Have you ever seen Being John Malkovich? Let’s see if we can’t imagine what it would be like to be inside the head of baseball’s reigning commissioner, Rob Manfred.
With all the talk of expanded rosters, pitch clocks, and a host of other radical changes during Manfred’s ongoing tenure as commissioner, there’s one item that’s lurking just beneath surface: expansion. Manfred has expressed a desire for the sport to expand in the coming years, and Raleigh, North Carolina just tossed its hat in the ring.
One way to deflect from labor strife and appease a disgruntled MLBPA could be to offer 82 new jobs for MLB players, which is exactly what two new teams and expanded rosters would do.
MLB expansion could mean realignment and, as Manfred has already proven to be one who thinks way, way, way outside the box, he could propose that geographical rivalries lead any repurposing of baseball’s divisions. Of course, that could mean ending the American and National Leagues, at least as we know them now. Imagine the Cubs and White Sox or the Yankees and Mets in the same divisions, something Jayson Stark proposed last year. Personally, I’d love to see an annual home-and-away series between the Cubs and Red Sox.
Expansion could also mean eight fewer regular season games, calming those traditionalists who still bemoan the increase to 162 games in 1961. It might mean an additional round of playoffs, though. Maybe Manfred will go to two 16-team leagues with the first place teams and four wild cards from each league making the postseason, allowing for the last two entrants to participate in win or go home play-in games. That way he can appease both the traditional and nouveau generation of fans. The possibilities are endless, especially with Manfred running things.
Have I thought about how the leagues should be realigned? You bet I have.
The National League would be composed of 15 pre-1961 expansion teams plus the Nationals. The American League would be everybody else, as follows:
NL – Cubs, White Sox, Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Braves, Cardinals, Tigers, Pirates, Dodgers, Indians, Giants, A’s, Reds, Orioles, and Nationals.
AL – Astros, Rangers, Mets, Rays, Marlins, Jays, Angels, Padres, Mariners, Royals, Rockies, Twins, Diamondbacks, Brewers, and the two expansion teams.
Bonus points: This ends any talk of some non-existent rivalry between the Cubs and Brewers.
After all that, maybe I’ve simply recreated Dumb & Dumber.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs beat the Royals 4-1 yesterday behind solid performances by Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood. Victor Caratini hit a home run. How good is your rotation if Quintana is your fifth starter?
- Some of the Cubs’ younger players, including Mark Zagunis and Trent Giambrone, are making big noises this spring.
- Top prospect Nico Hoerner has seen little game action this spring, however.
- Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Kyle Hendricks made Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 MLB Players list.
- Bryant is ready for the season to start. Like today. Through Tuesday, Bryant was 4-for-11 in Cactus League play with two home runs, including one in his first at-bat of the spring. That’s gotta warm your hearts.
- Yu Darvish was scheduled to pitch on Friday against the Mariners but he’ll throw a simulated game against minor league batters instead.
- At 38, Ben Zobrist is anomaly to baseball’s trend toward youth at the major league level.
- When a 95-win season leaves its fans feeling frustrated and empty, it adds more than a little urgency to reverse that narrative the following year.
- No karaoke, no bounce house, no animals, and no distractions in Mesa this spring. I’d say the Cubs are genuinely more focused on baseball this season. The offseason offered enough distractions anyway.
- Theo Epstein is still pulling no punches. The Cubs younger players will have to start meeting expectations and potential or they could be moved.
- Retaining all of the team’s young core could be problematic unless team-friendly extensions can be agreed to with each of Bryant, Baez and Rizzo.
Anthony Rizzo would love to finish his career with the Cubs because they've "been through a lot together." But can they afford to keep him, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant? https://t.co/I97MjuJfB9 pic.twitter.com/aMvMHnpD67
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) March 5, 2019
Spring Training News & Notes
Red Sox starter Steven Wright received an 80-game suspension because he tested positive for a banned substance. The 34-year-old knuckleballer’s test revealed Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide 2. Wright will be ineligible for postseason play after his suspension ends.
If Mike Trout reaches the open market after 2020, his choice of where to play may be bigger news than LeBron James’ first foray into free agency. Hopefully Trout will be more concerned with baseball things than how his decision affects his Q-score.
Sonny Gray blasted the Yankees and blamed the team for his poor performances last season. “They love sliders,” Gray said of the Yankees. “Sliders are…great. The numbers say [the] slider is a good pitch, but you might not realize how many shit counts you’re getting in while throwing all those sliders. They wanted me to be Masahiro Tanaka and I’m way different from him.”
In what seems suspicious at best and downright dangerous at worst, MLB lineups will go to the commissioner’s office this season before being released to the media. This development is presumably so MGM can set betting lines before everyone else gets access to the lineups.
In relevant news, this season marks the 100th anniversary of the Black Sox scandal of 1919. Also, Joe Jackson and Pete Rose are still not in the Hall of Fame.
The Cubs winning the World Series is only the sixth happiest internet day of the decade? Excuse me? Maybe The Ringer didn’t see those championship parade videos.
Thursday Walk Up Song
I’m Shipping Up to Boston by Dropkick Murphys. I’m telling you, a Cubs-Red Sox rivalry would break the internet. It would shake the world. It would make every single person on this earth a baseball fan. Yes, that’s John Cusack and my opinionated ego exiting my brain onto the Jersey Turnpike. Anyway, the song rocks, but if you aren’t into heavy-core Irish metal dripping in traditional bags and kilts, here’s a cover version that includes Enter Sandman by the Goddesses of Bagpipes.