November 9, 2001

About MLB Contraction, Part 1

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“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”

–Field of Dreams

If, of course, you give them the chance. Over the next few weeks and possibly months, baseball will be showing the door to a pair of baseball teams, with the most likely candidates being the Montreal Expos and the Minnesota Twins.

My colleague, Mr. Nagaraj, is well on his way to becoming an I-banker next year on Wall Street, yet he has already developed a certain lack of scruples when it comes to those little pieces of paper called money. Having spent a summer I-banking (which has to be the most worthless job on the planet) he no longer has morals or compassion for human kind.

But back to contraction, this might be the most despicable act in the history of sports. Never before in modern sport have a group of owners voted to disband a team for no reason other than they are greedy.

They claim this is the answer to all baseball’s problems. They claim this will make baseball stronger. But this high-dollar game of The Weakest Link is nothing more than a thinly veiled-attempt to gain an important market chip in the upcoming collective bargaining agreement (nothing like 50 out of work people to start a bargaining agreement with a union).

There’s a dozen great arguments against contraction. I’ll give you a few of my favorites.

1) If you had to choose two teams to contract 10 years ago, you would chose the two least viable franchises. To whom did those sorry teams belong? Seattle and Cleveland. Both teams won their division this year with a combined 207- 117. What would this have been without these two teams? What would the past few years have been without these teams? Cleveland is as close to an AL central dynasty right now as you’re going to get.

2) The conflict of interest storyline. Bud Selig, head of baseball, happens to own the Milwaukee Brewers. The same Milwaukee Brewers who would greatly increase their television market share and territory if Minnesota no longer had a team. I don’t know exactly how business works, but this can’t be moral.

3) The most important argument, and the only one that really matters. Baseball is going to take away Minnesota’s team. Minnesotans really love the Twins. I tend to believe most Americans think pretty highly of the Twins. I mean, Kirby Puckett. Come on. You gotta love that guy.

Before I go further, something needs to happen to Montreal’s franchise. Those people truly are unconcerned with the fate of their baseball team, a fact that has definitely come to light even further in the last few weeks. Regardless, they should be moved somewhere, not disbanded. Washington, D.C., Memphis, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, San Jose and a number of other deserving cities would probably love a new team.

But back to Minnesota. This state has done nothing but love this team, and now baseball is taking a team away from them. If you’re going ot start removing teams, how about working from the back forward. Start with Tampa Bay, they’re the youngest and the Marlins aren’t that far away. Or hey, get rid of the Yankees. I bet most Americans wouldn’t give a flying flip.

My point is not that we should rid the world of the Yankees, but that we shouldn’t get rid of any teams. Baseball is NOT solving its economic problems by dropping a couple of teams like bad habits. There will still be the “haves” and the “have nots,” and until the issues of monetary problems are taken care of, this will be nothing more than a band-aid trying to stop the bleed of a dismembered arm.

Stop the money trouble (by forcing a salary cap on the union) and you get rid of these problems (again, except Montreal, they truly don’t care there). The St. Louis Rams likely had terrible attendance and revenues a few years back, but through a little luck and the ability to snap up free agents, they rebuilt the franchise into an economically viable team. If MLB finds a way to even out the teams, then they will find that many money problems will go away.

And the fans will come, Ray. They will come.

Archived article by Charles Persons