Why Does Major League Baseball Ignore the South?

The National Basketball Association has franchises in Charlotte, Memphis, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Orlando, and San Antonio.

The National Football League maintains teams in Charlotte (the Carolina Panthers), Jacksonville, Nashville (the Tennessee Titans), and New Orleans.

Yet the putative national pastime — Major League Baseball — has no teams in any of these Southern cities; heck, even the National Hockey League — which we all know is even more popular in Dixie than NASCAR (yeah, right — but still) — has a team in Nashville, and also one in Raleigh, North Carolina (the Carolina Hurricanes).

But why?

Perhaps no region of America has contributed more to baseball lore than the South, from Ty Cobb, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Rogers Hornsby in the days of yore to, closer to our own time, Jim "Catfish" Hunter and Nolan Ryan, and just to cite two contemporary examples, Clayton Kershaw and Buster Posey.

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever why Major League Baseball shouldn't add, at least for now, two new teams in the South; not only would this be at least a welcome first step toward correcting the glaring regional imbalance, but having 32 teams would allow for two 16-team leagues — thus avoiding the continuous inter-league play that two 15-team leagues have necessitated since the Houston Astros switched leagues in 2013, which causes massive logistical problems in scheduling — and opens up the possibility of four four-team divisions in each league (which the owners know they can "get away with" because the AL West had four teams from 1994 through 2012, and the NL West had four teams from 1994 through 1997), lending itself to a great deal of flexibility when it comes to devising both regular-season schedule and playoff formats.

It will also lead to fewer games postponed due to cold weather or even snow early in the season, since the new Southern teams (along with the existing ones) can be scheduled to play at home in the first few weeks of the year. As for the argument that Southern markets are too small to support a major league team: what about Pittsburgh? What about Cincinnati? Both of those cities have had MLB franchises for more than a century. And their populations are less than half that of Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, and Oklahoma City (even post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans is more populous than Pittsburgh or Cincinnati), and about one fifth that of San Antonio!

Clearly, baseball's blatant neglect of the South must end.

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