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Considering New Divisions in an Expanded MLB

With Nashville all but certain to receive an expansion team, let’s play Designer with MLB Divisions and Leagues

The bird’s eye view of a 32-team MLB
| Google Earth Pro

MLB will be expanding soon. Perhaps sooner than the Oakland Las Vegas Tr8ers have a new stadium (purely conjecture of course). Regardless, it is the offseason and Diamondbacks’ fans have little to discuss right now anyway.

SO....

Let’s put our imagination thinking caps on and hypothesize about what the MLB landscape could like like in the 2030s.

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Expansion

What locations receive a team? How many teams do we add?

I’ll be simple and suggest 2 new teams, mirroring most MLB expansions (COL/MIA & TB/AZ being the most recent). And as for locations, I see Nashville as a forgone conclusion now with Charlotte, North Carolina as the most likely second choice. Also considered were: Portland, Oregon/New Orleans, LA/Salt Lake City, UT/Montreal, QC/Vancouver, BC/several cities in Mexico.

While both Nashville and Charlotte are eastern cities in the grand scheme, they are metro areas that already support Big Sports franchises (insert whichever number you fancy as Big Sports here). There is also little reason/ability for a new franchise to fight for regional fans out west. Yes there is plenty of geography and if teams were actually interested in competitiveness there are several locations that make sense. But which established team is willing to cut their regional reach for a new team? The Giants just used their might to assist in the forced eviction of the Oakland Baseball Club; you really expect they are ok with Portland getting a team? Is Seattle? San Francisco and Sacramento? Not happening in my opinion. The same issues exist out east, but I drew the arbitrary line where I did...sue me.

Since I’m in full control of these hypothetical new franchises, I dub them the Nashville Old Schoolers (in honor of Diamondback great Dave Stewart as a member of the ownership group) and the Charlotte Nobodies (since no one of real note is attached to the team yet and I love a good Greek Mythology reference!).

Divisions

The first issue with divisions is how to break Major League Baseball up into two leagues/conferences. Since I am proposing a full overhaul of the system as it stands, I will be eliminating the designations of National and American Leagues. Firstly, the league as a whole is international (hello Toronto) so the terms are a tad misleading (albeit vague enough to easily account for any particular country). Secondly, with the DH now in both leagues, there’s no difference between the two except history. As a man with a B.A. in History, I appreciate that. But as a human being, I understand evolution and adaptation are important.

I like the idea of East and West Conference, but realize the teams are skewed toward the Eastern Seaboard. Better alternatives can and should be suggested in the comments!

When it came to redistributing teams, I put geography and rivalries at the top of the pecking order. I also started out West for two reasons: 1) I am first and foremost an Arizona Diamondbacks fan and 2) the West is the hardest to make work given the vast emptiness between cities.

So without further ado, here are my proposed Divisions in the completely remade Major League Baseball of 32 teams.

Western Conference

  • California Division: Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres
  • Mountain Division: Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Las Vegas Tr8ers
  • Texas/Missouri Division: Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals
  • Midwestern Division: Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins
The same image from above, but for your visual assistance when observing the Divisional Breakdown
Google Earth Pro

Eastern Conference

  • Central Division: Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Guardians, Cincinnati Reds, Nashville Old Schoolers
  • New England Division: New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays
  • Historic Locations Division: Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals
  • Deep South Division: Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins, Charlotte Nobodies, Atlanta Braves

Playoffs

My playoff scenario would of course expand as well - but mostly because I hate the concept of byes in baseball. So 8 teams from each Conference would make the postseason. I’m torn on whether I prefer 4 Division Winners and 4 Wild Cards per Conference (which would allow an entire Division to make the bracket!) or go simple and play up rivalries more by admitting only the top 2 teams from each Division.

Whichever method you prefer, I would make seeding simple: Each Division Winner gets home field advantage in round one and their opponents will be selected by the remaining teams’ records. So the winningest division winner will face the least winningest second place (or wild card) team, regardless of division. There would continue to be 4 total rounds: Wild Card Round of 8 (renamed if necessary), Division Series Round of 4, Championship Series Round of 2, World Series Round of Victors.

What do you think? Discuss below, for there is much to talk about. Are the divisions fair? Do they give up too much history for your preference? Should California be broken apart into multiple divisions? Should the restructuring begin out east? From the Midwest? Is the elimination of AL/NL too much for MLB to withstand? Should the league expand the regular season and retreat to only the World Series for a postseason? The beauty of hypothetical, outlandish ideas is there are limitless!

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