There is a very cool article from Jayson Stark on The Athletic now. It’s very cool, very detailed, and talks about the coming major changes to MLB. We’re not talking small stuff like pitch clock or mound visits. But radical, larger changes like the implementation of the DH across all baseball, expansion to 32 teams, radical realignment, and the possible elimination of the AL & NL leagues into one single large league.
Now he just doesn’t throw out ideas without backup. That’s what social media & Facebook groups are for (haha). He has well thought out remarks on all of this. Unfortunately, it’s behind the paywall, so you can’t read all of it, but I do want to take a moment and say a subscription to the Athletic is spectacular. I got in there because I had signed up for Levi Weaver’s own local service, and when he started with the Athletic, my subscription carried over. If you use my link, you can get 25% off a subscription, and if you sign up, I get $10 from them, so go – check it out.
Anyway, I’m gonna touch base on all of what he said with my own thoughts on it.
1) Expansion to 32 teams. This was always going to happen. We haven’t added any teams since 1998 (Rays & Diamondbacks). The current layout of the teams means that we have an odd number of teams in the two leagues. It makes for a wildly unbalanced schedule, and expanding to 32 teams means more evenly spaced out everything. I’m hoping this happens sooner than later, so a great number of things can be smoothed out. Doing this sets off a chain of events of other things.
2) Where – Yeah, OK, two more teams. Where would they go? More on that later.
3) Less Games – Dropping to 154. This would be in combination of 32 teams and more playoffs. The idea here would be to give more space to off days, and shrinks the season by about 10 days. Another round of playoffs would fit in here quite nicely – see next entry.
4) More Playoffs – Payoff for losing 8 games from regular season would be expanded playoffs. What format this takes is seriously up in the air, but if you’re taking away a few home games from the owners, they’re gonna want something back from that, and expanded playoffs will make up for that.
5) Designated Hitter Everywhere – I grew up in an NL town. I never saw a game with a DH until I moved to Texas in 1992. I don’t want to see one again – I detest pitchers batting. Yeah yeah yeah – purist thing. I think this needs to go. There’s zero chance they’ll go the other way – the union won’t allow that, as it’d mean loss of a roster position and jobs. If anything they’d want it everywhere to prolong careers. I strongly thing this is a WHEN not an IF thing.
6) Eliminating AL/NL – That seems to be still up in the air. The idea being the AL & NL haven’t really “MEANT ANYTHING” in quite a long time. They technically still exist, but for ages now have been under the sole control of the commissioner’s office. There’s figurehead Presidents of both, but it’s not like it was 50,60 years ago when there were rival leagues competing against each other. They’ve been separate leagues in name only. Really the only thing separating them now is the DH, and if you lose that, there’s really no need to keep them separate anymore.
7) Interleague Play – If they eliminate the AL/NL distinction, then there’s no need for Interleague play anymore. Even if they keep it, expanding by two teams (assuming one AL and one NL) there won’t be any need for Interleague play all the time, and it could go back to the way it used to be where it was “grouped” during the season. However, I think elimination of AL/NL and Interleague is where this is going. No news, just gut feeling.
8) Realignment – The idea in Stark’s article is that there would be radical realignment and the teams would be re-organized by geographical locations. This is something that is so needed for the Rangers specifically, when three of our five (used to be 3 of 4) teams are on the West coast. 9PM games suck. Now there would still be 9PM games, but not as many as there are now. Still blame Tom Hicks for this – we had an out, and Hicks let Selig off the hook – we WERE going to move to the AL Central. There was a quote by Manfred said that realignment would help situations that we have now like say the Yankees play the Angels in the playoffs in a five game series – would be some hellacious travel, not to mention fans on each side complaining about the TV broadcast times when they’re away. That is another big deal that radical realignment would fix. More details on this in the bit below about where the expansion teams would go.
Where Expansion Teams Would Go
This is the $64 question. There’s plenty of options there, and Jayson gives each of them a whole paragraph as to why or why not. I’ve personally felt it’s going to be Portland and Montreal, but they’re by far not the only choices out there. Manfred has said that they will not expand until they figure out what’s going to happen with the A’s and the Rays. The A’s want to move, but have been thwarted by all the teams in the area claiming geographical restriction. They could stay in Oakland, too. The Rays have that dumpster fire of a stadium that by contract they can’t get out of for 30 years after moving in. So those two need to be resolved first. Entirely possible they stay where they are, too, and not relocate.
Stark lists these cities as possibilities:
- Portland, OR
- Charlotte, NC
- Nashville, TN
- Montreal, CAN
- San Antonio / Austin, TX
- Las Vegas, NV
- Mexico City, MEX
Jayson’s choices are Charlotte and Portland. I think Montreal and Portland. With that in mind, here’s what I have for realignment, which also assumes elimination of the AL/NL distinction. Jayon’s article has names like “Bambino Divison”, and “Musial Divison”… I don’t think they’d do that. I’ll just put something else there. These names are not going to be final, just something I’m throwing together for this.
Jayson Stark finishes with this, and I agree with him: “So you can close your eyes and try to picture all of this. But this is no Rob Manfred pipe dream. This is going to happen. This isn’t a matter of if. It’s a matter of filling in the year – and then filling in all the brave-new-world details that are guaranteed to follow.”