Major League Baseball is talking expansion and re-alignment again. Commissioner Rob Manfred says MLB is considering expansion into Mexico, and eight divisions of four teams each. I have my personal preferences about how they should do this, from re-location of current teams to expansion and re-alignment.
First off, the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics are both candidates for re-location. Both are having issues getting their stadiums built. The A's plan to go to San Jose is almost dead, barring a victory by San Jose at the Supreme Court. The Rays plans to stay in Tampa are at the mercy of a fight in the county over money. While MLB is trying to keep them both in their current homes, they may not be able to. My view?
- I'd like to see the Rays make a move, as it just hasn't worked out there. Tampa has a lot of minor league teams in the area, and Spring Training. They just don't have the attendance there. They could consider moves to San Juan, Puerto Rico, New Orleans, Nashville, Havanna, Cuba (in a few years maybe) or staying put. I think Charlotte would be a great place for a team though, if they move. Montreal is an option here too, though I doubt it.
- I'd like to see the Athletics stick around Oakland, personally, though a move to San Jose wouldn't be so bad. This franchise has struggled everywhere it's been financially, but it's been in Oakland a while now, and the team has some history there. Obviously San Jose is an option, as would be Las Vegas, Sacramento, Vancouver, and of course, Portland. I'd like to see them stay, but if they go, Portland or Vancouver would be nice spots. They could be moved to Mexico too.
Next, they are talking about expansion. I mentioned Mexico twice now, and I think there will be a team in Mexico if they are floating this. I also think they are going to bring a team back to Montreal. I'd be fine with both of these. If not these, there are other spots to consider. Again, I do think Cuba could be considered in a few years. I'd like to see Montreal get their team back, but if they are going to put a team in Mexico, a team in Baja California somewhere would make a lot of sense. Tijuana is the only city large enough though, and there are issues with a team there. Still, it makes the most sense for alignment. I'd bet on it being in Mexico City though.
Manfred says he wants to then convert both leagues into four divisions. I have some thoughts on that. My plan for re-alignment would look like this:
- East- Montreal, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
- South- Atlanta, Cincinnati, Miami, Washington
- North- Chicago, Colorado, Milwaukee, St. Louis
- West- Arizona, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco
- East- Baltimore, Boston, New York, Toronto
- North- Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota
- South- Houston, Kansas City, Texas, Tampa/Re-Located Team
- West- Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, Mexican Expansion Team
I think these divisions would bring about the best protection and re-creation of rivalries, and would bring about a more interesting schedule. There are obviously some other ways to do this, particularly if you moved Tampa all the way out West which would allow you to put a potential Mexico City team in the division with the Texas teams. Even so, I like this alignment.
Finally, there's the issue of the post-season. The simple thing is to just put the division winners in, and go back to four qualifiers. I don't think MLB will like that idea. They will probably put six teams in the playoffs, which doesn't bother me, unless they stick with the current format. I'd like to see a change in the playoff format. My system would look like:
- In round one, I'd have all six teams play a three game series against each other, making for 15 games each. You could get this part done in under three weeks. (This idea was first given to me by a buddy of mine, I didn't make it up)
- The top two teams in each league's standings would advance to the LCS in each league.
- The LCS winners would play in the World Series.
Finally, I'd re-make the schedule a bit. Short of a balanced schedule, I'd like to see a schedule built like this:
- 18 games against each of the other three teams in division (54).
- 6 games against every other team in your league (72).
- 6 games against the opposing league's same division (24).
- 12 games total, played against one team from each of the other league's divisions, based on the previous season's finishes (12).
I don't have strong feelings about expanding rosters, as I'd probably be just fine with them keeping it at 25. If they expanded to 30 players on a roster though, I'd have no problem. The best argument for this is the number of arm injuries that pitchers suffer seems to be growing. The union would love this, owners would hate this. If you did it, you should still cap rosters around 40 players.
That's my vision for how I'd re-make baseball. No "pace of play," no real wild changes to the actual game. I have amateur draft ideas that I'll save for now, but this is the bulk of my vision. Hopefully the commissioner sees this.