During an appearance last year on FS1’s First Things First Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said he hoped to be around for MLB expansion and mentioned moving to 32 teams would be “great” for baseball. Manfred went on to note baseball list of cities he thought were both interested in having baseball and viable for MLB expansion.
“Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Nashville in the United States, certainly Montreal, maybe Vancouver, in Canada,” Manfred said. “We think there’s places in Mexico we could go over the long haul.”
As someone who’s been a lifelong fan of baseball and the history of the game I’m fascinated by the possibility of MLB expanding to 32 – or possibly more – teams. While I generally tend to be a traditionalist who believes things like the DH, pitching clocks, and robot umpires are a pox on the game I think the possibility of growing Major League Baseball is exciting.
Two of the cities on Commisioner Manfred’s list – Montreal and Portland – may be the strongest short-term contenders for future MLB expansion. While Montreal lost the Expos in 2004 after the team was moved to Washington, D.C., Montreal has a strong baseball history, both in MLB with the Montreal Expos and in the minor leagues with the Montreal Royals. What’s more, recent MLB exhibition games held in Montreal have been well-attended, and while a potential team in Montreal would need an ownership group and a stadium, Montreal has a potential ownership group led by Stephen Bronfman, the son of former Expos owner Charles Bronfman and just today came news a firm led by Bronfman reached to an agreement to develop a site at the city’s Peel Basin with a project that could include a new ballpark.
Another city waiting in the wings if MLB does decide to expand to 32 teams is Portland, Oregon. While Portland has never hosted a Major League Baseball team it does have a long baseball history, having been the longtime home of the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League, which at one point in its history had an “Open” classification, meaning the league was a grade above the Triple-A level and just a hair below Major League Baseball. Portland is one of the four largest metropolitan areas in the United States and Canada with only one team from the four major sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA) so there seems to be plenty of room in that market for a Major League Baseball team. What’s more, an MLB team in Portland would have a natural rivalry in the Seattle Mariners. Portland has a potential ownership group in place including NFL quarterback Russell Wilson, former Nike executive Craig Cheek, and former MLB player Darwin Barney and there are preliminary plans for a new retractable roof baseball stadium.
While the possibility of MLB expansion is interesting, MLB Commissioner Manfred has made it clear MLB will not expand until the stadium situations in Oakland and Tampa Bay are resolved, and while Oakland appears to be moving towards a concrete plan for a new stadium for the A’s there seems to be little hope of a new stadium in Tampa Bay. What’s more, attendance at Rays games has been pretty awful and according to a recent report Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has noted low attendance at Rays games could have consequences.
“I’m genuinely enjoying this and trying to put us in the best position we can to win and provide an amazing experience for anybody who follows this team or chooses to show up at a ball game,’’ Sternberg said. “In the background we’re working to do what we can to ensure that baseball remains (in the bay area) for generations. That’s been my mantra, and it’s been no different.
“But certainly what has gone on and what goes on is going to have an effect on it. And it’s not purely in my hands to have that happen.”
Obviously it remains to be seen how the situation in Tampa Bay will be resolved but I’m eager to see Major League Baseball back in Montreal because I think it’s a great baseball city that really got a raw deal thanks to absolutely mismanagement of the entire organization by Jeffrey Loria.