MLB expansion talks are heating up yet again

Bless You Boys

It’s one of those discussion points that just won’t go away. Major League Baseball is, once again, talking about expansion. Specifically, Jim Bowden of The Athletic brought up a recent conversation with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on that topic, then dove into a proposal for how the leagues and divisions would realign to fit the two new franchises.

…we’ll get to those in a bit.

Expansion itself has been on baseball’s mind for time immemorial, and is not exclusively a Manfred creation. MLB added two new teams under former commissioner Bud Selig, and two more just before he took the job, bringing us to the current total of 30 franchises. There have been consistent talks since then of adding two more clubs, something we have covered multiple times here over the years.

Rather than debating the merits of expansion — it’s coming at some point, whether we like it or not — I’d like to get into Bowden’s proposed league realignment.

Yeah.

Before we tear into this, I want to point out a couple of positives. I like how the East division sets up, giving the Mets and Phillies — two large market clubs who have spent big in recent memory — against the Yankees and Red Sox, rather than throwing the Orioles and Blue Jays into annual baseball thunderdome. And as a casual observer, I like the idea of putting the White Sox and Cubs in the same division. However, the locals strongly disagree.

But rather than just lobbing criticisms, I have a different proposal.

Untitled

AL East AL Central AL West AL Mountain NL East NL Central NL West NL South
AL East AL Central AL West AL Mountain NL East NL Central NL West NL South
Yankees Tigers Portland Astros Braves Cubs Dodgers Rays
Red Sox White Sox Mariners Rangers Nationals Cardinals Giants Charlotte
Orioles Twins Athletics Rockies Mets Brewers Padres Marlins
Blue Jays Guardians Angels Royals Phillies Pirates Diamondbacks Reds

This alignment assumes that Portland would be granted an expansion team, but I have a hard time seeing MLB putting two more teams in the Eastern time zone, as Bowden suggests. Nashville, Charlotte, Orlando, and Montreal are all cities in consideration, and I think you could easily slot any of the first three into that South division. If Montreal is granted a franchise, swapping them into the NL East for the Nationals seems like the way to go.

Out west, Portland seems like a natural fit. It gives Major League Baseball another team on the west coast, and they will form an instant rivalry with the Seattle Mariners — not to mention slightly ease Seattle’s long-standing travel disadvantage. This alignment doesn’t work quite as well if Las Vegas is the choice for an expansion site, but I think Vegas would still fit into that AL West alignment better than shifting anything around in the National League.

While there are drawbacks to any realignment proposal, I think the one suggested above is an easier sell than the massive changes Bowden created. It maintains many long-standing rivalries that I think are essential to the current schedule, including Cubs-Cardinals, Dodgers-Giants, and the mutual dislike across all four teams in the NL East. I like how that Mountain division shapes up — Kansas City is, in fact, closer to all three of those clubs than they are to both Detroit and Cleveland — and I hope that putting the Florida clubs together generates a bit more excitement for baseball in the sunshine state. The Reds aren’t the best fit in that NL South division, and one could argue that the Braves make more sense there (which would slide the Pirates to the East, giving them an in-state connection with the Phillies).

There are plenty of ways to go with this, so I’ll turn it over to you, dear reader. What do you think of these realignment proposals? Are Bowden’s sweeping changes best for baseball? Or should we look to maintain as much continuity as possible?

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