Expansion just around the corner? Nah, probably not.
You gotta give Commissoner Rob Manfred some credit; at least he’s interesting. When people asked Commissioner Bud about things like expansion or a shorter schedule or just about anything else, he would dismiss the ideas out of hand. It was almost like if he didn’t think of it himself, it must be a terrible idea!
Commissioner Rob’s been different, which is refreshing. Still, you gotta take his public statements with a grain of salt. About expansion, for instance (via Jerry Crasnick):
"Maybe one of the reasons I got this job is, I’m bullish on this game," Manfred said. "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."Article continues below ...
Manfred said MLB has compiled a list of cities that might be viable options through expansion or possible relocation from existing markets. Tampa Bay and Oakland have been mentioned as markets that could eventually risk losing their teams if their ongoing stadium issues are not resolved.
Manfred said the league remains hopeful that the Rays and Oakland Athletics will be able to obtain new ballparks without relocating, yet will examine other markets in case a team needs to move or the sport decides to expand.
The sport intends to "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," Manfred said.
Maybe things will be different next time. But if you look at the history of expansion, it’s nearly always been spurred by OUTSIDE FORCES, and rarely (never?) by the Lords of Baseball looking to get bigger.
In the early ’60s, expansion was a response to the formative Continental League, a serious effort to establish a third major league. In 1969, expansion was, at least in part, a response to political pressure coming from a powerful U.S. Senator from Missouri who was angry about the A’s leaving Kansas City. In ’77, more political pressure. And in the ’90s, there were financial pressures as a result of Colllusions I and II, and legal pressures.
So why haven’t the owners ever just wanted to get bigger? Because they don’t want to share. They don’t want to share the national TV and (now) Internet monies — granted, those are a smaller piece of the pie these days, thanks to the massive local deals — and they don’t want more members of their oh-so-exclusive little club of billionaires.
What the owners do want — and it’s always worth remembering that Commissioner Rob works for the owners, and not the players or the fans or anyone else except maybe his wife — is a small supply of viable or semi-viable markets for leverage against cities that don’t pony up the local tax dollars for new stadiums or extensive renovations.
So it’s not surprising that MLB is talking to Montreal. It’ll be surprising when Montreal or anyone else gets an expansion team.