People are still claiming, with a straight face, that the Twins were going to be contracted in 2002

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Bob Nightengale of USA Today has a front pager in today’s USA Today about the Twins long road back to prosperity since the dark days of 2001-02. And he’s absolutely right about the prosperity part. As I noted earlier, Target Field is a gem. The Twins draw pretty well even when they’re not winning. Just walking around this city you see people with Twins gear on everywhere and pass by bars where you know people watch a lot of games when they’re on. It just feels like a baseball town, even without the All-Star trappings everywhere.

But, Nightengale notes, there was a time when things were much darker:

Franchises were losing money in baseball, and owners were ready to downsize. The two that appeared doomed were the Twins and Montreal Expos. The Expos weren’t being supported in Quebec, and Pohlad was frustrated he couldn’t get public funding for a new ballpark, stuck in the Teflon-roof covered Metrodome.

“The owners really wanted contraction,” Selig told USA TODAY Sports, “but for different reasons. The economics of the sport was brutal at the time. They looked at (contraction) at the time as one of the better solutions to it.

“Did I necessarily agree? No. But I understood the logic.”

That people are still under the impression that contraction was a viable option back in 2002 is a testament to the b.s. machine that Major League Baseball is capable of being when it wants to be and the lack of critical thinking most folks, baseball writers included, tend to apply to the business of baseball. It’s just accepted now that two teams could be contracted even though such a scenario would have been and remains nuts.

“The economics were brutal at the time,” Selig says. Well, certainly the arguing about economics was. Baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement was up for renewal in the summer of 2002 and it was a knock down, drag out fight between MLB and the MLBPA. It went to the 11th hour and a strike/lockout was just narrowly avoided. It was the last time there was serious labor strife in baseball and, yes, people were talking about extreme solutions and strategies to solve the crisis.

But that crisis was mostly over player salaries and the owners’ last vain grasp at imposing a salary cap. Which means that what they were seriously wanting was a way to contain costs on the order of millions or, perhaps, tens of millions. A player making $20 million was insane to them and they wanted a structure in place where, at most, they could maybe pay one $15 million, say? That was the level of economic argument. It was important to contain costs on that relatively micro level.

So, contraction was an option? Ha!

Owners of any teams that would be contracted would have to be bought out.  these days franchises are valued at $500 million. Back in 2002, let’s say it was half that. And of course you’d have to contract two teams in order to keep a sane schedule. That would put the cost at half a billion, simply to make the contracted owners give up their property.

But then you have to figure in all of the contracts between the contracted teams and their business partners, sponsors and media affiliates that would have to be bought out and torn up. And the subsequent litigation that many would mount in order to keep it from happening. 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.

Then, remember the context: all of this was happening during a fierce labor battle. If you think the union was putting up a stink about small changes to the CBA, wait and see what the MLBA — back when it had Don Fehr waging battle, not the relatively toothless version it is becoming now — would have done. The union would have considered contraction 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. The owners blinked at the thought of a work stoppage that the MLBPA may or may not have mounted in 2002. If contraction was actually on the table the players would have struck in a heartbeat. So add tons of lost revenue to that pile.

Baseball owners totally love throwing, say, a billion dollars into a toilet, so they’d totally make that happen right?

Or how about this: contraction was a ploy. A ploy by Major League Baseball to get the Twins a new publicly financed stadium in Minnesota and several other cities which, thus far, had been loathe to pony up for one. And to pressure Peter Angelos into letting a team get moved down to Washington. And guess what? It worked. The Twins got their new ballpark and several other teams did too in the past 12 years.

And based on the things that are written about that time in baseball history, the ploy is still working. Even today.

Court hears arguments for releasing 38 Studios records

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) The fight over whether to release secret grand jury records in the criminal investigation into Rhode Island’s $75 million deal with a video game company started by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling landed in a courtroom Wednesday before a judge who will decide whether to release them.

Gov. Gina Raimondo is pushing for the records in the 38 Studios investigation to be released, over the opposition of Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. The records include transcripts of witness grand jury testimony, which is given behind closed doors and is typically kept secret.

Schilling moved 38 Studios to Providence from Massachusetts in 2010 in exchange for a $75 million loan guarantee. It ran out of money and went bankrupt less than two years later. The legal wrangling since then has included a lawsuit against a number of parties that ultimately settled for a total of about $61 million, and a grand jury that concluded its work in 2015.

Kilmartin’s office did not ask it to return any criminal charges and has said prosecutors determined there was not enough evidence for any charges.

Assistant Attorney General Susan Urso argued to Superior Court Judge Alice Gibney on Wednesday that the public interest lies in maintaining grand jury secrecy.

“To grant the governor’s request would eviscerate the grand jury as we know it,” she said.

Future grand jury witnesses may see the release in this case and consider that their own testimony might eventually become public, she said. She argued that the request did not meet one of the narrow exceptions carved out in the law that allows disclosure of some grand jury material.

Raimondo’s lawyer, Jeremy Licht, argued that it was not a case where the records are being sought simply to satisfy curiosity about what happened.

“The 38 Studios saga really shook the public’s faith in their government,” he said. “This is a case where disclosure can restore public confidence.”

Jared Goldstein, a law professor at Roger Williams University, who was representing the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU, argued in favor of disclosure. He called it a rare case, and noted that it involves public policy and the highest levels of state government, all the way up to the governor’s office.

Then-Gov. Donald Cariceri, a Republican, shepherded the deal with Schilling through. The Democratic-controlled General Assembly approved the legislation that paved the way for it. Kilmartin was a Democratic member of the House at the time. The company ran out of money under the watch of then-independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who opposed the deal when it was struck.

“Sunshine, as the old saying goes, is the best disinfectant,” Goldstein said.

He also cast doubt on the risk of public embarrassment, saying the players in the matter are already well known.

The judge didn’t immediately rule or say when a ruling would come.

Blue Jays-Cardinals game postponed due to our minds being blown over Chris Coghlan

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The St. Louis Cardinals’ game against the Toronto Blue Jays for has been postponed because everyone is still trying to recover from Chris Coghlan jumping over Yadier Molina.

Wait, no, that’s not right. It’s been postponed due to rain.

The game has been rescheduled as part of a day-night doubleheader on Thursday.

Now, let’s go back and watch that again: