Ken Rosenthal is beating the contraction drum again

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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.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).