MLBSometime in the next 20 years, MLB will expand to 32 teams. The league has finally recovered talent-wise from the cash-grab expansion of 1998 and it just makes more sense to have a league with 32 teams in it than one with the current 30 members. Right now the impediment to expansion is suitable cities rather than anything else.

No market is perfect and the existing teams would fight tooth and nail about having a franchise placed nearby, so let go of those dreams about a third team in the NYC market. Recognizing that all of the sites are flawed, the four seemingly most realistic markets in alphabetical order are: Charlotte, Montreal, Portland and San Antonio.

Perhaps the main appeal of expanding to 32 is the ability to get rid of the need for interleague games every day. My preference would be to eliminate interleague play completely before the start of the World Series. Additionally, I’d like to eliminate divisions and play a balanced schedule but that might be too much for people to handle. The idea of being in 16th place could be a real downer for attendance.

So, the new configuration is two 16-team leagues, each with four, four-team divisions. You play the other three teams in your division 18 times a year and the other 12 teams in your league nine times. One of the things rarely talked about is how difficult it is to put together a schedule of 162 games for 30 teams. Adding two more teams is not going to help this nightmare any.

The division series work out easy enough. You have three home sets of three games each and three road sets of three games against each of your three division foes. With nine games against your non-division foes, that works out to five and four home/road games for each club, which would rotate each year. So one year the Mets would have five home games against the Dodgers and the following year they would get four. We’ve seen four-game series on the schedule before and we’ve also seen two-game series, as well. Would it be easier for the schedule makers to do a five-game series?

Ideally, you would have two trips to each city for weather purposes, so if you’re snowed out in April, you can make the game up when you return in July. Assuming that the schedule makers can make it work, then you would have two road trips to each of the other 12 teams in your league. The majority of these would be two-game sets, with some three-game sets thrown in, as well.

If the schedule makers determine that five-game series are preferable to two-game series, then it will be just one trip to each other city in your league outside of your division. What you lose in weather protection, you gain in reduced travel costs. Plus, there’s something appealing about playing the same opponent five straight days, knowing you’ll get to see each of their pitchers. When the Giants come to New York, you know you’ll get to see Madison Bumgarner if he’s not on the DL.

Each of the four division winners make the playoffs, along with the four other teams with the best record. The teams with the four-best records get home field advantage, regardless if they won a division or not. The one real wrinkle in this proposal would be to allow the team with the best records to pick their opponents. So, if the Mets had the best record in the NL, they could pick any of the four teams with the worst record to make the playoffs as their opening-round foe. The second and third-best teams would also get to pick.

With the goal of trying to avoid massive realignment between the two leagues, here are the divisions:

NL East – Mets, Nationals, Phillies, Pirates
NL South – Braves, Charlotte expansion, Marlins, Rays
NL North – Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Reds
NL West – D’Backs, Dodgers, Giants, Padres

AL East – Blue Jays, Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees
AL South – Astros, Rangers, Royals, San Antonio expansion
AL North – Indians, Tigers, Twins, White Sox
AL West – Angels, A’s, Mariners, Rockies

There are numerous ways that you could align the divisions, especially if you were open to radical realignment of the leagues. But this works fairly well, in that it puts the Rays in the same division with their in-state rivals. MLB baseball in Florida seems like a no-brainer but to this point neither team has been an attendance powerhouse. Perhaps being in the same division would help.

Plus, if there was any team/city that should have the DH, shouldn’t it be the Rockies?

My preference would have been to add Montreal as one of the expansion teams. But the geographic need was to add teams in the southern part of the U.S. Sure, we once had the Braves and Reds in the NL West and we could have done a similar-type move here. Or, we could have looked to have one “South” division and one “Midwest” division and looked to move just a few more teams between leagues. At the end of the day It was hard to justify going in either of those directions given the uncertainty of the whole Montreal situation.

Now we’d just have to stock the rosters of the expansion teams. Tomorrow, we’ll focus on who the Mets would keep if there were an expansion draft that followed the rules of the 1997 one. Please check back in then.

27 comments on “A plan for MLB to expand to 32 teams

  • pete

    While I like the ideas you put forth in your article Brian, I would tweak it ever so slightly. Too many teams making the playoffs. Two problems there. Weather and the playoffs being affected by the NFL the deeper you go into November. Love the idea of minimizing travel and thus further lining the pockets of greedy owners. I’m sure freddy and jeffy would jump on that. Maybe by cutting down the travel you could end the season earlier?

    • Brian Joura

      There are all kinds of possibilities here. I kept a 162-game schedule but you could certainly cut it back.

      Also, the Wilpons would love it with the expansion fees they would collect

      • Joe D

        I would go back to two divisions in each league. Four division leagues would eventually get you a sub 500 division winner.

      • Mike

        Brian here is an idea that is a bit out of the box and has not been discussed, at least not in this forum. What is wrong with Cedar Rapids, Iowa? Within an hour to an hour and a half you would have the areas of Iowa City, Waterloo/Cedar Falls, Dubuque, Davenport and the east side of Des Moines. Iowa does not have any professional teams from any sport. I do realize that the lack of density for a single city does lead “big business” to believe that it will hurt television contracts, advertising, ticket sales, attendance, and money for the facilities and players. I have read all of that. But I also know that there is a want for a professional team in Iowa. We drive to Chicago for Bulls and White Sox, and Minnesota for the Vikings. We don’t go down to Kansa City for much because I have been told that we don’t like Missourians for some reason. 🙂

        • Brian Joura

          My two cents:

          Any area in Iowa is so far behind other locations that their only hope of getting a team would be for the city/area to build a ballpark before getting a commitment from a team. And you’d still need an owner who wanted to be there.

