Beyond some half-crazed ravings from Hank Steinbrenner and a speculative column by Ken Rosenthal, no one has seriously been discussing contracting any teams. To the extent anyone is taking the ravings or the speculation at all seriously, however, MLBPA leader Michael Weiner put it to rest in an interview with the St. Pete Times yesterday:
“Do I think it’s likely that the owners are going to try to contract? I don’t,” Weiner said after meeting with Rays players during his annual spring camp tour. “Do I think there’s — to borrow your word — a ‘legitimate’ reason to contract? I don’t think there is. All I would say is if that changes, if contraction becomes a goal of the owners in this negotiation, the tenor of the talks would change quickly and dramatically.”
Weiner is a man who tends to be very careful with his words and he errs on the side of understatement. So when he says stuff like “the talks would change quickly and dramatically,” it’s like most of us saying “if Bud Selig brought up contraction I would literally pour gasoline on the conference table and light it on fire.” It’s not happening and Weiner doesn’t think it even has a chance of happening. To the extent anyone brings it up as a serious possibility, they’re living in a non-reality based world.
If there is only one argument that will convince you of this, let it be this one: to contract a team, the owner of that team will have to be paid (a) the market value of his franchise, because baseball would literally be taking away a piece of property in which he has invested hundreds of millions of dollars; (b) some premium above that which would compensate him for the loss of year-to-year revenue that asset stood to generate for him; (c) another large chunk of money that would pay off whatever local obligations the team had in terms of a stadium lease and contractual and charitable commitments the team had made in the community; and (d) some other sum of money to deal with the political implications of it all, be it in the form of legal fees to fight the politicians who would work overtime to keep their local team from being contracted or some other sort of payout — a job creation fund? Massive lobbying? — that would head off that political opposition before it became truly problematic.
It’s not hard for me to imagine that to contract a team it would cost close to a billion dollars by the time it is all said and done. Really, I’m not exaggerating. Then figure that you’d have to contract two teams to make the schedule workable. As such, the total it would cost to contract two teams would be multiples over the total amount of money has been paid to all low revenue teams in the eight years since the current revenue sharing program has started. Revenue sharing payments, you’ll remember, that were the very reason why people started talking about contraction in the first place.
As a result of all of this, talking about contracting teams to do away with revenue sharing is like talking about euthanasia to do away with a case of allergies. The “solution” is laughably worse than the very problem it’s fancied to solve. And as such, it’s ridiculous to even propose it.
If contraction ever comes it will be because the game as a whole is losing money like crazy. Not because some people within the game don’t quite like the way the copious amounts of money the game is making is being shifted around.