Baseball fans love tradition, at least on social media, and tend to hate the idea of change. And I get it. It's hard to think of the game we grew up with changing. But Major League Baseball has shown, especially in recent years, they are not afraid to ruffle any feathers.
Would they really be willing to jeopardize rivalries like the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs? New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox? Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants? Well, to an extent, they already have. And with two new expansion teams on the horizon, I have a feeling we'll see some major shakeups in the ways
The Oakland Athletics' imminent move to Las Vegas has been all over the baseball news cycle this past calendar year, and with that, talk of expansion has continued to ramp up. The Athletic (subscription required) just polled 100 MLB players, and 69 of them voted that Nashville is the best city for an expansion team. Portland, Montreal, Charlotte, Salt Lake City, and others have all been rumored as well. It's now a matter of when, not if, expansion will happen.
When expansion happens, the new schedule and expanded playoffs make realignment and eight divisions a real possibility
2023 is the first year where teams now face every other team in the league at least once per season. That means games against division rivals have already been knocked down significantly. By the time MLB is ready to add two new teams, which seems at least three to five years away, fans will already be used to not seeing their familiar foes quite as often.
Major League Baseball has also diminished the importance of winning your own division anyways. Now there are three Wild Card teams per league, meaning theoretically, two teams from each division can be playoff bound any given year under the expanded playoffs.
So where do I get this idea of eight divisions then? Well, currently there are three per league, with five teams in each division. If two new expansion teams are added, the leagues could just each have a division that has six teams in it, but that kind of throws off this whole balanced schedule they are aiming for.
Thus, creating a new division per league, with four teams per division. With the expanded playoffs having six teams from each league in the playoffs, this would mean the four division winners and two Wild Cards make the playoffs in this format.
Hear me on this, I'm not advocating for this, I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this idea. But realignment has actually been pretty common in baseball history (just go back and look at all of the teams that have flip-flopped leagues and divisions), and I'll honestly be surprised if this isn't at least on the table when expansion happens, if not becomes "the solution" to adding more teams to the mix.
I've created two different scenarios on the next two slides that I think Major League Baseball could follow in the event of a realignment. One looks to keep the continuity of the American League and National League, while the other focuses on geographical location as much as possible.
For this exercise, I'll be using Nashville (which seems as close to a guarantee as possible for an expansion team) and Portland. These divisions could look significantly different if another city is chosen as that second expansion team.