MLB expansion is merely in the exploration phase right now, but I’ve seen some tweets floating around. As a young person, I can’t remember the last time expansion took place, and my interest was piqued (editor’s note, it was 1998.) This is really a pointless exercise, but just for the fun of it I took a shot at what an expanded and realigned league might look like.
To start, I established some rules and assumptions.
- We will be keeping a two-league format. I can’t imagine an MLB that is not made up of the American and National Leagues. However, the leagues will be split geographically rather than historically.
- Each league will continue to have three (realigned) divisions. The three division winners and two wild card teams will make the playoffs, just as they currently do.
- There will be a Universal DH, at long last. As many teams will be shifting leagues, it would be too much stress on current AL teams in particular to change their roster structure. Or at least that’s the excuse I use to institute something that should be instituted anyway.
- We will attempt to keep the most notable rivalries together in divisions.
- We will attempt to create divisions that make geographical sense. No 4-hour flights, no teams two time zones away from each other. (Here’s looking at you, AL West).
- We will add two expansion teams, in two cities that rumors have swirled around. Let’s get started.
The National League
The new Southern Division will be made up largely of former NL and AL East teams, as well as our first expansion franchise. I picked Nashville as our first expansion cities, as it has the hottest rumors surrounding it currently. They have even already picked a team name, the Stars, after an old Negro League team that called the city home. The furthest trip in the division would be Baltimore to Miami, a mere 2 hour and 45 minute flight. Miami, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta would benefit from this change, as they would no longer have to make the trek up to New York.
The Colonial Division is named for the fact that four of the five teams in the division are located in colonial cities. The fifth, our second expansion franchise, will be located in one of the oldest Canadian cities. Let’s all give a warm welcome back to the Montreal Expos. The furthest flight in the division would be 1 1⁄2 hours, Philly to Montreal. Every team in this division would have an easier travel schedule than before, and we kept intact a couple of baseball’s hottest rivalries.
Great Lakes Division
The teams in the Great Lakes Division are located around, you guessed it, the Great Lakes. These five teams inhabit areas around the eastern three lakes in particular. Four teams in the division were formerly of the AL and NL Central, as well as one team from the former AL East. The furthest flight in the division is only 1 1⁄2 hours, Cincinnati to Toronto. We also potentially form a hot intra-Ohio rivalry in this division.
The American League
The Midwest Division is my personal favorite of any you’ll find on this list. The new division of the Minnesota Twins presents some major rivalry opportunities, and also keeps together some big time rivalries that already exist. Made up entirely of AL and NL Central teams, the furthest flight in this division is 1 1⁄2 hours (Minneapolis to St. Louis).
In the area west of the Midwest and east of the Pacific Coast, MLB teams are as sparse as anywhere in the country. Due to this, the Mountain Division will have the most travel stress of any division. However, with a maximum 2 hour and 45 minute flight, this division still makes dramatically more geographic sense than the current AL West (think Houston to Seattle). Out of all of the MLB, Kansas City got it worst in my model, but this is still not bad at all. Houston would certainly be grateful.
Pacific Coast Division
Our last new division covers only the Pacific Time Zone, saving fans in the former AL and NL West from some late nights watching games taking place on the coast. Very nearly an all-California group, the furthest flight is 2.5 hours (Seattle to San Diego), and that is much easier on Seattle than their current arrangement. Rivalries should abound in a division that nearly exists in a single state.
- Seattle Mariners
- Oakland Athletics
- San Francisco Giants
- Los Angeles Angels
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- San Diego Padres
Personally, I think this new alignment would be awesome. We’d get some great new (old) rivalries, such as between the Twins and the Brewers. We also greatly reduced travel stress within divisions, and geographic leagues would make a lot of sense come playoff time. No crazy time differences to worry about, and no long flights. Player fatigue could very possibly be effected positively, so we could get a higher level of play. This alignment would also be nicer on an owner’s pocketbook, although we don’t care about that kind of thing around here.
What do you think of my proposal? What cities would you like to see MLB expansion franchises in? Drop your suggestions and critiques below!