Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred continues to discuss the possibility of expanding to 32 teams, and says that Montreal could be in the mix.
There has certainly been a growing sentiment toward having baseball return to Montreal, which has been without a team since the Montreal Expos left after the 2004 season. Part of this has been the success of the Toronto Blue Jays annual exhibition games at Olympic Stadium, which are set to take place again in 2017.
Manfred has also expressed a willingness to expand to 32 teams, a move that would likely happen after the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays settle their ballpark situations. Both teams are working on solutions in their respective locales, but with the A’s just resuming discussions about a facility at the Howard Terminal site and the Rays fielding pitches from Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, there is no clear timeline in place.
Having those two ballparks, and laying out a road map to expansion in the next collective bargaining agreement, will be big steps for MLB. Beyond that, Manfred will need a clearer idea of the ownership and ballpark situations and Montreal, and on which markets MLB consider for the 32nd team. More from the Sporting News:
Officials in Montreal, which hosted the Expos from 1969-2004, are pining for another franchise, but Manfred has been adamant the city needs a new stadium before it can be considered major league-ready. Another hurdle is finding a second expansion market to keep MLB with an even number of clubs.
“And then we would begin, first, with an internal debate as to whether baseball wants to go to 32 [teams],” Manfred said. “Assuming the owners make that decision, it would then begin the process of selecting two cities.
“I will say, in terms of schedule format, 32 teams is a nice number for us.”
Some in Montreal, including mayor Denis Coderre, have expressed a willingness to consider ownership and ballpark options. Certainly Olympic Stadium might come up as a temporary solution, but it would be hard to imagine MLB committing to the city without a firm commitment to a new ballpark.
Beyond that, the expansion picture would get interesting. Manfred has previously said that Las Vegas would be given fair consideration by the league. Additionally San Antonio has been discussed as a candidate in the past, though its current issues in funding a proposed Triple-A ballpark complicate that picture. Expansion would also trickle down to the minor leagues, and reshape several leagues by adding two teams to each level.
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