There seems to be a low background drumbeat building among the baseball writers and baseball poets advocating for MLB to expand to 32 teams. While I must admit that there is one immediately beneficial aspect to that idea, I think it is a bad idea overall. Here is what would be the good news:
- Each league would have 16 teams and “16” is an even number. That means MLB could eliminate the mandatory interleague game every week of the season and return interleague play to a short window in the middle of the season.
The bloom is off the rose for interleague play. It was a good idea when it was implemented; it created heightened fan interest. Now, it has been hugely overdone, and it is no longer anywhere near “exciting”. In today’s environment, fans look forward to an interleague series about as much as a guy heading for his senior prom looks forward to a honking pimple on his nose. Ka-beesh…?
My biggest problem with expansion is that there is not nearly enough pitching to go around in MLB as it is. Adding two more teams – each of which would carry 12 or 13 pitchers on the roster – would add 25 more pitchers to the leagues and that would not be a plus in any part of the known universe. How many teams are stashing “The Next Clayton Kershaw” in some AA league because the parent club has so much pitching that it cannot find a place for the prodigy? Obviously, the answer is ZERO.
Baseball faces the fact that some its gone-but-hardly lamented stars of old might want to try a comeback. Rafael Palmiero, Sammy Sosa and José Canseco would jump at the chance for another big-league gig. If there were two expansion teams out there looking for ways to draw fans to see the expansion team get lit up four times a week, some exec might think that was a good way goose attendance. Really, do you want to see that?
Look at some of this year’s attendance figures for some of the bad teams in MLB – and a couple of the pretty good ones too:
- Miami Marlins average 10,676 per game. That projects to 864,756 fans for the season.
- Tampa Bay Rays average 14,711 per game. That projects to 1.19M fans for the season.
- Pittsburgh Pirates average 15,287 per game. That projects to 1.24M for the season.
- Chicago White Sox average 15,486 per game. That projects to 1.25M for the season.
In fact, 11 MLB teams – more than one-third of MLB – projects to draw fewer than 2 million fans for the season. Expansion is not going to shrink that number…
I mentioned Rafael Palmiero above as a former star player in MLB who would be interested in a comeback. I did not make that up; Palmiero actively sought a slot in Spring Training with an MLB team; none of the MLB teams took him up on the offer. Rather than go quietly into the night, Palmiero signed on with an independent team in the American Association – – the Cleburne Railroaders. And to be sure that this was not much more than a giant goat rodeo, that same team signed Palmiero’s son, Patrick, to play for the same team. Raffy will play first base; Patrick will play third base. A good time will be had by all … unless this kind of nonsense gets anywhere near MLB.
Just to be clear:
- On balance, MLB does not need to expand. [Aside: If it does expand, the places to put the two new teams would be Montreal and either Las Vegas or Portland – – flip a coin on those two western venues.]
- I do not want to see a 53-year old Rafael Palmiero in MLB this year nor do I want to see an antiquated version of him anytime down the road.
Here is a baseball comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:
“The scourge of a trend — American teams exporting meaningful games abroad — crossed a line this week when MLB announced the Yankees and Red Sox would play two regular season games in London in 2019. The crown-jewel rivalry of America’s Pastime should be played in Boston or Da Bronx. Period. Am I alone on that?”
Professor Cote in spot-on with that remark. Notice that the NFL does not schedule Packers/Bears games in London nor do they export Atlanta/New Orleans games. By analogy, MLB should not be taking a Yankees/Red Sox series from the local fans. This is a bad idea that MLB may have difficulty “walking- back”.
Finally, Brad Rock had this observation in the Deseret News several weeks ago:
“A 106-year-old competitive cyclist in France has been cautioned by his doctor to limit his exercise to a stationary bike.
“So far his only concession to age has been habitually driving down the road signaling left.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………