Baseball America reports that Major League Baseball has its eyes set on Montreal and “a team in the west” for two expansion cities, and goes on to name Portland, OR as the likely fit.
It’s a neat plan that adds symmetry to an otherwise wonky schedule baseball creates every year. Specifically, an expansion to 32 teams lends itself well to four divisions of eight teams, and the author Tracy Ringolsby has four geographical divisions available for your consideration:
Consider four eight-team divisions with the addition of teams in Portland and Montreal:
East: Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington.
North: Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Montreal, both New York franchises and Toronto.
Midwest: Both Chicago franchises, Colorado, Houston, Kansas City, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Texas.
West: Anaheim, Arizona, Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.
The result of the schedule above is a 156 game season that silos segments of the North America into regional competitions, playing six games against each of the seven opponents.
Tampa Bay’s travel time is cut down significantly by this plan, as would be the case for all teams, but as a result the two largest drawing opponents are cut from the schedule.
Boston and New York (and Toronto, for that matter) all get pulled into a North division, separating snow birds and former home teams, and potentially killing revenue derived from those precious “prime” games.
The realignment would strengthen the Miami rivalry and add Atlanta to the southern mix. This proposal has six fewer games, but a proposed decrease in travel costs and increase in TV viewership by rarely, if ever, leaving your time zone.
Playoffs would feature a wild card game in each division, with the winner facing the division champion, followed by the traditional Championship series (Atlantic and Pacific?), with a concluding World Series. Three out of eight is easier odds than the current scheme.
Would the Rays be interested, if it came at the cost of losing out on high attendance drawing games?
If it means an easier road to the post-season, I’d have to think yes. Ownership can change, but with the above East alignment, the highest dollar payrolls largely leave the division. The playing field may be more level.