MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to add. San Diego Padres hitting coach Mark McGwire says he prefers to subtract.
The former Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals slugger endorses the idea of contracting rather than expanding MLB. McGwire sees 28 teams as the ideal number, which last acted as baseball’s count of clubs the season before Big Mac hit 70 home runs in 1998.
“If they ever did expansion, again, oh, my God, this game would be so thin,” McGwire told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It really would be the worst thing we could do in baseball. We should lose two teams. We could have normal scheduling, fourteen teams in each league. And we could take out the interleague play for a few years.”
Manfred teases Mexico City and Montreal as cities where baseball might grow the game. “Baseball is a growth business and growth businesses tend to expand,” he reasoned in May. He called Las Vegas a “viable alternative” a month ago.
McGwire did not name the two cities that he thinks should lose teams. But two of the five clubs now drawing the fewest fans — the Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians, Oakland A’s, Miami Marlins, and Chicago White Sox — joined the league in the last two waves of expansion, buttressing the argument made by the breaker of Roger Maris’s single-season, home-run record that baseball got ahead of itself when it added the Devil Rays and Diamondbacks.
The last time one of North America’s big four sports leagues contracted occurred in 1978, when the Cleveland Barons merged into the Minnesota North Stars and brought the NHL from 18 to 17 teams. Since the American and National Leagues combined to form Major League Baseball in 1903, many teams have relocated but not a single one has ceased operations. In 2001, owners voted to contract. Prospects for the Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos appeared bleak. But legal maneuverings in Minneapolis and the eventual move from Montreal prevented the Expos and Twins from joining the Worcester Worcesters, Louisville Colonels, and Providence Grays on the forgotten field of fallen clubs.