Why the Astros Should Hope for MLB Expansion

Major League Baseball officials have hypothesized that the league may soon be expanding. Adding two teams, one to each league, would allow MLB to have two 16-team leagues consisting of four 4-team divisions. It would allow divisions to become more compact, allow for nothing but division play in the last several weeks of the season, and it’s possible it could bring about the end of interleague play.

Depending on where expansion were to take place, MLB’s international presence could grow. Especially if rumors about Mexico City and Montreal were to be true. And if done correctly, expansion could prove to be a huge benefit to the Astros since it could allow them to move out of the American League West and into a newly configured AL Central.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred discussed the subject during last week’s All-Star Game break, and he stated the was something that MLB would like to do sooner rather than later. But before it can happen, Manfred said, MLB needs to get its house in order. Manfred was clear he meant that the situations in Oakland and Tampa Bay need to be finally put to rest

The Athletics and the Rays are stuck in aging, decrepit stadiums. Tampa Bay is locked into a lease that it’s had trouble figuring out how to break, and after the way Florida taxpayers were scammed in order to get the Marlins ballpark built in Miami, it’s now a lot more difficult to con the Florida government into building another stadium.

The A’s have actively been trying to relocate to another city, and had a deal worked out to move to San Jose, only to have the San Francisco Giants veto the move. The A’s are also stuck in the battle that the Raiders are having with the city of Oakland over a new stadium, and the city of Oakland has essentially refused to build a new stadium for anybody. But Manfred has indicated that he believes MLB will regret it if the A’s move out of Oakland, though as with the situation in Tampa Bay, the only assistance the league has provided has been speeches that the parties need to work things out.

Expansion has to wait for Tampa Bay and Oakland to be settled because those two teams could, if new stadiums don’t happen, relocate to one of the proposed expansion cities. The A’s have wanted to stay in the Bay Area — hence the proposed move to San Jose — but along with Mexico City and Montreal, other cities linked to expansion, such as like Portland or Las Vegas, could end up being Oakland relocation targets. Tampa Bay has been linked to relocation to Montreal, but maybe Charlotte, Nashville or San Antonio would work for that franchise, too.

So what does this mean for the Astros? This means it’s possible that league expansion and franchise relocation could mean divisional realignment. For instance, putting an expansion team in Mexico City or San Antonio would place three teams in relatively close proximity. Then just slide Kansas City into the group and there’s a brand-new AL Central in which the teams are all in the same time zone. Or maybe Tampa Bay stays put, but in a new stadium, and the Astros, the Rangers and the Royals join up for a new AL South.

This is all years away, but it makes for interesting thinking, especially for those Astros fans who hate the late-night West Coast games. Playing more games in the same time zone and closer together geographically would also be easier for players. It would cut down on travel time.

Then again, this is MLB, and the league could still screw things up. Would anybody be shocked to see the Rangers moved to a new division and the Astros being forced to stick it out in the AL West? Or maybe Oakland and Tampa Bay relocate but the expansion doesn’t happen and MLB sticks with the current three-division structure? But no matter what happens, just know this: The best chance the Astros have of ever getting away from the AL West is MLB expansion.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal