Bill Shaikin had a sit-down with new commissioner Rob Manfred, and all manner of topics were covered. Labor peace (Manfred is optimistic it will continue). TV ratings (He says don’t sweat the national numbers, baseball is a daily, regional sport). A domestic violence policy (Manfred says one should be in place before spring training starts). Home field advantage in the World Series (yes, it will remain tied to the All-Star Game, stupidly enough).
Not a lot that was surprising. One thing that was interesting, though, was his answer about possible expansion or relocation of major league franchises. Forget Vegas, Charlotte, Portland or the usual suspects. Manfred is talking up our neighbors to the north and south:
Montreal is working hard to get an MLB team back. Are there any thoughts of expansion?
There has not been a lot of talk about expansion. In terms of internationalizing the game, North America, in terms of sustained international activity, is someplace we need to focus. Canada, Mexico, if we were going to think about it, those would be the kinds of places that I would be interested in.
With the markets you would look at it in North America, would it seem as if your best available markets are not United States markets?
I think that is probably right.
Not that I think expansion is coming any time soon. At the moment, you have Tampa Bay and Oakland in need of new ballparks and/or cities. It will be far too useful for Major League Baseball to have cities vying for those teams and to use them either as legitimate potential landing spots or bargaining chips against their current cities in negotiations to get new stadiums built. Once that happens, however, and we have a window in which no team is jockeying for a new home, it wouldn’t shock me at all if people started at least discussing expansion.