A Primer on MLB Expansion and how Raleigh fits in.
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has been on record over the past year discussing his goal for Major League Baseball to expand from 30 to 32 teams in the next few years. It’s been 20 years since the last round of expansion welcomed new franchises to Tampa Bay and Arizona. What does expansion mean, how would it work, and how does Raleigh fit into all of this? Let us explain…
MLB Expansion in a nutshell
The current MLB structure is comprised of 30 teams divided into two leagues–The American League and the National League–with each league split evenly into three divisions of five teams (AL/NL east, west, and central). The winners of each division, plus two wild-card teams, advance to the postseason. Like the NFL and, come 2021, the NHL, having 32 teams makes for a tidier combination of divisions, with the most likely scenario being eight divisions of four teams. Would MLB consider eliminating the wild-card? This set up would certainly allow for that, but with the excitement–and revenue–that even a one-game wild-card round generates, it’s likely here to stay in one form or another.
Which cities are set up to get teams and how does Raleigh fit in?
In an interview at the 2018 All-Star Game, Manfred was asked about expansion, and which cities might be in the running. Careful to hedge against naming favorites or creating expectations, he rattled off a list of viable cities that included Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Nashville, Montreal, Vancouver, and even somewhere in Mexico. While these are just an informal list, they gave us a glimpse into what type of markets MLB is looking for.
This was a major reason we started this project. When looking at these markets, we saw that our area was currently right there with some of these cities in terms of population, income, and media market size. We saw that the Triangle’s projected growth rates were much higher than some of these places, meaning a Raleigh anchored team in the Triangle is viable today but would be nearing a mid/large market team in just 15-20 years.
With expansion talks gearing up, and North Carolina listed as a possible target, we believe the time is now to get organized and start showing that Raleigh and the Triangle are actually the best long-term choice for MLB expansion in the United States.
What about ‘relocation team’?
As stated in the above video, there are two MLB teams that could possibly be relocating to new cities. Oakland has a proposed new stadium which looks great, but there are still a lot of discussions about funding that need to happen, so this is in no way a done deal.
Meanwhile, things are looking even more bleak in Tampa where stadium funding discussions fell through, leaving it looking more and more likely that the Rays will need a new home in 2028.
The big takeaway here is that there are potentially 4 cities that could have new MLB teams in the coming years. This type of turnover doesn’ happen much in professional sports, and if Raleigh misses on MLS, then MLB is likely their last chance for professional sports for the foreseeable future.
If we want MLB, the time is now for us to get organized and start the push.