Expansion and realignment propositions for MLB

Amidst an exciting postseason, rumors of MLB expansion and realignment have emerged. How would the entire league look with this change?

Earlier this week, Baseball America published an article that discussed a strong possibility that of expansion in MLB. It included an interesting tidbit on a specific city making a push for a team.

And there is a legitimate ownership group in Portland that has the necessary financing along with support for a stadium, which would be partially funded by a $150 million grant. Approved by the state of Oregon to help finance a stadium when efforts were underway in 2003 to be the site for the relocation of the Expos (who instead moved to Washington, D.C.), the grant is still available.

The article began by talking about the possibility of Montreal getting a team once again. Though no specific plans are mentioned to bring baseball back to Montreal, it has been a host city for numerous exhibitions, including a two-game set between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays on March 21 and Apr. 1.

The potential addition of MLB teams in Montreal and Portland would lead to realignment to help decide where these franchises would go.

It makes the most sense to have six teams in a couple divisions and to stick with six divisions. The four division theory proposed by Baseball America is interesting because it evenly distributes eight teams into four divisions. However, that will provide too many games (132) against division foes.

Here are the most logical changes to divisions in terms of geography with the addition of franchises in Portland and Montreal.

A.L. East

No changes to the A.L. East. Geographically, all of these teams make sense besides the Tampa Bay Rays, but it’s hard to justify them in the A.L. West or Central.

A.L. Central

The biggest change here is dumping the Kansas City Royals and replacing them with the Milwaukee Brewers. Why? If we’re going to realign, let’s make other minor tweaks that make more sense geographically. The Brewers could develop a rivalry with the Minnesota Twins, since the two will be separated by just under five hours.

A.L. West

Notice anything out about the above picture? Yes, there are six teams on the map. As a whole, the current A.L. West is mapped out well in terms of geography. With the addition of Portland, the Seattle Mariners now have a natural rival at last. Not only is that beneficial to them, but it aides Portland and gives it an immediate rival upon entry.

Now, in all of the other divisions, there is an intentional focus on splitting up states with two teams into different leagues. However, in this case, the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers have developed an exciting rivalry, so there is no sense in altering that.

N.L. East

In the words of George Costanza, “You want to get nuts? Let’s get nuts!”

First off, let’s start with the Pittsburgh Pirates. They’ve always felt out of place in the N.L. Central, so let’s put them in the N.L. East where they belong. Now, nearby foes like the Phillies, Mets and Nationals all should make for better rivals than the Cardinals, Cubs and Reds.

The Atlanta Braves will exit and take the place of the Pirates in the N.L. Central. Meanwhile, this will be the second of two divisions with six teams. Montreal’s team (how could it not eventually be named the Expos?) will add a wrinkle to this division. They are here in the N.L. East instead of the A.L. East so that both Canadian teams aren’t in the same league.

N.L. Central

With the Pittsburgh Pirates heading into the new NL East, the NL Central takes on a bit of reupholstering, with three out of the five previous teams staying in the division while welcoming Kansas City and Atlanta. This makes good geographical sense and maintains the vaunted Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.

N.L. West

We’ll end the division realignments the way that we started: with no changes. There are plenty of excellent rivalries in place here that need not be interrupted.

Finding the best outcome

There’s no easy way to realign MLB. In many ways, the league would be best served by not adding any more teams. Several franchises (Oakland, Miami) have struggled to exist thanks to stadium issues and a lack of fans. The last thing that the league needs right now are more teams to deal with.

However, if there are to be two more teams added, the above realignment plan is the best case for everyone. Montreal and Portland will be given the best chance to succeed in this scenario and the current teams will be best-served

Joel Norman

Joel Norman is a journalism major at West Virginia University. In addition to writing for Pirates Breakdown, Joel covers WVU sports for the Daily Athenaeum and writes game recaps and features for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Joel also does play-by-play broadcasts of WVU hockey and baseball for WWVU-FM in Morgantown.