This article was inspired by this FanPost, which references a recent radio interview in Portland, Oregon which appeared to indicate that interest in having a MLB team in Portland was ramping up.
Most likely, a Portland team would come via expansion, not relocation, even though there was talk of relocation in the radio interview.
Expansion is likely coming to MLB. It’s probably at least five years away and very likely more.
When it does come, another team would likely be added so as to produce two 16-team leagues, broken down into four divisions of four teams each.
For the purposes of this specific discussion, I am going to make these two assumptions, which might or might not actually happen:
- The stadium situations in Oakland and Tampa Bay will be figured out and neither of those teams will relocate
- The two expansion teams will be located in Portland and Charlotte
Further, I’m not going to get involved here with possible expanded playoffs nor changes in the length of the season, both of which could happen with expansion to 32 MLB teams. My sole point in writing this article is to argue for keeping as much of the existing league structure as possible.
Why? By the time expansion happens, we will be approaching 150 years of National League history and 125 years of American League history. I believe that matters. To realign the teams in “radical” fashion, possibly including the two-team markets within single divisions, denies that history and also could, potentially, split up current rivalries such as Cubs/Cardinals, Dodgers/Giants and even Yankees/Red Sox. That would not be good for the game, I believe. I’m strongly against having the two-team markets in the same division — having 18 (or so) Cubs/White Sox games is far, far too many.
Granted that one of the reasons for divisional realignment is to reduce travel, I’ve got a realignment idea that would do that, with only two teams having to switch leagues. Neither of those teams has a long history in its current league.
Here, then, is how I would align 32 teams under the scenario I noted above:
(* expansion team)
(** changed league)
Granted that having the Rockies in a “South” division isn’t really accurate, but it does put them in a division that would have them geographically close to the other three teams. This setup would retain existing rivalries, and potentially create a couple of new ones (Mariners/Portland, and the two Florida teams). It would, presuming you keep an unbalanced schedule, still keep travel to a minimum. Most of these divisions don’t have any flights longer than an hour, except for the ones in the west; a certain amount of that is simply unavoidable based on where teams are located.
The Rockies and Rays were both created in the 1990s and thus have far less history in one league than the two teams that have already switched leagues (Brewers and Astros). For those teams, a regional rivalry might be better than a “league” identity that hasn’t existed for all that long.
Again, this sort of thing is at least half a decade away and perhaps more. Other cities could be involved in expansion, including Montreal, and if Montreal is added, I’d put them in the same division as the Blue Jays. That would create a rivalry that could make baseball a much bigger deal in Canada.
I’m sure you have an opinion on this, so have at it.
MLB expansion and divisional realignment...
This poll is closed
Al’s setup is a good one. Do this one!
I have a different idea (leave in comments)