Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Rob Manfred recently mentioned Nashville as a possible candidate for a future expansion team. Nashville was mentioned along with Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Montreal and Vancouver. It is expected that MLB will expand from 30 to 32 teams in the future but no timetable is set at this time. The last time MLB expanded was in 1998 when the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now Tampa Bay Rays) were added.
So what are Nashville’s chances of added yet another major league sports franchise to join the Tennessee Titans, Nashville Predators and Nashville’s Major League Soccer team?
Nashville continues to grow. You only have to look around downtown to see the construction and towering cranes at work to know that the growth continues. Nashville is currently 24th in the United States in population with 667,560 which is larger than current MLB teams in Baltimore, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Atlanta, Miami, Oakland, Minneapolis, Arlington, Cleveland, Tampa, Anaheim, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Yes, I was surprised by that too.
The Nashville Sounds average about 9,000 fans per game but we’re talking about a minor league team so those numbers isn’t the same as if Nashville had a MLB team. It’s a bit difficult to attract fans to watch the Sounds play the El Paso Chihuahuas or New Orleans Baby Cakes as opposed to the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees. So, you really can’t determine support for a MLB baseball team on attendance figures for a minor league team. The Miami Marlins are currently averaging 9,762 per game so I wouldn’t doubt that a Nashville team could exceed that and more. If the Nashville Predators can average 17,307 per game I am confident that a MLB baseball team in the Music City could average at least 25,000 per game.
The Nashville Sounds issued a statement that First Tennessee Park could not be converted to MLB standards but that statement is in conflict with what was reported when the stadium was initially being constructed. At that time it was said that the ballpark could be expanded with addition levels to support a MLB team. Even if that were the case, it is certain that Nashville would have no problem constructing a stadium. If they can do it for a Major League Soccer team they certainly could clear that hurdle. I’m not knocking soccer but – seriously – a baseball stadium wouldn’t be a problem.
So what about Nashville’s competition for one of the two expansion slots?
The common assumption is that Montreal is a lock to get one of those expansion slots but I’m not so sure I agree with that. True, they have a stadium and structure to support one but they have already lost the team that they had so I would be inclined to think MLB should go elsewhere. Portland would have a natural rivalry with Seattle but I still think Portland is just too small of a market for a team. Las Vegas is a gamble – no pun intended. The National Hockey League (NHL) was lucky with the Vegas Golden Knights but I really don’t see Major League Baseball there. Vancouver doesn’t seem to fit either. They lost the Grizzlies to Memphis and really don’t have much experience as a major league city. Charlotte is another good possibility which I think would be a good market for MLB. Charlotte is 17th on the U.S. Population list. Of course, market size isn’t the only factor MLB would consider. They must also consider placement of franchises to fit into any realignment that would be needed. It is not clear if MLB would realign into two leagues with four divisions or if they would just insert new expansion teams into the currently alignment. If I were in charge of it, I would place the Nashville MLB franchise in the National League Central Division with Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Cincinnati.
So what would you name a Nashville MLB team? Personally, I don’t see any reason the team couldn’t continue to be called the Sounds. Some have offered other ideas such as: Tennessee Banjos, Nashville Stars, Tennessee Raccoons, Nashville Fiddlers, Nashville Jammers or Nashville Pickers.
So what would the standings in the NL Central look like with a Nashville team?
Chicago Cubs (58-42)
Milwaukee Brewers (58-45)
Nashville Sounds (55-47)
Pittsburgh Pirates (53-50)
St. Louis Cardinals (51-51)
Cincinnati Reds (45-47)
I like it. I think that looks right.
I think the Music City has proven that it can handle the big leagues. An expansion team – or even a relocation of an existing MLB team would be a good fit here. It “sounds” good to me.