Contraction? Ain’t Happ’nin’

by Jason Epstein

Contraction talk in baseball is heating up again. Rumors suggest that the A’s and Rays would be the affected franchises this time.

However, The Biz of Baseball’s Maury Brown is pretty certain that such talk is impractical, in part because no one believes that owners are hurting. “The league is in an incredibly healthy state, something it was not in 2001,” when the Marlins and Twins were unsuccessfully targeted for extinction.

According to Brown, the issue boils down to the difficulties associated with the franchise relocation attempts, which helps explain why only one move — the Expos move from Montreal to Washington — has occurred in the past 40 years.

[N]o owner in MLB is willing to allow relocation out of a club’s given territory. The owners of clubs that don’t have financial issues (and, ironically, that now includes the Twins), would rather try and contract teams rather than have them land in their “backyard”. After all, with less mouths to feed, those left standing reap the monetary benefits.

In the penultimate paragraph, Brown explains what all the chatter boils down to:

And really, in the end, isn’t this really about trying to [have] new stadiums built [for the A's and Rays] at taxpayer expense? It was the case with the Twins and Marlins, and it worked. Whether politicians are any wiser now than they were then remains to be seen.

Brown concludes, “Baseball needs to figure out its own problems with relocation before the hollow threat of contraction is passed around through the press.”

EDIT: The Twins and Expos, not the Marlins were contraction targets in 2001. It was in 2009 that the Marlins were mentioned along with the A’s. Thanks, Jonathan F!

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