MLB Expansion and Realignment is a Game-Changer
Major League Baseball is deep into the playoffs as of right now, but there are more pressing issues at hand. According to Tracy Ringolsby of Baseball America, expansion and realignment could be on its way to the league.
There are two cities that have been in the lead to receive expansion franchises: Montreal and Portland. Montreal is a former MLB city and Portland would be a new one.
Montreal is the former home of the Expos, who moved to Washington and became the Nationals before 2005. The Expos played in Olympic Stadium, an archaic stadium that was opened in 1976. Due to their inability to secure a new ballpark, they moved to Washington. There have been talks for the former MLB city to become one once again, with support of a ballpark being built downtown.
As for the city of Portland, there is an ownership group that includes former Portland Trailblazers broadcaster Mike Barrett. The stadium would also be funded partially by a $150 million grant provided by the city. The irony is that this grant is leftover from the time that Portland attempted to attract the aforementioned Expos.
“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said via OregonLive. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”
In addition to the expansion of the MLB, realignment would have to be in order. With new teams playing in the Canada and the West Coast of the United States, it could cause a logistical nightmare. Due to this, the MLB would get rid of the traditional American League and National League setup and switch to a four-division format, with eight teams per division.
The proposed divisions look like this:
East: Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington.
North: Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Montreal, New York Mets, New York Yankees and Toronto.
Midwest: Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Colorado, Houston, Kansas City, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Texas.
West: Anaheim, Arizona, Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.
According to Ringolsby, there are key elements to the realignment:
A 156-game schedule would include 24 total games against the eight teams in each of the three other divisions—three games against each opponent.
The schedule would include 12 games—six home and six road—against each of the seven divisional opponents.
The format would provide for an off day every week (such as every Monday or Thursday) and would fit into the same foot print for beginning and ending as the 2018 schedule. The season could start on a weekend, which would offset only one three-game series played the week of the All-Star Game.
The 156-game schedule would reduce each team’s slate by six games, but revenue could be made up by a major reduction in travel costs.
Fan interest could be maintained by allowing for the four first-place teams in each division to advance to the postseason, and having play-in games against the eight remaining teams with the best records.
The winners of the four wild card games would advance to the Division Series, which would feature a wild card team against each division champion.
Those four winners would advance to the Championship Series, and the winners of that round would meet in the World Series.
That would add postseason product to the broadcast packages and provide postseason hope for 12 of the 32 franchises, which could boost attendance in September, again offsetting any impact from the season being six games shorter.
With a day off every week, there would be a regular rest routine, much like prior to expansion when teams would often play Sunday doubleheaders and Monday would be off. It could be used for travel so teams did not have to make long flights, arriving in cities at 3 a.m. or later.
And the schedule would drastically reduce travel, while keeping teams in their time zones, except for the Rockies and Twins. They, however, would be playing teams in a time zone an hour earlier, which is less demanding than an hour later, and also provides increased TV ratings because of prime time viewing. The other intra-division teams would have to travel to Colorado or Minnesota just six games per year.
All teams would open the season with an inter-division series, and all out-of-division road trips would be two-city trips.
Let’s say that the MLB goes with these changes. Major rivalries will be broken and new ones will be formed. The first of which will be the death of the AL/NL split and possibly, the end of pitchers as batters. In baseball, the DH has gained popularity and due to former AL and NL teams being put into the same division, there is no way to escape the inevitable “universal DH rule”. You know what that means?
Prolonged careers for sluggers!
As for the divisions, they make much more sense from a logistical standpoint. Many of the teams don’t have to travel outside of their own time zone within their own division. A 156-game season, with a less travel and more time in the same time zone is welcome for players and media alike.
The expansion of the playoffs is a welcome addition as well. More playoffs mean higher leverage situations and higher leverage situations mean increased television ratings. It also means that more teams have hope in September and this will bring increased attendance, as previously stated.
The best teams Wild Card teams are rewarded, regardless of division.
Interleague Rivalries Become Divisional Rivalries
Baseball is a game for the fans and players alike. To get a division like the “East”, that features teams that share some of the same football divisions and a true Baltimore/Washington rivalry is welcome. Philadelphia gets to duke it out with their Pennsylvania foes in Pittsburgh. Miami, Tampa Bay and Atlanta will play for the Florida-Georgia Cup.
The New York and Chicago teams will become rivals and take some of their major rivals with them in Boston and St. Louis respectively. You also get to see the Canadian teams duke it out.
Portland bridges the gap between Seattle and the rest of the West. Furthermore, we get a northwestern showdown between Portland and Seattle. Anaheim and Los Angeles are part of the same division and “The Battle of LA” commences.
These changes may be odd at first, but they are welcome for a exciting and new future for baseball.