White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf was at the forefront of the totally and utterly bogus contraction scare from 2002. He’s back at it, at least hypothetically:
Speaking on a panel discussion about baseball in Israel, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was asked by a fan about the possibility of international expansion. He said he’d rather see two teams contracted.
“I don’t see any baseball expansion right now,” he said. “If it were up to me, I would contract two teams. But I certainly don’t think expansion on the horizon.”
When fans yelled, “What two teams?” Reinsdorf clammed up.
“I have a habit of getting myself into trouble,” he said. “I just did yesterday. So I’m not going to (get in trouble).”
He’d get less trouble from offering his contraction wish list — parlor games are fun — than he should for even half-seriously suggesting that contraction is a possibility in the first place.
Contraction is not going to happen absent a severe financial crisis in major league baseball. I’m talking billions of dollars lost. Why? Because it would have to be something like that before the costs of contraction would no longer outweigh the benefits.
Owners of any teams that were contracted would have to be bought out. In a world where franchise values are at, a minimum, $500 million, contracting two teams — which you would have to do to keep a sane schedule — would cost in the billions, simply to make the contracted owners give up their property. That’s before you figure in all of the contracts that would have to be bought out and torn up between the team and its business partners, sponsors and media affiliates and the subsequent litigation.
Then you get the political problems: you think local politicians, governors and members of Congress are gonna sit by while the local nine are contracted? There will be hearings and ugliness for months if not years if someone seriously attempted to contract a team. Yeah, baseball LOVES that, so they’d totally make that happen.
Oh, and the labor issues too. The union would consider it to be an assault on membership, because some 50 major league jobs would go bye-bye and the salaries for the remaining players would go down as more guys compete for fewer roster spots.
Baseball contraction is less likely than a game going off tonight with a starting outfield consisting of the Easter Bunny, Roy Hobbs and a golem-player comprised of Raul Mondesi’s body and Ted Williams’ unfrozen, reattached head. Anyone who ever brings it up seriously deserves to be laughed out of the meeting hall.