Texas Rangers v Tampa Bay Rays, Game 1

Ken Rosenthal is beating the contraction drum again


Ken Rosenthal wrote a column today — or maybe it was yesterday; I told you that this mountain time stuff was weirding me out — in which he said he’s “hearing rumblings that certain big-market teams want to drop the A’s and Rays.”  Meaning contract them.

Rosenthal then quickly proceeded to dismiss the contraction gambit as unworkable and admitted that it stands little chance of ever happening.

And he’s right to do so for the very reasons he cites: the union would consider it to be an assault on membership.  Politicians who are already inclined to mess with baseball over issues that affect virtually none of their constituents would go absolutely insane if their local ballclub and the many jobs and civic identity they create were threatened. And that’s before you figure that the owners of any teams that were contracted would have to be bought out.  To the tune of over a billion combined dollars for two teams, I’d reckon.

Here’s a quick financial lesson: when the very thing that is cited as a problem justifying contraction — a few teams having to pay tens or, occasionally, one hundred million dollars in revenue sharing — is way cheaper than the alleged solution, you know it’s not happening.  Especially when you consider that those complaining of the problem — the Yankees and Red Sox — are vastly outnumbered by the teams who don’t have any significant revenue sharing obligations to begin with.

No, contraction isn’t happening. The only thing that even comes close to having it make sense is if franchise values become so low that buying out owners isn’t too big a deal and overall revenues decrease to the point where not contracting a couple of team imperils the others as well.  In case you haven’t noticed, baseball is swimming in cash at the moment.  And the ones swimming in the nicest pool are the owners of the very teams who like to moan and complain about revenue sharing.

As for Rosenthal, I can’t dispute his source. I’m sure someone has “rumbled” about the A’s and the Rays recently, because billionaires love to rumble.  But it should be noted that Rosenthal himself has a bit of a hair trigger when it comes to this sort of thing.  Just last May he was floating a crazy contraction scheme involving the Royals and Pirates that was designed to save the Rays and A’s.

We all have weaknesses. Mine are “best shape of his life” stories, steroids and thinking the absolute worst about the Wilpons. Ken’s seem to involve over-the-top structural changes in the game, be it his contraction ideas or his even loopier radical realignment proposals.

They’re fun — all ideas are fun, especially off-the-wall ones — but they’re just ideas, and often there isn’t a heck of a lot to the hobby horses we all like to ride from time to time.

Billy Williams, Bill Murray and . . . Fall Out Boy!

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 08:  Former players Ferguson Jenkins (L) and Billy Williams of the Chicago Cubs throw out ceremonial first pitches before the Opening Day game against the Milwaukee Brewers during the Opening Day game at Wrigley Field on April 8, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Major League Baseball has announced the on-field ceremonial stuff for tonight’s Game 3 of the World Series. There are a couple of good things here! And one bit of evidence that, at some point when he was still commissioner, Bud Selig sold his mortal soul to a pop punk band and now the league can’t do a thing about it.

The ceremonial first pitch choice is fantastic: it’s Billy Williams, the Hall of Famer and six-time All-Star who starred for the Cubs from 1959 through 1974. Glad to see Williams here. I know he’s beloved in Chicago, but he has always seemed to be one of the more overlooked Hall of Famers of the 1960s-70s. I’m guessing not being in the World Series all that time has a lot to do with that, so it’s all the more appropriate that he’s getting the spotlight tonight. Here’s hoping Fox makes a big deal out of it and replays it after the game starts.

“Take me out to the ballgame” will be sung by the guy who, I assume, holds the title of Cubs First Fan, Bill Murray. It’ll be wacky, I’m sure.

The National Anthem will be sung by Chicago native Patrick Stump. Who, many of you may know, is the lead singer for Fall Out Boy. This continues Major League Baseball’s strangely strong association with Fall Out Boy over the years. They, or some subset of them, seem to perform at every MLB jewel event. They have featured in MLB’s Opening Day musical montages. They played at the All-Star Game this summer. Twice. And, of course, they are the creative minds behind “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark,” (a/k/a “light ’em MUPMUPMUPMUP“) which Major League Baseball and Fox used as incessant playoff bumper music several years ago. I don’t ask for much in life, but one thing I do want is someone to love me as much as Major League Baseball loves Fall Out Boy. We all do, really.

Wayne Messmer, the former public address announcer for the Cubs and a regular performer of the National Anthem at Wrigley Field will sing “God Bless America.”

Between that and Bill Murray, I think we’ve found out the Cubs strategy for dealing with Andrew Miller: icing him if he tries to straddle the 6th and 7th innings.

Imagining a daytime World Series game at Wrigley Field

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 27:  A overall shot of the scoreboard showing the postponement of the game in Baltimore because of riots before the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 27, 2015 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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Night baseball first came to the World Series in 1971, when the Pirates played the Orioles in Game 4. The last World Series game played under natural light came in 1984, when the Tigers played the Padres in Detroit in Game 5 of that year’s Fall Classic. The last World Series game played during daytime hours was Game 6 of the 1987 World Series, but that came in Minneapolis, in the Metrodome, so it was still played under artificial light. All games since then have been played in the evening hours.

Ever since, there have been periodic calls for the World Series to include day games. These appeals are often grounded in tradition and nostalgia for bright sunshine making way for long shadows. For memories of sneaking transistor radios into classrooms. For the symbolism of the sun setting on both the day at hand and the baseball season as a whole.

It’s an appealing idea. Baseball in the daytime is a wonderful, wonderful thing. And while day baseball may be occasionally miserable for fans and players in the heat of August, October afternoons are often the loveliest weather there is. There is nothing better than fall sunshine. A baseball game in that fall sunshine seems like the closest one can get to heaven on Earth.

Unfortunately, it’s a wholly unrealistic idea in this day and age. Far fewer people would actually get to watch the World Series if it were played during the day. We complain about late games lasting into the wee hours, preventing kids from watching, but how many kids are going to be able to watch a World Series game when they’re in school? Or at after school extracurricular activities? And how many people can ditch work to watch a baseball game? Some say to put one of the day games on the weekend, but that clashes with other activities and, of course, with football, which is going to win the battle for the remote in more households than baseball would.

Yes, the networks and Major League Baseball are in it for the money and the TV ratings, but the fact is that the money and the ratings are a function of more people watching baseball games in the evening, kids and grownups alike. It’s pretty straightforward, actually. More people watching baseball is better for the people and for baseball, full stop, aesthetics and commercial motivations notwithstanding. For this reason the World Series will almost certainly be played at night for the foreseeable future. And it should be.

Still . . . it’s Wrigley Field, the last bastion of day-only baseball for decades. A place where, even if they now play most games at night, still features more day baseball than anyplace else. And it’s a sunny Friday afternoon on which the temperatures will creep into the 60s. I know it would never happen and certainly won’t happen today, but the idea of an afternoon World Series game in Wrigley Field makes even a hard-headed, bottom-line-appreciating anti-nostalgist like me sorta wish today was a day game. If I close my eyes I can imagine it. I can feel the warm breeze and smell the fall afternoon air. I’m sure many of you can too.

And even if you can’t, can we agree that maybe today should be a day game simply for public health purposes? I mean, get a load of this:

These people will have been drinking for at least 11 hours come game time. Many of them for much longer. You’re probably looking at some dead men walking, here. For the sake of their livers and personal safety, this game should start at 1pm, dang it. If even that is early enough to save them.