For the rest of the offseason, when things get a little slow, as they are now, I'm going to put out for discussion some sort of macro baseball topic. Today, let's take on the structure of the leagues.
Since 1998, there have been thirty major league teams; this has made, for the first time since the two-league structure was institutionalized in the early 20th Century, leagues with unequal numbers of teams. With the creation of a three-division structure and the wild card, it's also created six divisions with varying numbers of teams (there is one six-team division, four divisions with five and one with four clubs). With interleague play, this makes for wacky and uneven (and some say unfair) schedules, whereas before 1997, pretty much everyone played the same schedule.
So today's question is: where should MLB go in the near and far future? Expanding to 32 teams could result in the creation of eight four-team divisions, like the NFL has. This would eliminate the wild card, make scheduling easier, and make every postseason participant a division champion; this would please some, though others would say that with so many "divisions", winning a title is cheapened.
And if this is done, what cities would be "major-league" enough (read: TV market size) to qualify? There are several cities in the USA that don't have teams which have bigger TV markets than four that already do (San Diego, 27th market; Kansas City, 31st; Cincinnati, 33rd; Milwaukee, 34th). They are (TV market rank in parentheses): Orlando (19), Sacramento (20), Portland, Oregon (23), Charlotte (25), Indianapolis (26), Raleigh/Durham (28), Hartford (29), Nashville (30), and Columbus, Ohio (32).
Obviously, some of those cities (Columbus, Sacramento, Hartford, Orlando) are probably too close to entrenched teams with large fanbases to be able to support a team. But what of Portland, Charlotte or Nashville? All those cities have teams in other major professional sports.
And what of possible foreign expansion? Could MLB go to Mexico (Monterrey has been mentioned), or a post-Castro Cuba (Havana had a Triple-A team for many years before Castro's takeover in 1959)? Should MLB, now that the Canadian dollar is stronger, put a second team there again (Vancouver)?
The counter-argument is that 30 teams is too many and there are too many weak franchises. Does Florida deserve two teams, or even one? Even some cities that have had franchises for decades (Pittsburgh and Kansas City, for example) have struggled in recent years. If MLB contracted by, say, four teams, they could still have four postseason teams by resuming the two-division format and having a second-place team in each division qualify, setting up a true "Division Series".
There are valid arguments on both sides of this issue, and I thought you'd all like to chew on it today.
Discuss amongst yourselves.