On Tuesday, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred stated that he supports expansion, envisioning a sport that could mushroom to 32 teams.
Speaking at the Baseball Writers Association of America luncheon at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati, the commissioner made a point of characterizing expansion as a business decision, asserting, “Maybe one of the reasons I got this job is, I’m bullish on this game. I think we are a growth business, broadly defined. And over an extended period of time, growth businesses look to get bigger. So yeah, I’m open to the idea that there will be a point in time where expansion may be possible.”
Major League Baseball last expanded in 1998, adding the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks to the American and National Leagues, respectively, to grow the sport to 30 teams at the elite level.
Manfred acknowledged that MLB has prepared for such an eventuality, estimating which cities could successfully support a team. He also said that although MLB does not want to move the Tampa Bay Rays or Oakland Athletics from their cities because they have not constructed new stadiums, if logistics demand a move MLB wants to be prepared. He added, that MLB’s analysis of other prospective cities will “examine their viability, think about what we can do to make them more viable, so that we have business alternatives that are available to us.”
ESPN reports that MLB looks at Montreal, Charlotte, North Carolina, San Antonio, Portland, Oregon, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, northern New Jersey, Mexico City or Monterrey, Mexico, as possible new venues for the sport.
Montreal has exhibited the most aggressive approach in order to land a team. Mayor Denis Coderre met with Manfred in New York in late May after Manfred informed The Canadian Press in March, “The key thing in Montreal would be to have a plan for an adequate facility that could support baseball over the long haul.”
Montreal had hosted two wildly successful exhibition games between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds in March that drew a total of 96,000 fans.
Manfred has insisted that Montreal build a new stadium in order for MLB to award the city a franchise. Manfred said, “The mayor is an enthusiastic supporter of bringing baseball back to Montreal. I happen to believe that Montreal has a great baseball history, which is a nice thing. And the market wildly supported two exhibition games in each of the last two years. Having said all that, it’s a long ways from two exhibition games to 81 home games in a facility that is consistent with major league standards.”
Manfred also spoke in support for adding the pitch clock to MLB, an idea tested in Class AAA and AA baseball, but expressed disenchantment with any shortening of the regular season, arguing that the lost revenue would have to be found by expanding the playoffs.