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Grip on Sports: It seems to be about the right time to add more Major League teams

The Mariners’ Mitch Haniger, left, is greeted at the plate by Robinson Cano, second from right, after Haniger hit a three-run home run to score Cano and Jean Segura during the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics, Friday, April 13, 2018, in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
The Mariners’ Mitch Haniger, left, is greeted at the plate by Robinson Cano, second from right, after Haniger hit a three-run home run to score Cano and Jean Segura during the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics, Friday, April 13, 2018, in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • There is very little better than sitting down on a nice April weekend day and listening to a baseball game on the radio. Too bad more Americans can’t enjoy it. And too bad today isn’t a nice April weekend day. Read on.

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• The weather might turn out to be OK today around these parts, but I doubt it. It will probably be more like yesterday, a little spotty at times. It was that way yesterday. It seemed every time I stepped outside, it started to rain. Or at least sprinkle. And every time I looked outside, the sun was shining.

Maybe that was just me. Anyway, the M’s play during the afternoon today and it seems like a good time to listen to the game on a radio (or on a phone app, whichever generation of technology suits you).

Funny thing, though. We have a major league team nearby. Well, at least in the same general vicinity. But that’s not the case for everyone.

While writing my Out of Right Field column for today, I did some research concerning the ratio of major league teams to the U.S. population. And it turns out we are at a point where expansion seems about right.

If you go back 80 years, to 1938, when baseball was in a Golden Age, there was one major league team for every 8.11 million Americans. (If you want the raw numbers, there were 16 teams and 129.8 million people living in the United States.)

At that point, baseball was only as far west as St. Louis, with most of the teams clustered in the Northeast, home to a large part of the country’s population. 

Twenty years later, baseball had moved across the country to California, but there were still just 16 teams. The ratio had become one team for every 10.93 million people. Three years later, baseball expanded.

By 1978, with the Mariners now in the mix, baseball had 26 teams (two of them in Canada, I know, but to keep a common comparison, they are included), giving baseball one team for each 8.56 million.

Which is a ratio that seems about right. 

Baseball is up to 30 teams these days, an even number that seems a bit odd. It has led to some weird scheduling quirks, including the necessity of always having an interleague series going on. And the ratio? It is one to 10.89 million, almost to the point where it was before the first wave of expansion.

Growing to 32 teams seems to be on the radar. It makes sense. It would lower the ratio some, though not below 10 million per team. And it would put 16 teams in each league, making scheduling, especially down the stretch, easier. 

If baseball wants to keep the American and National leagues.

If each league had four, four-team divisions, then the wild-card spot would disappear. That wouldn’t be productive in terms of late-season interest. Neither would two eight-team divisions, with six wild cards per league. Three divisions would mean another odd number, say five, five and six, in each league.

So baseball might just drop the league designations, go to eight four-team divisions, with 10 teams making the postseason. The two wild-card teams and two division champions with the poorest records would meet first, the winners giving baseball eight teams to finish up.

Sure, it would destroy more than 100 years of tradition but so? Tradition isn’t what it once was. At least that seems to be baseball’s view. And there would be more money to be made.

•••

WSU: Neither the defense nor the offense was particularly sharp in yesterday’s scrimmage, so both groups felt their coaches’ wrath afterward, according to Theo Lawson’s story. When they were done with their motivational maneuvers, Theo was able to talk with, and record videos of, coach Mike Leach, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, quarterback Anthony Gordon, receiver Jamire Calvin, linebacker Jahad Woods, and defensive lineman Nick Begg. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, spring football finished up at some schools as many held their final scrimmage. Utah was one of those schools, and its spring game included an exciting ending. … Arizona also held its spring game, the first under new coach Kevin Sumlin. … Stanford was a little short at quarterback for its spring game. … Not so for USC as it also ended spring with a scrimmage. … UCLA still has more work to do. … So does Oregon State, which scrimmaged in Beaverton. … A recent rule change may not go far enough. … Oregon has a new special teams coach. … In basketball, Arizona State signed a big-time recruit. … UCLA is making a surprising change on its coaching staff. 

Gonzaga: The idea of declaring for the draft without hiring an agent didn’t appeal to Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie. So they decided to avoid it all together. Jim Meehan talked with them and has this story. In it he mentions Tillie’s hip injury, which not only forced him to miss GU’s NCAA loss to Florida State, it is bad enough it may keep him from playing much this summer. … The baseball team rallied for a road win at Pacific. … Chandler Smith has earned a national academic award. 

EWU: The Eagles’ football schedule is only 10 games at the moment, but is still plenty tough. Jim Allen looks at each game

Idaho: The athletic department’s budget problems will come to a head this week as the Vandal administration makes its presentation to the Board of Regents. Peter Harriman delves into the issue and looks at UI’s proposed remedy, as well as other options.

Chiefs: Everett had to overcome some history as well as its first two WHL playoff opponents. 

Preps: Saturdays are always busy in the spring, despite the usual weather problems. … The biggest track and field event yesterday was the 57th annual Pasco Invite. … We also have roundups from other track meets, baseball, softball and soccer. … Idaho honored athletes from all levels last night, including high schools. … Finally, in a sad note, a Medical Lake High track athlete was killed in an auto accident yesterday. Ryan Collingwood has more in this story.

Mariners: The M’s offense is becoming something to fear, as Nelson Cruz returned to the lineup in a 10-8 win over the Athletics. However, the big power came from Daniel Vogelbach, who did a passable Babe Ruth imitation. … I have my Out of Right Field column in today’s paper and there are also notes from Gene Warnick.

Sounders: The youth movement has to start now thanks to the veterans not producing for a variety of reasons. … The Timbers picked up their first win of the season. 

•••        

• Which of this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honorees means the most to you? For me, it is the Moody Blues, a group that not only shined during my childhood but also used to visit Spokane often. One of my favorite concert experiences was seeing Graeme Edge, John Lodge, Justin Hayward and the gang up close at the Opera House. It was two hours of tripping down memory lane. It is a legend in my mind, to paraphrase one of my favorite songs from the group. Until later … 

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