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Adios, NL West: Let's play around with some hypothetical MLB expansion options

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Charlotte, Portland, Las Vegas, Indianapolis... what would MLB look like if they added a couple teams and shifted around their divisions?

MLB realignment time! Let's make massive assumptions. (pictured: Charlotte, NC)
MLB realignment time! Let's make massive assumptions. (pictured: Charlotte, NC)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

This is a completely off-topic post (obviously), but the two of us got to talking a couple weeks ago about Major League Baseball's expansion and realignment options, and we thought it was such a fun debate, we wanted to include you!

Winter time is slow time, right? There's no better time to do this sort of stuff than right now, so... enjoy our arguments about hypothetical baseball expansion and realignment, and share your ideas. We got such a kick out of debating cities and possibilities, we wanted to open it up to y'all for a discussion.

It's not a question of if baseball expands, but when (and where); for that, right now the expansion/realignment debate is fairly wide open to many different options that could realistically happen. Adding teams in Charlotte, Montreal, Nashville, Portland, or Las Vegas may all be safe hypothetical assumptions; adding a team in Pueblo, though, is probably unwise. As you make your case for realignment, the rules are wide open: What city appeals to you? Have at it!

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Ryan Schoppe

When I first started out to expand baseball and realign the divisions my goal was simple: imagine that baseball added two teams, and then plot out what the resulting divisions would probably look like. However, as I started with that process, I figured if I was in charge of Major League Baseball (scary thought!) I might as well go ahead and fix the whole thing.

So not only did I add two new teams in Charlotte and Portland, I also moved three teams that have abysmal attendance: the Oakland Athletics to San Jose, the Tampa Bay Rays to Montreal, and the Miami Marlins to Salt Lake City. I chose these cities to pull big, empty markets currently unused by baseball while fulfilling the goals of this exercise: find a feasible way to expand and realign divisions.

Thus, these became my overall goals:

  • I wanted every team to have a natural geographical rival. Some of these might seem weird at first, but if you look at a map, places like Toronto and Detroit, or Boston and Montreal being geographic rivals makes a lot of sense (not to mention eases travel times for all teams).
  • Each division would then be made up of two of these rivalries, combined for a four-team geographical quadrant.
  • No division would stretch across two time zones (looking at you, American League West!). The preference for me was being in only one time zone in as many divisions as possible. Beyond that, I really tried to put four teams that were as close together geographically as possible to minimize travel and find some kind of competitive balance for all 32 teams.
  • Finally — and this may be a non-starter for many people — forget American League and National League allegiances. Those are now gone and all of baseball is playing by the same rules, for my purpose in this exercise. I’m not going to say whether that is with a DH or without (you can debate that in the comments!), but I eliminated certain players being better fits for certain teams simply because they have a position or have a certain trait that other teams can’t have.

The end result: Miami, Tampa Bay, and Oakland lost their teams. Salt Lake City, Montreal, and San Jose benefitted from those moves. Charlotte and Portland gained expansion franchises. Here's how it looks.

Division/Conference A

West North South East
San Jose Athletics Toronto Blue Jays Atlanta Braves Montreal Rays
San Francisco Giants Detroit Tigers Charlotte, NC Boston Red Sox
Portland, OR Cleveland Indians Texas Rangers New York Mets
Seattle Mariners Cincinnati Reds Houston Astros New York Yankees

Division/Conference B

West North South East
Los Angeles Angels Milwaukee Brewers Salt Lake City Marlins Washington Nationals
Los Angeles Dodgers Minnesota Twins Colorado Rockies Baltimore Orioles
San Diego Padres Chicago Cubs St. Louis Cardinals Pittsburgh Pirates
Arizona Diamondbacks Chicago White Sox Kansas City Royals Philadelphia Phillies

A division in which the Rockies avoid all the old NL West foes... but pick up the Royals and Cardinals. Hmm. Seems like we still lose.

Bobby DeMuro

While I think you can make a legitimate argument for Ryan's moves out of Oakland (to San Jose), Tampa Bay (to Montreal) and Miami (to Salt Lake City), I wanted to keep my expansion and realignment even simpler: the current 30 Major League teams all stay in place, and I only added two new franchises: Charlotte and Las Vegas.

Charlotte is a big — and very quickly-growing — city in an area underserved by Major League Baseball, with both NFL and NBA franchises. It also has a brand new Triple-A ballpark in the heart of Uptown (pictured at the top of this post!), and the feeling there is that the park would be retro-fitted for Major League action should the Queen City land an expansion club in the near future. (Granted, I'm biased towards the QC because I lived there for ten years and consider myself more of a North Carolinian than anything else, but I digress.)

Las Vegas, too, is a big and growing city in an area underserved by Major League Baseball — and, stupidly, by all of the big-time professional sports. I'm not concerned with the old "what if the players gamble" argument about Vegas, what with the ubiquitous rise of the Internet and all, and it's time to put a team in Vegas. (Yes, it'd be DAMN hot there in July and August, but somehow their Triple-A franchise survives.)

Unlike Ryan, I maintained the American and National leagues. In my plan, Charlotte joins the NL South, while Las Vegas becomes part of the AL West. To the divisions:

National League

NL West NL North NL South NL East
San Diego Padres St. Louis Cardinals Atlanta Braves Philadelphia Phillies
Los Angeles Dodgers Chicago Cubs Miami Marlins New York Mets
San Francisco Giants Colorado Rockies Cincinnati Reds Pittsburgh Pirates
Arizona Diamondbacks Milwaukee Brewers Charlotte, NC Washington Nationals

American League

AL West AL North AL South AL East
Los Angeles Angels Cleveland Indians Texas Rangers New York Yankees
Seattle Mariners Minnesota Twins Houston Astros Toronto Blue Jays
Oakland Athletics Detroit Tigers Kansas City Royals Boston Red Sox
Las Vegas, NV Chicago White Sox Tampa Bay Rays Baltimore Orioles

Personally, I think that's a solid, realistic realignment/expansion plan: the leagues stay the same, which pleases the die-hard history buffs, while still geographically accounting for the two new clubs that will create slight wrinkles to new divisions with expansion.

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There you have it. What do you think? What's the most realistic way MLB will expand and realign in the next few years  — and how do you believe it will change the structure of the league's divisions? Where would you expand baseball?