Commissioner Rob Manfred Wants MLB Expansion, Pending A's and Rays' Stadiums

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Commissioner Rob Manfred Wants MLB Expansion, Pending A’s and Rays’ Stadiums

Chicago Cubs

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred recently spoke at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Massachusetts and addressed a number of topics, including, from the sounds of it, a staunch defense of the Miami Marlins’ actions this winter.

But one of the more interesting and less triggering (yes, I’m now officially triggered by Derek Jeter and the Marlins) topics discussed was expansion – an on-again, off-again topic over the past few seasons.

And although the meat of his comments wasn’t necessarily brand new information, he did re-confirm that expansion is still on the table, pending a couple of important decisions:

The Rays, if you recall, have reportedly decided on a location for their new ballpark (somewhere downtown, near Ybor City), but there are still plenty of hurdles to overcome, including the financing (which could come predominantly from taxpayers). Of course, as many have pointed out, the Rays recent, late-winter tank job might not garner a ton of goodwill from the general public, which will make selling the public funding of a half-billion dollar stadium a bit of a challenge.

Meanwhile, the Oakland A’s have had troubles of their own finalizing a stadium site – if you recall, they had a location ripped out from under them at the last minute – but they are apparently down to three locations, each of which was visited by Manfred:

But even if they settle on a site, it sounds like there are no plans to open the location until 2023 (to be sure, I think the expansion conversation can begin long before these stadiums actually open, but they definitely need to be “done deals,” so to speak, before the commissioner will seriously consider a change):

So let’s fast-forward a few years and pretend both the Rays and A’s have their new parks set … what’s next?

Well, as Manfred intimated, the league would probably look to add two teams and then likely re-align the divisions/leagues to be more geographically conscious.

This could pave the way for two 16-team leagues (American and National), each with four four-team divisions. This is all speculation, but, at that point, you could keep two Wild Card teams in each league and have 12 teams make the postseason every year (up from ten right now). That would simultaneously help with the decision not to tank (it’d become a little easier to reach the postseason) and even further balance the schedules. (You could also consider four Wild Card teams in each league, but then you run into some trickiness with how to structure the postseason series so that you’re not having the top two teams sitting for a week while the rest of the postseason begins and shakes out.)

This all remains a few years away from actually going down, but the writing is on the walls. Expansion is coming eventually, and it all starts with the Rays and A’s picking a spot for their new stadium, getting the funding, and breaking ground.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami