Welcome to Las Vegas sign

Baseball needs 32 teams


Jesse Spector of Sporting News makes that argument today and it’s hard to disagree with him. Go check out his full story on it, but the upshot is that both regular season scheduling and the playoffs would be easier, more attractive and more fun if we had two 16-team leagues instead of two 15-team leagues.

Spector mentions Montreal and Las Vegas as his top expansion candidates. I certainly agree with Montreal. It has supported a team in the past and its failure to continue to support the Expos had A LOT more to do with how the Expos were managed than with how able the city is to support a team.

I’m less optimistic about Las Vegas. As I’ve argued here before, I think the demographics and economics of Vegas are all wrong, even if the idea seems sexy. Baseball is not event-driven like boxing or a relatively rare event like football, which would only require a stadium to be filled eight times a year. There are 81 home games and attendance and television ratings are built on locals buying in to the product day-in, day-out. That’s not really the Las Vegas profile. In Vegas, a disproportionate number of locals work nights. While there are a lot of moneyed tourists coming through, they’re coming to gamble and party, not sit at a ballpark. And even if they were so inclined, you can bet that the casinos would try extra hard to keep them away from doing things that take them off hotel property for three prime time hours each night. To avoid that baseball would have to basically partner with a casino, and that would be pretty difficult for a sport with baseball’s history with gambling.

Really, the best expansion candidates are places where baseball would not allow expansion due to territorial concerns. I’m talking about growing suburbs and exurbs like the Inland Empire in L.A., the New Jersey or Connecticut burbs around New York, Chicagoland and places like that. In the middle of the century newly growing cities made sense for baseball expansion and relocation. These days population growth is occurring around existing cities.

Anyway, the where isn’t as important as the what. And the what is that 32 teams make a whole heck of a lot of sense.

The Cubs clinch World Series berth with NLCS Game 6 win

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  The Chicago Cubs celebrate defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Getty Images

After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.

The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).

Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.

With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.

Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.

With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:

Video: Willson Contreras blasts first postseason home run off of Kershaw

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game six of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images

So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).

Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.