From 1901 to 1960, 16 teams called Major League Baseball home. Between 1961 and 1977, a period covering 17 seasons, 10 franchises were added. It would be 16 more seasons until the Rockies and Marlins joined in 1993, followed by the Diamondbacks and what were then known as the Devil Rays five years later in 1998. While the Devil may be out of the Rays, there is no doubt that the devil is always in the details, or in this instance, those details that are not yet known as to baseball’s future expansion potential. But whereas it seemed possible in 2002 that contraction would occur, there are clearly no arguments in my view that support future contraction and yet several arguments that support future expansion.
Every time expansion takes place, there are those who say that the talent is watered down further in the Major Leagues, but can anyone genuinely say that our baseball of 2013 is more watered down than it was during the golden age? During the golden age, blacks were just beginning to be allowed to play in our highest level of pro ball and the concept of international players, much less international scouting and the draft were ideas that only the brightest outside the box thinking types could have conceived. Now look at where our game is today, the Great American Pastime has become the great global game and all signs are that it will only continue to grow all over the world. Sure there have always been the baseball hot beds like Venezuela and the Dominican, but look at what developments have taken place in nations like the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Mexico, South Korea, all who have contributed a great deal of talent to our top level of baseball. I have not even mentioned Japan, which had 0 MLB players in 1994, now you are likely to find a player from Japan on every single organizational roster and more than just one in some cases. Then there are the many Cuban players who have defected and come to the US to play. If and when relations are ever more open between the two bitter rival governments, there will be a flood of talented players coming across the Florida straits seeking big league money and big league exposure.
Then there is Europe, which many baseball experts who follow the international game believe is the future growth spurt of an even deeper international talent pool. It would not be surprising at all to see nations like Italy, Germany, France, and Spain get to where the Dutch are today and that can only mean one thing, even more big league capable players seeking work.
What does this mean for the future of MLB? It simply means that the game which is expanding globally will eventually have to expand to meet fan and player demands if our professional baseball circuit is to maintain its clear status as the world premier league of top notch professional competition. Now, I present my big and bold expansion proposal.
The expansion would be a record for MLB, six teams at one time. Some of you are now taking a big gulp and catching your breath, really, six teams? But let’s put this in some perspective. IN 1969 when four teams joined, they increased the size of the league from 20 to 24 teams, or an increase of 20% in size. Each team took 30 players in the expansion draft, meaning each of the 20 existing organizations lost six players to the new kids on the block. IN the 1977 expansion that added just two teams in the AL, they too took 30 players each. Since they only drafted from AL rosters, the impact was similar for those 12 existing AL teams, losing five players each. The impact on existing teams was much less in the 1993 and 1998 expansions because for one thing, more existing teams were available to be picked from. So in 1992, the Rockies and Marlins each added 36 players, six more than in prior expansions, but the impact was just three players from each NL organization, three players from eight AL organizations, and 2 players from the remaining six AL members. The 1997 expansion saw the Rays and Diamondbacks each take 35 players, this time as before, some organizations lost three players and others lost just two. Given the fact that we now have 30 teams plus all of the affiliated minor league clubs that are part of the farm systems, expanding by six teams and letting each team take 25 players would not be asking all that much. If each new team took 25 players, that would mean a loss of 5 players from each existing organization, which would be no more impactful than what we saw in the 1969 expansion. Furthermore, increasing from 30 to 36 teams is mathematically exactly the same as increasing from 20 to 24 teams, in that you expand the size of MLB by 20%.
Where to put these six teams? Now there are several approaches that one can take when thinking of where and how to expand. Fans and critics will take note and offer their own ideas and responses, but when reading this. in my view, what follows is a sound judgment in terms of my philosophy of expansion.
I’ve read a couple articles recently that said if baseball expands, Brooklyn should be considered and I agree, given the history of baseball in that location. But the one thing I would say that would counter this view, is the fact that baseball is in more dual markets than any other sport. The NBA has two teams each in Los Angeles and New York, assuming the Kings stay in Sacramento, they are not too far from Oakland which is home of the Warriors, though Sacramento is not considered part of the Bay Area market like San Jose and thus the reason San Jose is much favored over Sacramento to land the Athletics assuming they do eventually move from Oakland. The NFL has three dual markets, Oakland/San Francisco, Washington/Baltimore, and New York. The NHL has a dual market with Los Angeles/Anaheim and a tri market with New jersey and the two New York teams. Baseball has five dual markets, Los Angeles/Anaheim, San Francisco/Oakland, New York, Washington/Baltimore, and Chicago. Add to that fact that Philadelphia is right between DC and New York, San Diego is not that far from Anaheim, and Milwaukee is not far from Chicago, and you quickly see that 15 teams or one half of all of MLB is concentrated in five geographic regions, more than any other sports league. Those facts which are very strait forward doom the Brooklyn idea.
So where does MLB go? Go west was a phrase heard during the mass expansion of the United States and North America in general, I apply that in part to baseball, which has cities in Portland and Vancouver that both seem ready to support the great game. Vancouver was a candidate for the 1998 teams but was quickly passed over for the Florida Sun Coast and Desert southwest. Portland has also been mentioned for years as a future expansion or relocation site and it is time that baseball put steaks down in a city that has proven it will support a team that tries to put a good product out there for the fans, see the Portland Trail Blazers for that example from pro hoops.
City number three, San Antonio. The Rangers and Padres series at the end of spring training drew 35 thousand on the same night the Spurs were playing at home, then 40 thousand for a 1PM start the next day, at a place that can only be described as the most temporary baseball setting imaginable, the Alamodome, which was never built or intended for baseball of any kind, period! This would provide a third team in Texas and it is crazy that the Lone Star State, home to a population only smaller than California does not have a third team. The Dallas Fort Worth metro is after all much larger in population than Washington/Baltimore and one could genuinely argue that a second team could also go to DFW, though I don’t propose such a move.
My other three teams go in the eastern region of the continent, one back to Montreal which MLB never gave a fair chance and as we now see in Miami, the marlins owner cares nothing about the fans and he was the nail in the coffin for the Expos in 2001 when his ownership forced the clock to strike midnight in Montreal. Remember that there were several times back in the period of the 1970’s and early 1980’s that the Expos were on par with or outdrew their counterparts in new York, both the Mets and Yankees, so history tells us with no doubt that Montreal was and is a baseball town. They should revisit the plans for Labatt Park, because the Big Owe will only serve as a temporary home.
Finally, the fifth and sixth franchises go to the southeast US, no not to Florida which has sadly been baseball’s worst experiment for the simple fact that unlike Phoenix, Denver, and other cities mentioned here, Florida cities are full of transplants who could give a damn about a local team because they root for their team from back home. While one of these two slots could instead go to Brooklyn, I have instead chosen Charlotte and Nashville. Both have had success with new franchises and only ownership issues caused concern for Nashville’s NHL franchise and ruined fan interest in Charlotte’s first NBA team. Both cities are solid distances from the nearest markets of St. Louis, Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Washington, certainly further away than San Diego is from Orange County and further than Milwaukee is from Chicago.
So now to the question of alignment, how will this all work? My proposal calls for Charlotte to join the existing teams in the AL East and for Nashville to join the AL Central. Portland and San Antonio would both go to the AL West, while Houston would transfer back to the NL Central. Vancouver would join the NL West and Montreal the NL East, plus Pittsburgh and Atlanta would flip divisions, Atlanta to the NL Central and Pittsburgh to the NL East. Now that I’ve made everyone grab for their maps, here is the easy to digest version of alignment.
AL East, Toronto, Boston, NY Yankees, Baltimore, Charlotte, Tampa.
AL Central, Kansas City, Minnesota, Chicago Sox, Nashville, Cleveland, Detroit.
AL West, San Antonio, Texas, LA Angels, Oakland, Portland, Seattle.
NL East, Miami, Washington, NY Mets, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Montreal.
NL Central, Houston, St. Louis, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Atlanta.
NL West, Colorado, Arizona, San Diego, LA Dodgers, San Francisco, Vancouver.
Time table for expansion, award franchises in 2015, franchises can begin participating in the amateur draft and international free agency process in 2016, new MLB teams take the field opening day, April 2, 2018.
The Ultimate Baseball Battle, Stars Past and Present Play for all 30 MLB Teams in WhatIfSports Simulation
This morning began the first of 177 scheduled simulations to sort of answer that What If question about your favorite baseball team and how they might do with players from today and yesterday. Between today May 14 and Thursday July 11, a complete baseball season of 162 games will be simulated and when it is all said and done, it may stir more debates than it settles. All teams will have a game simulated on 162 of 177 possible time frames, with 15 open cessions. Three simulations are done daily by www.whatifsports.com, one over night around 1:30 AM ET, one in the early afternoon around 1:30 PM ET, and one in the early evening around 6:30 PM ET.
Over the last three weeks, I put together rosters for every MLB team to compete in this unique process, using the sim league baseball engine of www.whatifsports.com as my resource.
The rosters were build using the WIS database, attempting to create reasonably equal opposition throughout the league.
