Jan 31, 2019

What MLB expansion might look like

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

There is a growing sense around Major League Baseball that the league will eventually expand from 30 to 32 teams, and Portland, Ore. has consistently been mentioned as a potential landing spot.

Driving the news: The Portland Diamond Project, the group attempting to bring baseball to Oregon, recently revealed a list of 12 charter investors. One of them is Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. The investor group has already committed a reported $1.3 billion to the cause, which would be enough to build a new ballpark. This is a major milestone, as it proves that the MLB-to-Portland effort is more than just a pipe dream.

The big picture: When I heard this news, I was instantly reminded of a Baseball America article from about a year ago that explained what MLB might look like with 32 teams.

  • "One proposal would be to geographically restructure into four divisions, which would create a major reduction in travel ... and add to the natural rivalries by not just having them as inter-league attractions, but rather a part of the regular divisional battles." (It would also likely mean every team would use a DH.)

The four divisions: The proposal assumes the two expansion teams end up in Portland and Montreal.

  • East: Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals
  • North: Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, Montreal (Expos?), New York Yankees, New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays
  • Midwest: Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royal, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers
  • West: Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, Portland (Hipsters?), San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners

Go deeper: Longtime baseball scribe Jayson Stark wrote extensively on this topic for The Athletic (subscription).

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America's rundown roads add to farmers' struggles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American farmers are struggling to safely use the roads that cut through their fields; decades of neglect and lack of funding have made the routes dangerous.

The big picture: President Trump has long promised to invest billions in rural infrastructure, and his latest proposal would allocate $1 trillion for such projects. Rural America, where many of Trump's supporters live, would see a large chunk of that money.

South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday, while Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 as of Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

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Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."