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Where are the best possible locations for MLB expansion?

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It’s a slow offseason during the lockout, so let’s take another look.

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Olympic Stadium in Montreal, possible temporary home for a MLB expansion team
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Major League Baseball had 16 teams from 1901 through 1960, and then, for a number of reasons including population increases, the threat of a third major league being created and the availability of jet air travel, began expanding through the 1960s. Eight teams were added by 1969 and two more in 1977, 1993 and 1998, bringing us to the current total of 30.

So now it’s been 23 years since the last expansion and there are quite a number of cities that could qualify for MLB status. Some of these cities are actively lobbying for a MLB expansion franchise. Existing MLB clubs, of course, would love to pocket and split up $3 billion or so each from two cities as expansion fees.

Let’s take a look at the candidate cities. For the purposes of this exercise I am going to assume that the Athletics and Rays will solve their stadium issues and remain in Oakland and the Tampa Bay area, respectively, and that cities where those teams might have moved will be expansion candidates. These cities are listed in no particular order.

Montreal

Pros: A fanbase that supported the Expos quite well until ownership started dismantling the team in the late 1990s. A metro area population that would rank as the 15th largest in the US. A stadium that, while not suitable on a long-term basis, could serve as a temporary home while a new park is built. This 2018 article notes a group led by Stephen Bronfman, part of the family who originally owned the Expos, was then heavily involved in an effort to bring a team back to Montreal.

Cons: Lost said team, the Expos, nearly 20 years ago. Efforts to bring a team back, so far, have failed. There’s no plan to build a stadium, though there’s this lovely rendering of a potential ballpark from the late ‘90s. Possibly the biggest issue: Any Canadian team will be at a financial disadvantage, as they will take in Canadian dollars and in order to compete, have to spend US dollars. The Canadian dollar is currently worth about 78 cents US.

Las Vegas

Pros: Fastest growing metro area in the US. Lots of casino money, and MLB is getting heavily into gambling as their next big revenue source. Lots of local support for a MLB team from the business community.

Cons: Still only the 40th largest US TV market, would be the smallest in MLB. Possible issues with creating a regional sports network, though over the next decade an RSN might be less important with streaming on the horizon. A population mostly of casino workers might not be that interested in baseball.

Portland

Pros: Larger TV market than seven existing MLB teams, and largest TV market in the USA without a MLB team. A large, well-organized group called the Portland Diamond Project has been working on getting a MLB team to the city since at least 2017.

Cons: They had a minor league park that could have been expanded for baseball, but it was converted to soccer years ago and lost a Triple-A team as a result. The Seattle Mariners claim Portland as a TV territory and might not be happy about losing this territory.

Charlotte

Pros: Second-largest US TV market without a MLB team. Far enough from Washington and Atlanta to not encroach on their fanbases.

Cons: This seems more like football country and there doesn’t seem to be any great groundswell of support for a MLB team.

Nashville

Pros: A large, well-organized group was formed to bring a MLB team here. It was headed by Dave Dombrowski until the Phillies poached him to head up their baseball ops team. A Triple-A park that could easily be expanded to MLB size.

Cons: Like Charlotte, this seems more like football country and there doesn’t seem to be any great groundswell of support for a MLB team despite the group noted above.

Raleigh

Pros: A larger TV market than you might think (24th, just a bit smaller than St. Louis). Fast-growing area with lots of high-tech workers. A well-organized group trying to bring MLB to the area.

Cons: Same as most any other city noted above, this would seem to be more a football market (Duke, UNC) than a baseball market.

Vancouver

Pros: Metro population size would rank it 26th in the US, just a bit smaller than Portland. Like Montreal, there’s an existing stadium (BC Place) that’s not long-term suitable for baseball, but could easily be a temporary spot to play.

Cons: Double whammy. Too close to Seattle AND has to take in Canadian dollars and pay out US dollars.

Those are the main cities being discussed; there are, of course, others as well.

My personal choices are Montreal and Portland. I think those two cities have the best balance of finances, fanbases and interest in having a team, and for geographical balance I’d like to see one team in the east, one in the west.

With 32 teams, MLB could align the leagues and divisions as follows:

AL East: Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays
AL Central: Tigers, Guardians, White Sox, Twins
AL South: Royals, Astros, Rangers, Orioles
AL West: Mariners, Athletics, Angels, Portland

NL East: Mets, Phillies, Pirates, Montreal
NL Central: Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Rockies
NL South: Braves, Nationals, Marlins, Reds
NL West: Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks

With that setup, only three divisions are split between two time zones and travel is minimized, especially if scheduling is heavy on divisional games (at this time, I’m not going to get into scheduling for such a split, though).

Which cities would you like to see get MLB teams?

Poll

Which two cities should get MLB expansion teams?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Montreal and Portland
    (192 votes)
  • 13%
    Montreal and Las Vegas
    (146 votes)
  • 3%
    Montreal and Charlotte
    (37 votes)
  • 7%
    Montreal and Nashville
    (80 votes)
  • 2%
    Montreal and Vancouver
    (28 votes)
  • 5%
    Las Vegas and Portland
    (54 votes)
  • 4%
    Las Vegas and Charlotte
    (52 votes)
  • 14%
    Las Vegas and Nashville
    (158 votes)
  • 1%
    Las Vegas and Raleigh
    (13 votes)
  • 0%
    Las Vegas and Vancouver
    (10 votes)
  • 3%
    Portland and Charlotte
    (37 votes)
  • 6%
    Portland and Nashville
    (67 votes)
  • 1%
    Portland and Raleigh
    (15 votes)
  • 0%
    Portland and Vancouver
    (10 votes)
  • 3%
    Charlotte and Nashville
    (42 votes)
  • 0%
    Charlotte and Raleigh
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Charlotte and Vancouver
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Nashville and Raleigh
    (21 votes)
  • 0%
    Nashville and Vancouver
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    Raleigh and Vancouver
    (4 votes)
  • 6%
    Some other cities (leave in comments)
    (73 votes)
1055 votes total Vote Now