Major League Baseball is going to expand to 32 teams at some point. In fact, it is somewhat surprising it has not already begun the process. Commissioner Rob Manfred has long said he plans to wait until the Athletics and Rays solve their never-ending stadium issues. But expansion means expansion franchise fees, which in layman’s terms means free money for the owners. And everyone loves free money, especially after losing so much cash during the pandemic.
Anyway, it’s going to happen. And when it does, former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden — now an analyst writing for The Athletic — wants to blow the whole damn sport up too.
[W]hen MLB finally expands to 32 teams, it should seize the opportunity to implement a dramatic geographic realignment of the sport. The league could do so while maintaining the American League and National League framework, but a complete overhaul would arguably maximize revenue and certainly improve the travel burden on teams.
It’s impossible to predict what will happen because there are so many expansion variables and scenarios. Yes, the AL and NL could survive. But I think the move to 32 teams is the perfect time to do away with those leagues and form Eastern and Western conferences consisting of four geographically-aligned divisions apiece. Four teams per division, 16 teams per conference. With significantly more interleague play (46 games per team per season, starting this year) and the universal designated hitter, there’s no reason — beyond tradition and losing some rivalries — to keep the present infrastructure.
Hey, other than pissing on the thing that makes baseball baseball, what’s there to lose!
The idea of the Mets and Yankees playing in the same division sounds great at first. But it would be a nightmare for all involved in the end. The fans would hate it. The players would hate it. And at least one owner would sure as hell hate it. You think Hal Steinbrenner wants to officially compete with Steve Cohen?
If MLB was smart — which, let us be clear, it is not — it would use expansion as a chance to fine-tune, but not firebomb, its current divisional and league alignments. And then it would close ranks. Interleague play is a concept that has run its course. With the leagues finally even again with even numbers, we can phase it out. Some back of the napkin math here says if we had four divisions of four teams, you could play 15 games against division teams, nine games against everyone else in the league and then nine total interleague games. That sounds about right to us.
Nashville will get one of the expansion teams. We’ll say Charlotte gets the other. They both go to the National League while the Marlins are moved to the American League.
East: Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles, Red Sox.
West: Angels, Athletics, Mariners, Royals.
North: Guardians, Tigers, Twins, White Sox.
South: Astros, Marlins, Rangers, Rays.
East: Mets, Nationals, Pirates, Phillies.
West: Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Padres.
North: Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Rockies.
South: Braves, Reds, Charlotte, Nashville.
It’s not perfect. But it’s better than what Bowden was pushing.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.