Commissioner Rob Manfred’s all-star break wasn’t only spent sandbagging his sport’s best player. He also took some time to throw his support behind expanding MLB to two more cities.
“I hope I’m around long enough to see us expand,” Manfred told FS1 on Tuesday. (The relevant comments start at the 1-minute mark of the video below.) “I think 32 [teams] would be great for our sport.”
Manfred then went on to list potential cities “that I think are not only interested in having baseball, but are viable in terms of baseball”:
“Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Nashville in the United States, certainly Montreal, maybe Vancouver, in Canada. We think there’s places in Mexico we could go over the long haul.”
Eventual expansion seems inevitable, if just because that’s the only direction these things go. The NFL is up to 32 teams, and the NHL will be there once Seattle gets its team. But baseball’s a different animal, with 81 home games to sell. And I can immediately think of at least two current MLB franchises that should probably be contracted.
As Manfred notes, 32 teams would mean realignment and changes to the playoff format. Four divisions per league seems obvious. And simply sending all the division winners to the postseason would be elegant. But I don’t think MLB will be getting rid of the wild card, nor do I think it necessarily should. But what’s the alternative? NFL-style, where the two division winners with the best records get first-round byes? But if you do that, there’s no drawback to winning a wild card instead of the division.
I don’t really have a good answer here, except perhaps something radical like re-balancing schedules and making it so the four best teams regardless of division qualify for the playoffs. But it’s unlikely that baseball would make such a drastic change, and I don’t particularly love the idea either. What about going back to two divisions per league, plus four wild cards? Please share your ideas.