Nashville has a vibrant growing downtown and is a central distribution center for companies in the midwest. Both cities are ripe for MLB baseball in my opinion.

 

Also, North Carolina loves baseball more than any other place I've lived or at least that was the case 15 years ago and The Triangle and Piedmont Triad are both pretty decent sized in-state metro areas within easy driving distance.

 

Baseball had about a 10 billion dollar revenue stream. Dropping 6 games would be a 3.7% drop in revenue, about 370 million. I do not think that mlb would save that much in travel costs, I doubt players will want to give up their per game income. A home and home series against a rotating team would likely be added to keep up the revenue. 

The players union would push strongly for this, even if the players existing contracts were reduced by 3.7%.Reason being the addition of 2 teams automatically turns 25 AAAA-type players into major-leaguers, with the accompanying higher salaries.  

And I'm guessing most players would welcome the reduction in games, even if they took a slight hit in the pocketbook.

Also, North Carolina loves baseball more than any other place I've lived or at least that was the case 15 years ago and The Triangle and Piedmont Triad are both pretty decent sized in-state metro areas within easy driving distance.


I think the Carolinas (maybe even just North?) have a lot of minor league teams around. Both Charlotte and Durham have AAA teams.

 

expansion won't solve the revenue problem. If anything, it makes it worse. Only way to use expansion to do this is to put another team in NY and LA, and even then, I'm not sure it solves anything.

 

Honestly, if baseball wanted to expand, I'd think there would be much better markets in central America than Portland or Montreal.

 

But central America for the most part is dirt and i mean DIRT poor.How could any of those countries down there possibly sustain a major league team with comparative payrolls to US teams? 

 

Panama and Costa Rica have yearly average incomes of $2740. Honduras $760 and Nicaragua less than $500 a year! 

 

If you jump over to the island of Hispaniola it doesn't get any better with Haiti at $460 and Domincan Republic is not much better. Just south of our border Mexico averages $4,400 a year.

    • Mike Sixel likes this

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