Major League Baseball the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays and the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998 and has not expanded the league in the 18 years since. This is the longest the game has gone without a new team since expansion began in 1961.
Why not shake things up a little bit and add two more teams to the league? Which cities would be most deserving of its first — or perhaps rejuvenated — baseball franchise? Should any teams be moved from their current homes?
I think baseball should strongly consider adding two more teams to the game and restructuring its current playoff and divisional systems. While it’s unlikely that this will occur in the aftermath of a brand new CBA and other subtle changes to the game, here is a blueprint that league officials should pin to the corkboards in their home offices and ponder often.
Which teams might get moved?
Some of the more likely candidates for relocation include:
- The Tampa Bay Rays
- The Oakland Athletics
- The Florida Marlins
- The Texas Rangers
The Rays struggle to draw fans to the Trop every single season, even in years that they are quite good at baseball. Part of this is because the team is in St. Petersburg, and it takes half an hour to drive from downtown Tampa to the stadium without traffic. Since there are really only two bridges that connect St. Pete and Tampa that make sense for driving to the games, there is a lot of traffic. If Tampa wanted to keep the team in town, I’d recommend dropping a shiny new stadium in between I-4 and the Selmon Expressway south of Ybor city. It would be near both major highways, the Amtrak line, light rail, and close to many excellent restaurants, bars, and art galleries. Or maybe drop it in the middle of Encore. I know that there are plans for that part of town, but...baseball, you guys.
Neither of these things is going to happen. In this scenario, the Rays are gone.
The Marlins also struggle to draw a large number of fans every season. This might because Florida Man just isn’t into baseball, but I think that the Marlin’s problems have more to do with team ownership than anything else. Given the demographics of the city, I think that a well-run team that wins games can thrive in the new downtown location. It’s also a bit tricky to suggest moving a team that has
purchased won the World Series twice.
Maybe the Rangers seem a bit odd to you, but consider that both Oakland and Texas end their current stadium leases in 2024. That convergence — along with the necessity to prepare teams for its new homes and cities for its new teams — opens up an interesting window of possibility for baseball. The troubles with the Athletics, attendance, and O.Co stadium are well-documented. The threat of the Rangers moving to Dallas, while less known nationally, continues to grow.
Let’s assume that the Athletics and the Rangers relocate, too.
Which cities deserve a baseball team?
Here is a lengthy but not exhaustive list of candidates for expansion / inheritance:
- Montreal, Quebec, Canada
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Portland, Oregon
- Brooklyn, New York
- Austin, Texas
- Dallas, Texas
- San Jose, California
- Mexico City, Mexico
- Columbus, Ohio
- Indianapolis, Indiana
Olympus Mons, Mars
- Nashville, Tennessee
- Louisville, Kentucky
We can keep going and going, but the list will only begin to include dream candidates like Havana, incompatible fits like Las Vegas, or things that only I would realistically try, like building a baseball stadium on top of Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach. In order to winnow the potential sites down, we need to acknowledge a couple of truths:
- Since three teams are moving, we need to select five new baseball cities.
- A few of these candidates are inevitable.
- There are certain local eccentricities that make some locations impossible.
First and foremost, Montreal is getting a team when baseball expands. They have a fanbase, they have a logo, and they have a poet laureate.
We’ll also make the assumption that Rangers-to-Dallas and Athletics-to-San Jose become inevitable. We’ll also assume that the Rays are relocating to Montreal and once again becoming the Expos. That leaves us with a few interesting candidates. Here are the ones that won’t happen:
It already hosts the most popular team in the entire state, the Buckeyes. They also play host to the Clippers, the Tribe’s AAA affiliate, and the Columbus Bluejackets of the NHL. That, plus the proximity to both Cincinnati and Cleveland, rule out the capitol of Ohio. Although, if Les Wexner decided he wanted a major league team in Easton, it would happen tomorrow.
Brooklyn, New York:
In theory, Brooklyn could once again support its own baseball team. The population of New York City can support it, and the history is absolutely there. I can’t imagine the ownership groups of the Mets or the Yankees allowing this to happen, however.
Mexico City, Mexico:
Man, wouldn’t this be fun? Not only is Mexico City the largest city on the North American continent, but baseball happens to be incredibly popular in Latin America. Some unfortunate details unravel this scenario. Mexico City is more than 2,000 high in elevation than Denver, meaning guys like Kyle Hendricks and Carlos Martinez would start to look like Josh Tomlin, and Josh Tomlin would melt. That, and the smog in Mexico City might give the league pause. Add in the relative lack of affluence of the population, and it just doesn’t make sense.
Charlotte, North Carolina:
It pains me to admit this because Charlotte just seems to be an obvious choice for a baseball franchise, but I don’t think it would happen in the next round of expansion. Charlotte just built a new minor league stadium for its AAA team, it already has the Hornets and the Panthers, and the college baseball in the area is a possible problem as well. If the current AAA stadium in Charlotte could be easily expanded, this might be more palatable. Sadly, I can’t make myself believe it.
Already home of the Colts and the Pacers, Indianapolis doesn’t quite fit the bill. The population isn’t quite large enough, the TV market size doesn’t demand it, and It just doesn’t make sense to me. I’m being subjective here. Maybe if Booth Tarkington, Kurt Vonnegut, or John Green wrote profusely about the need to put baseball in Indy, but alas, nothing.
While this is the most obvious sports nickname possibility in the world, I don’t think Louisville is quite large enough or interested enough in a team to pull this off. I think basketball is Louisville’s destiny, and they may even end up landing the Hornets or Raptors and turning the into the Colonels at some point. It’s also a little to close to Cincy, for whom it hosts a AAA team.
Like Charlotte, I wish I could stick a team here. Not only is the city exploding in growth and attracting corporations, but the mayor supports the idea of an MLB team. It’s in a nice geographic spot where it is close to other teams, but not too close. Nashville is also hampered by a brand new AAA stadium, and it is another that might not have the footprint to handle an expansion. Maybe it and Charlotte would be better suited for the 2030 expansion.
And your winners for the 2024 Major League Baseball expansion are Austin and Portland!
If you want to talk about the demographic that Major League Baseball wants to bring back into the game — millennials — then these are two of the hottest cities on the planet right now. Both are among the fastest-growing cities in the country, and both sport interesting cultures that are underrepresented by professional sports.
Portland has the Trailblazers and the Timbers, but also a long tradition of hosting minor league and independent league teams. Its TV market is comparable to Pittsburgh's, and even though they don’t fluoridate their water, it also gives the Mariners a team somewhat closer to avoid a few more long flights every year.
Austin has no professional sports team. While they do host the Texas Longhorns, who are arguably as dominant as the Buckeyes when it comes to supremacy over a state capitol, the city is a weed flush with private equity and startup money. If you stuck it a little bit south of the Colorado River, residents of San Antonio could conceivably make it to several games per season, or even scoop up partial season ticket packages.
Discuss in the comments! I’d love to hear your ideas about this brave new baseball world. Know this, though: I will be creating this new baseball world using Out of the Park Baseball. Look forward to the first stream of Twitch.tv on Wendesday night at 9PM ET. If everything goes according to plan, Bryan Shaw will be the Indians 2024 pitching coach.