If one imagines 32 teams in the major leagues -- with new franchises in Montreal and Austin, Texas, as I've proposed -- the sport could use the occasion to standardize the designated hitter rule and increase the number of road games played at 7 p.m. local time, a boon for television ratings.
(Traditional league identities matter in baseball ... but not as much as maximizing media revenues.)
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said recently that "fours work better than fives," a massive hint that each league would have four divisions of four teams.
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So here's how the plan could work.
The National League would consist of these 16 teams, all in the Pacific, Mountain, or Central time zones:
Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners
Austin, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers
Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals
Under this proposal, the American League would include only one team -- the Minnesota Twins â outside the Eastern time zone:
Boston Red Sox. Montreal. New York Yankees. Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates
Cleveland Indians. Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins
Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals
It's jarring, I know. But purists once felt the same way about interleague play. Now it's an everyday occurrence during the regular season.
I happen to support the distinct D.H. rules between the American and National leagues -- but not at the expense of the sport's progress. If the D.H. is to be standardized across baseball, there ought to be a compelling reason for it; positioning the sport for a generation of growth and relevance is a pretty good one.
So by 2025 -- maybe even sooner -- Major League Baseball could operate on new competitive paradigm that strengthens geographic rivalries and introduces new ones. And it might even look something like this.