My ground rules were fairly strait forward. First, any player season that was used had to be a full season with his club, so Rick Helling could pitch for the 2005 Brewers, but he could not pitch based on his 1997 season split between the Marlins and Rangers. Any player who had a plate appearance or who pitched to a single batter for more than one team in a given season was excluded. This typically impacted bench players and relief pitchers, as star players were almost never traded during a season at which they were having a career year in terms of their statistical performance.
The other key rule I used in creating the league, each player could only be used once, meaning Nolan Ryan could appear only from one of his more than 20 seasons and thus, it could only be a season with the Astros, Rangers, or Angels of significance. WIS does not make available players who would not be able to hold up throughout an entire simulated season, so pitchers with less than 25 innings and hitters with less than 50 plate appearances are not eligible if that is their season total. I based the choices I made on players like Ryan in terms of what was their best season in terms of stat value, so Ryan was better in terms of K/BB ratio with the Rangers in 1989 than he was with the Astros in ’81 or the Angels in ’72. There were a couple of minor exceptions, Pedro Martinez for instance is on the Nationals roster that is largely made up of former Expos. While his stats were better by a bit in 1999 and particularly 2000 for Boston, his 1997 season was still very dominant for Montreal and in that season, he pitched significantly more total innings, which equal out and in his case overrides the base line stats. Miguel Cabrera is another exception, his best season has been with Detroit, but Detroit had seasons that were as good or better in the past from players who were defensively placed in the same positions on the diamond. In addition, the best two players at first base as Marlins had better years as a Cub (Derek Lee) and a Blue Jay (Carlos Delgado). Add to this, Mike Lowell did not have a place on the Boston roster and Lowell was a better rated defensive 3b in 2004 than Cabrera in 2006, both with the Marlins. So the solution, both Lowell and Cabrera are Marlins, Lowell is at third base, Cabrera at first base. Some other interesting points to note. Boston had three shortstops that made the cut, David Ortiz did not make it because Ted Williams is the DH, with Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, and Carl Yastrzemski in the outfield. The combined offensive and defensive value was greater for four others than Ortiz, Wade Boggs who is moved from third to first, John Valentin who is moved from short to second, Nomar Garciaparra who is moved from short to third, and Rico Petrocelli who gets the nod at short because of his higher defensive rating from the 1969 season. Boston’s catcher naturally is Carlton Fisk.
The Angels feature two third basemen on their roster, Doug DeCinces is at third while Troy Glaus who had a better season in 2000 than any Angel first sacker will hold down that position.
Albert Pujols will play third base for the Cardinals, a position he played in 2001 thus gets him on to their roster as the top choice on the hot corner, while Mark McGwire handles first. The Cardinal outfield is one of the best, Musial, McGee, and Medwick, with Hornsby and Smith in the middle infield.
Paul Molitor did not play regularly at short, but he was more than a useful reserve at that position for the 1979 Brewers and he is the best option in terms of overall value at that position. The Braves and Nationals each have four outfielders. Atlanta has a regular outfield of Ralph Garr, Hank Aaron, and Felipe Alou, but you could not leave Dale Murphy off this team either. The solution, move Aaron to first base, a position he played in 1962, while Murphy is in center field flanked by Garr and Alou. Aaron joins an infield of Bill Sweeny from the 1912 Braves in Boston, Chipper Jones, and Rafael Furcal.
Another Alou factored in the choice I made with the Nationals. The Expos had many great outfielders and I had to find a way to have Moises Alou, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, and Rusty Staub all on the team. The solution, Raines while not a great defender at second base, did play the position in 1984. Rains is by far a better offensive talent for that position and thus the lesser defense is more than made up for with his bat. So Raines goes to second, joining an infield of Andres Galarraga, Orlando Cabrera, and Ryan Zimmerman.
Note also that for this league, the old 1998-2012 alignment is used, WIS has not come out with a league format that yet supports the current alignment, thus the Astros are still treated as an NL team for this league.
Every team was given 5 starting pitchers that pitched a full season for the given franchise. This also includes time in other cities if the franchise relocated, like Montreal did to Washington. The former Senators from 1901-1960 were considered for spots on the Twins, while members of the Senators II from 1961-71 were considered for the Texas Rangers. Every team that has relocated has members from the former city on the roster. In fact, the Athletics and Braves which have each called two former cities home both have players from both of their former homes in addition to the current city.
Two teams, the White Sox and Red Sox feature three starting pitchers who were on their ball club prior to 1920. The Red sox are the only team to feature a complete rotation of starters who pitched in Boston prior to 1960, the only other team to have all its starting pitchers from seasons that predate 1979 is the New York Yankees.