          The new commissioner took a meeting with a group from Montreal about getting a team back there. While I think the meeting was more symbolic than anything else, I still think that all things being equal that Montreal would be the league’s top choice. But all things are never equal.

  • Chris F

    I would add Nashville to the list of possible suitors as well.

    • Brian Joura

      Nashville’s metropolitan area has over a million fewer people than either Charlotte or San Antonio. And depending on where the San Antonio ballpark was, it could easily draw from Austin, too.

      Edit: It’s closer to 500,000 than a million difference.

      • Chris F

        Nashville has NFL and NHL teams making it a reasonable destination for an MLB team.

        • Brian Joura

          Two years ago in his Bizball column, Maury Brown ranked the top 10 expansion markets. Nashville wasn’t on it.
          http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18886

          I mean I guess if you were to make a list of top 10 U.S. cities, Nashville would be on it.

          I know you can’t just go by minor league attendance but Memphis outdrew Nashville last year. Any idea why?

          • Metsense

            Very interesting article link from Maury Brown. The Mets are already in the #1 market that could support an expansion team. It only pisses me off more how inept the Wilpon’s run this Titanic. It also indicates why the Yankees can afford their budget. MLB is doing the Met fans a disservice allowing an underfunded ownership to exist in the premier baseball market.

  • Name

    What’s the approval process for adding new teams?

    I can’t imagine that baseball will add more teams within the next 10 years as there’s already been tons of changes recently with Houston changing leagues and the new wild-card format.

    I really dislike 4-team divisions so if baseball does expand i hope they come up with something else.

    • Brian Joura

      If and when MLB decides it wants to expand, they’ll form an expansion committee to solicit bids.

  • Metsense

    Sorry Chris F but Charlotte sounds great. 🙂
    Too many playoff teams in the plan but baseball really should go to 32 teams and two separate leagues and scrap the inter-league games.
    Brian, ever think of running for Commissioner?

    • Brian Joura

      The other big strength for Charlotte is the business community.

    • Chris F

      Charlotte is forever from Nashville, so that has nothing to do with the suggestion. I’d never put another team in texas.

      • pete

        San Antonio has the population and facilities to draw fans. With 5 military bases to draw from. It’s not over saturated with teams and they would probably draw better with evening games if the weather was an issue.

        • Chris F

          Pete, there are so many problems with the tv rights alone in Texas, just getting the Astros into a stable situation is going to take some time. Nashville is close enough to every AL and NL north, south, and east team that the location is very desireable for short travel, but very much with its own identity. The NFL team draws support from an area much larger than Nashville. It would also mean KC wouldn’t have to spend the majority of its season in Texas.

  • Doug

    A very noticeable problem is assuming Tampa will still have a team 10 years from now. There’s already major push underway of having the Rays move to Montreal where getting a new stadium seems all but ready to be approved once the move gets the go ahead. On top of that every baseball person I’ve heard speak about this loves the idea of Montreal playing in the AL East with Boston, New York, and Toronto. They believe the Northeast corridor, minus the Mets obviously, would be great for the American League with the built in rivals leading to a lot of money to be made.

    • Brian Joura

      The Rays have a lease through 2027 so my guess is they will still be in Tampa/St. Pete 10 years from now. A year or so ago there were talks about breaking the lease but the Rays refused to pay any money and it’s hard to imagine the city of St. Pete allowing them to leave without getting anything in return.

      • Doug

        I understand all of that, but I’m telling you….it’s a strong possibility that they will be moved regardless of how long their lease in Tampa-St.Pete is for and Montreal is the desired destination. MLB can/will broker a deal with the city that will pay them a portion of the profits that the Rays will stand to make in their new city….Something along the lines of what Washington had to broker with Baltimore to allow them into the market, just in reverse. Most people believe this will happen within five years, nevermind ten. That’s the reason that they Mayor finally relented and gave approval for the Rays to expand the areas where they can look to build a new stadium in the Tampa area….They are giving it their last best chance to keep the ballclub because they know MLB is ready to move it out of there as soon as possible

  • Eraff

    Here’s a list of top 50 SMSA’s… likely to look to several of these as places for expansion/relocation. http://ryanhixenbaugh.com/PDF/Top%2050%20Metropolitan%20Statistical%20Areas.pdf

    I’m not enthused by expansion, generally. I would think the next moves might be to expand revenues thru wider TV appeal and development of some of those “under penetrated” smsa’s…. another shot at Portland?….. Montreal?….. a True “World Series” and possible inter-continantal “merger”?

  • pete

    Ah! Just a thought. If teams don’t have to travel as often then you could end the season by mid September! Six teams from each league and I would definitely be in favor of eliminating inter- league games.

  • Patrick Albanesius

    I like your divisions Brian. I know the area is crowded already, but Indianapolis, or Louisville?

    • Brian Joura

      Louisville is probably too close to Cincinnati to be a viable option.

      Indianapolis is a lot like Nashville where first glance it appears to be behind the ones I listed. Of course, all that changes if they get an ownership group with deep pockets and a commitment from the city to build a ballpark.

      • Patrick Albanesius

        But we could literally have a team called the Louisville Sluggers. That’s gold, Jerry!

  • Chris

    I think Montreal has to be one of the other cities, and another in the south, probably Charlotte. Your geographical plan would only need minor tweaks: Montreal in the NL east, Pirates replace Brewers in the NL north, Brewers replace Twins in AL north, Twins replace San Antonio in the AL South, which now becomes AL midwest (and the AL north could be called mideast – NL and AL divisions do not have to have the same names).

    • Randall Scott Redman

      New Division

      Toronto Blue Jays
      Montreal Expos (back again)
      Quebec
      Boston
      New York Yankees
      New York Mets
      Total of 48 North American Baseball Teams

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