Despite ongoing issues in getting the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays new stadiums, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred stated that he could see the league expanding in the future. Expansion is not a word that we’re used to hearing with MLB, but it makes a lot of sense for the league going forward.
Manfred’s expressed interest in expanding baseball at the Baseball Writers Association of America luncheon. He stated that he believes that baseball is a growth business, and that he could see the league expanding at some point in the future when it is determined growth would be most helpful.
“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.” — ESPN
Expansion came up when the commissioner mentioned that the league has assembled a list of cities that could become the new homes of the Rays and Athletics if neither city/ownership group is able to create a workable financial plan for new stadiums. Some of the cities on this list are Montreal, Charlotte (NC), San Antonio, Portland (Ore.) Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, northern New Jersey, Mexico City or Monterrey, Mexico. It is believed that these cities are at the top of MLB’s expansion wish list as well.
Of those markets, Montreal has been the most active in trying to bring back the long-lost Expos. Over the last couple of years, the city has begun looking into potential locations for a new baseball stadium….as well as a financial plan that makes sense. In fact, Denis Coderre (Montreal’s Mayor) met with Manfred in New York, back in late May, to discuss the potential return of the Expos. Manfred probably — this is pure speculation — told him that no franchise is up for sale, but he should keep a close eye on developments what is going on in Tampa Bay.
Portland is an interesting market, it’s had great success in supporting the Trailblazers (NBA) and the Timbers (MLS). The city went several years without minor league baseball after the Beavers relocated after being kicked out of their historic stadium, near downtown, for the Timbers’ stadium renovation. Minor league baseball returned when the Yakima Bears relocated to Hillsboro and they re-branded as the Hops. According to the Portland Tribune, the Hops home stadium can be temporarily expanded by 15,000 to 20,000 seats to temporarily host an MLB team while a more permanent home is being built. This means that Portland could be a perfect landing spot for the A’s if everything goes belly up in Oakland…or an expansion franchise if the situation in Oakland gets figured out.
It makes a lot of sense for MLB to be interested in expansion, sports franchises are worth real money at the moment and expansion franchises are going to be worth more than the current franchise. Therefore, it would be really dumb for the league to not put more money in its owners pockets — the owners get an equal share of any and all expansion fees. MLB is going to need to be careful that it expands into markets that will add value into its TV contracts; because immediate cash is only going to help, if there is an increased dollar amount coming in from the TV contracts.
Otherwise, expansion would become a money loser for the league in the long run.