Every team has a seven-man bullpen, consisting of a closer, a mop-up specialist, three pitchers who are designated in the setup role of which one is a short relief specialist, plus two pitchers who are designated as long relief. Long relief pitchers had to throw a max of 200 and a minimum of 70 innings to be in this roll. Anyone over 200 with a max of 375 innings was considered for one of the starting pitching assignments. The key for the long relief roll was not so much the amount of available innings that could be thrown, as much as having someone with quality and capability to get outs. In nearly every case, the closer is someone who was famous closing for their particular team, in only a couple cases were difficult decisions required. The Pirates have never had a truly dominant closer, Joel Hanrahan is in that position for that club, while the Rockies have never featured a dominant closer who could also have closer like stats. Taylor Buchholz had a season worthy of such consideration for the Rockies in 2008, though he was not the closer. He has been assigned that job in this league for Colorado.
The staff aces in the #1 position for all the rotations reads like a who’s who of baseball pitching greatness, from guys who had great individual seasons, to those who were or will be in the Hall of Fame. The 30 aces are, Felix Hernandez (Mariners), Vida Blue (Athletics), Frank Tanana (Angels), Nolan Ryan (Rangers), Bret Saberhagen (Royals), Walter Johnson (Twins), Eddie Cicotte (White Sox), Addie Joss (Indians), Denny McLain (Tigers), Roger Clemens (Blue Jays), Cy Young (Red Sox), Ron Guidry (Yankees), Mike Cuellar (Orioles), James Shields (Rays), Christy Mathewson (Giants), Sandy Koufax (Dodgers), Randy Jones (Padres), Randy Johnson (Diamondbacks), Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies), Mike Scott (Astros), Bob Gibson (Cardinals), Mordecai Brown (Cubs), Ben Sheets (Brewers), Art Fromme (Reds), Babe Adams (Pirates), Dwight Gooden (Mets), Steve Carlton (Phillies), Pedro Martinez (Nationals), Greg Maddux (Braves), and Kevin Brown (Marlins). On the other end of the pitching spectrum, every team has a mop-up specialist who comes in when things are out of hand one way or another. This is the one guy who will not have great stats, but who nonetheless can get outs and throw innings. Every pitcher in this position on all 30 teams has between 40 and 55 innings of work.
As far as hitters go, every team features 13, AL teams start nine with the DH and have four on the bench. Each AL bench has a backup who can play any position as every team has a backup at catcher. The others cover all other positions or if not, are capable of covering all positions, AKA a player who spent time at second and short but not third can clearly also be used at third. NL teams because of the lack of a DH have a fifth guy on the bench and thus more flexibility. All NL teams do have someone who can be used as a part-time DH when those teams play at an AL team during the small window of interleague play.
All starting position players other than catchers had a minimum of 600 plate appearances. Some teams, the Mariners, Angels, Blue Jays, Orioles, Rays, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Astros, Mets, and Marlins have catchers with between 475 and 600 appearances. This is because their best seasons for catchers did not produce a 600 plate appearance season or in the case of the Mets and Astros, the player was already used for another team or position. Craig Biggio is much more valuable as a 2b than a catcher for the Astros, while the Mets lost out on Gary Carter who had a slightly better season with Montreal and thus he is a National. The Mets had a better secondary option than the Nationals, which is even more spectacular when you consider that Mike Piazza is not a Met either , he is a Dodger. Offensively he was very good as a Met, but his defense was not good after he left The Dodgers and in a league where all other catchers were rated typically between 6 and 12 on a 12 point scale for throwing ability, that made the choice to send Piazza to the dodgers rather easy. Had his defense been more respectable as a Met, he would have been a Met and Roy Campanella would have gone to the Dodgers, RC as it turned out didn’t even make the league, because Piazza had a better overall season as a Dodger than any other catcher. Campanella though would have been the top choice at catcher had he played for the White Sox, Indians, Tigers, Orioles when they were still the ST. Louis Browns, or the Phillies with no questions asked.
For today May 14, all 30 teams played in the morning session and I will file a report later that is a summary of those games. IN the early afternoon session, 14 teams will play while 16 are off. The early evening cession features 28 of the 30 teams in action. My updates about those games will be done as YouTube video clips which I will link to the blog for you to look at if interested. IN addition, I will be doing several pieces as this season goes along, highlighting some of the interesting results that come out of these simulations.
Based on the rosters that I was able to put together, here are my predictions for how this simulated season will turn out in terms of order of finish.
4, White Sox
1, Red Sox
4, Blue Jays
AL Wild Card, Yankees
NL Wild Card, Giants