(WTNH)–Baseball back in Montreal?
Les Expos fans once again have reason to believe.
In a meeting with sports editors from around the country on Wednesday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred called the possibility of baseball expanding to 32 teams ‘invevitable.’
“I have said publicly that I think baseball’s a growth sport, a growth business, that sooner or later growth businesses expand,” the commissioner said. “In the longer term, there will be expansion.”
Manfred went on to say that he believes stadium issues in Oakland and Tampa Bay would first need to be resolved. Both cities have resisted building new stadiums for their teams, and the A’s and Rays are considered strong candidates for relocation if that doesn’t change.
“If we were to expand, I do think a city that makes sense geographically–meaning in terms of realistic travel distances and is outside of the 48 contiguous states–would be a positive choice for us in terms of growing the game.”
That sure sounds like Montreal, doesn’t it, Expos fans?
The Expos, who were once a popular franchise but never recovered following the 1994 players’ strike and subsequent gutting of their up-and-coming potential juggernaut–that team included players like Darrin Fletcher, Cliff Floyd, Wil Cordero, Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker and Pedro Martinez–left for Washington in 2004.
Fans in Montreal have been clamoring for their team, which began playing in the city in 1969–to return. A pair of exhibition games played in April at Olympic Stadium, the Expos’ old home, drew nearly 100,000 fans.
Manfred did address Montreal specifically during the conference.
“I think, even if I didn’t want to say this, the mayor of Montreal would probably tell you if you walked past him on the street, that I have met with him on a number of occasions,” the commissioner said. “They have expressed a strong desire to have Major League Baseball back in Montreal. That’s a good thing. People want baseball. I think that’s a real positive. In addition to Montreal, there are other locations that would clearly be on the list.”
Cities such as San Antonio, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Mexico City, San Juan (Puerto Rico) and Vancouver have been mentioned as potential candidates as well.
Manfred mentioned the schedule as a reason for favoring expansion, as well.
“Multiples of fours just work better (for scheduling) than multiples of fives–significantly better,” Manfred said. “That would be a helpful change in that regard.”
Currently, Major League Baseball has 30 teams, with 15 in each league. The current setup forces interleague play, which was once a midseason treat for fans, to become a season-long reality. It’s not clear whether or not that would continue if baseball added two more franchises.
The Houston Astros moved from the six-team National League Central to the four-team American League West in 2013, making each division an equal five teams.