There’s no denying that Montreal has the population large enough to support a MLB franchise, the question is whether the business community would be there for baseball. (Photo courtesy of Andre Vandal)
This past April, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred was quoted as saying that “baseball is a growth sport and that he foresees expansion as a longer term proposition.” This struck me as quite odd, why on earth would MLB even be thinking about expansion when teams like Tampa Bay and Oakland are already struggling to keep their head above water. More recently, Manfred clarified that any talk of expansion would be put on hold until new stadiums had been constructed in both Tampa Bay and Oakland.
No disrespect to either Oakland or Tampa Bay, but they’re undersized cities as it is when it comes to cities that support major professional sports teams, and both of them are expected to support three major professional teams. These days a city their size is lucky to have one, maybe two professional teams, let alone three. The argument for withdrawing major league baseball from Oakland and Tamba Bay is the same argument that should be used against expanding to many of the cities being bantered about. I’m tired of hearing about places like Portland, Oklahoma City, and Charlotte (to name just a few) as being possible locations for expansion…they’re not big league cities and don’t have a sizable enough fan base to support a major league baseball team. Cities this size are big enough to accommodate one professional team (which they already have), but any more than that becomes far too much of a burden on an undersized populous and business community.
Just because the NHL has recently made the silly decision to once again expand, this time to Las Vegas of all places, doesn’t mean that MLB has to follow suit. Let the NHL expand to 31 teams, and possibly 32 in the not so distant future…all while they have hugely unsuccessful franchises in Phoenix and Carolina, and watch the quality of their product continue to slide.
Making the playoffs in baseball is already hard enough as it is…adding two more teams wouldn’t help that any. For some reason these league officials always think they need to tinker with things, and to a certain extent that can be a good thing, but too much tinkering just screws things up and makes the game worse. With 30 teams currently in MLB, 15 in each league, and 5 in each division, the balance of teams as it is between the National and American League is perfect. If two teams were to be added, where do you put them? You can’t just add teams to the existing divisions, because then those divisions with six teams would have a 1 in 6 chance of winning their division compared to a 1 in 5 chance that the other divisions would have. To avoid this issue from happening, it would create a whole host of other problems because then the league would be forced to play around with the divisions to accommodate the two new teams, and we’d probably end up with 4 divisions of 8 or 8 divisions of 4.
The only cities that could realistically support a MLB franchise that currently don’t have a ball team, are Mexico City, Montreal, and perhaps Brooklyn. As neat as it would be to see baseball back in Brooklyn, there’s already two teams in New York, so the chances of a third franchise is more than likely not going to happen. Based on Montreal’s population, it has more than enough people to support a team. It’s problems in the past when the Expos were playing can’t be blamed entirely on the fans because so many things did not go right for that franchise. From having the worst venue in baseball, to dealing with an owner in it’s later years who’s intention was to move the team as soon as the opportunity presented itself, Montreal wasn’t given a fair shake to support their major league baseball team. Mexico City is probably the most intriguing option. It’s one of the largest cities in the world and Mexico is one of the rare countries where soccer is king, but where baseball is not too far off.
At a certain point these leagues have to say enough is enough when it comes to expansion because the quality of the product on the field can’t keep pace with the increasing number of teams in the league. What motivation does Rob Manfred and the owners have to expand other than money? They talk about the growth of the sport, but how much are you growing the sport when it has to be played in a dump like Tropicana Field? If anything, having to watch a game in such a venue probably hurts the sport. What the major professional leagues need to come to grips with is that the age of expansion is over. It was great while it lasted I’m sure, the leagues made billions of dollars, but that source of money is gone, and to resort to expanding any further when some of the existing teams can hardly survive only hurts the game. I agree that if you put a team in Mexico City or Montreal that it will grow the sport, especially when it comes to baseball’s popularity in Mexico, Quebec, and the Maritimes, but if you’re going to put teams in those cities, why not just relocate existing teams that are struggling to survive?