As 2016 comes to a close, sports fans everywhere cannot help but appreciate the exciting stories that have taken shape this year. Leicester City went from finishing dead last in the Premier League in 2015 to first place in 2016. The Cleveland Cavaliers won their first Finals in team history, and of course, the Chicago Cubs finally broke their curse after a 108-year-old World Series drought. As exciting as this past year in sports has been, it will be tough to make 2017 an even better year. However, Major League Baseball is in complete realization of the need to continue to develop the foundation for excitement and growth, like this past sports season has brought. Rob Manfred, commissioner of Major League Baseball has hinted at the possibility of an expansion in the near future after he stated “I think we are in a growth business…and over an extended period of time, growth businesses look to get bigger”. Although the thought may seem absurd, Major League Baseball is in need of an expansion in order to continue its major success.
Although Major League Baseball entered into 2016 with record revenue of nearly $9.5 billion, it also entered the season with a problem. The problem is that the number of fans age thirteen and up as well as the total number of games attended has decreased since 2011. This is represented in the chart below from SBRNet.
Many believe this is a result of the slow nature of the game of baseball. However, the rules of baseball can never be altered in a way that would dramatically increase the speed of play. So what can be done to make baseball more exciting? Expansion is the answer. Realistically, only two more clubs could be added at once, as it would allow the MLB to go to a realigned system of 16 teams in four divisions. If both of these teams were placed in foreign markets, the game’s global reach would expand and build on the momentum generated by the World Baseball Classic as well as the season openers in Japan and Australia. Of 868 players on the 2015 Opening Day rosters and disabled lists, 26.5 percent came from outside of the United States. Clearly, Major League Baseball still has plenty of untapped potential in the foreign market that it can expand upon.
Immediately, there are two international cities that would increase the popularity and reach of the MLB. These locations are Mexico City and Montreal. There are 20.89 million people in Mexico City alone in a country of 120 million people. Adding an expansion franchise in this city would instantly make it a national team. Placing this team in Mexico in addition to a larger number of Mexican players in the big leagues would help grow the Hispanic market in the United States. This would have a large role in reviving the “dying” game of baseball.
The second city that would bring great success to the game of baseball is Montreal. The movement to bring baseball back to this city for the first time since the Expos left is alive and well as in each of the last three years, Olympic stadium has played host to two-game exhibition series involving the Blue Jays and various opponents. Paid attendance at those games averaged more than 48,000 per night. Placing an expansion franchise here would only increase the popularity of Major League Baseball in Canada as well as the Canadian baseball fans in the United States. A Blue Jays rivalry renewed with Montreal would also only provide for more dramatic entertainment that the game is in need of.
Although there is no planned date at this point in time on when an expansion may occur, it is bound to happen sometime in the near future. Not only is it bound to happen; it needs to happen. Major League Baseball sure could use the added excitement of two expansion franchises as well as the hype around “the great unknown”. Once the MLB expands, one cannot help but dream of the day when the World Series champion takes on a team from Asia or Mexico in late November.
Written by Jay Davis
General Editor: Macy Marin
ESPN. “International Expansion Would Help Grow Baseball’s Borders”. Retrieved From: http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/14620232/reimagining-baseball-international-expansion-teams
Forbes. “MLB Sees Record Revenues For 2015, Up $500 Million And Approaching $9.5 Billion”. Retrieved From: http://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2015/12/04/mlb-sees-record-revenues-for-2015-up-500-million-and-approaching-9-5-billion/#90eb11823076
Sports Illustrated. “MLB expansion? These cities in U.S. and abroad make sense”. Retrieved From: http://www.si.com/mlb/2016/04/22/mlb-expansion-montreal-mexico-city-charlotte-portland