Major League Baseball intends to explore potential expansion to 32 teams "pretty soon" after the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics have resolved their stadium situations, commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters ahead of Tuesday's All-Star Game. Manfred added that the A's have started their relocation paperwork, a necessary step in their attempt to move to Las Vegas, Nevada in the coming years.
It should come as no surprise that MLB's flirtation with expansion would come after the Rays and A's reach resolutions. After all, as CBS Sports explained a few years ago, pro sporting leagues always like to leave viable markets open -- that way, they can leverage potential relocation against existing markets.
The Tampa Bay area being on the other end of these talks is evidence of a humorous universe, because Tampa Bay used to be MLB's best port for delivering new stadiums to its teams. Leeds tells of a potentially apocryphal story from the pre-Rays era. In the story, a marketing executive is meeting with baseball owners. The executive tells the owners he's going to show them a picture of the game's most important stadium. He reveals a photo of Tropicana Field. "But there's no team there," the confused owners object. "Exactly," the executive replies.
As noted in the introduction, the A's appear to be continuing down the road to Las Vegas.
Last month, the Nevada governor approved $380 million in public funding designed to help construct a new ballpark near the Las Vegas strip. If the A's are successful in relocating, they'll become just the second MLB team in recent memory to move across state lines. The last occurrence saw the Montreal Expos move to Washington, D.C. and become the Nationals ahead of the 2005 season.