MLB Commissioner Bud Selig speaks during a news conference in New York

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


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.

Brett Cecil suffered a significant calf tear during ALDS Game 2

Brett Cecil
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Blue Jays reliever Brett Cecil suffered “a pretty significant tear” in his left calf during his team’s loss to the Rangers in Game 2 of the ALDS on Friday, per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi.

Cecil allowed the Rangers to tie the game at 4-4 in the eighth inning on Mike Napoli‘s RBI single. The lefty promptly picked Napoli off of first base, engaging the Rangers’ slugger in a rundown, but suffered the calf tear in the process. The Blue Jays can expect to be without Cecil for the remainder of the post-season, whether that lasts just one more game or longer.

Cecil, 29, got off to a shaky start during the regular season but finished strong, ultimately compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 70/13 K/BB ratio over 54 1/3 innings. He allowed only two runs — both unearned — in 37 appearances between June 24 and the end of the regular season.

The Blue Jays suffered an injury scare in Game 1 as Josh Donaldson took a knee to the helmet trying to break up a double play. He was removed from the game for precautionary purposes but returned for Game 2, during which he belted a solo home run. Outfielder Jose Bautista also exited Game 1 early with a right hamstring cramp, but was able to make Friday’s start.

NLDS, Game 1: Mets vs. Dodgers lineups

Clayton Kershaw
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Here are the lineups for the Mets and Cardinals for Game 1 of the NLDS, starting at 9:45 PM EDT at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California on Friday night.


RF Curtis Granderson
3B David Wright
2B Daniel Murphy
C Travis d'Arnaud
1B Lucas Duda
LF Michael Cuddyer
SS Ruben Tejada
SP Jacob deGrom

Wilmer Flores is battling strep throat, so Ruben Tejada gets the call to start at shortstop for the Mets. Also notable is veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer getting the start in left field over hot-hitting rookie Michael Conforto. Cuddyer mustered a meager .699 OPS during an injury-plagued campaign, while Conforto wowed with an .841 OPS since debuting in the majors shortly after the All-Star break.


LF Carl Crawford
2B Howie Kendrick
SS Corey Seager
1B Adrian Gonzalez
3B Justin Turner
RF Andre Ethier
C A.J. Ellis
CF Joc Pederson
SP Clayton Kershaw

Outfielder Yasiel Puig is riding the bench, which is no surprise. Puig spent most of the second half sidelined with a hamstring injury and returned just before the end of the regular season. He’s currently battling back spasms. Ethier performs very well against right-handed pitching — he posted a .900 OPS against them this season — so expect Puig to ride the bench until Game 4 (if necessary), when lefty Steven Matz starts for the Mets. Also noteworthy is rookie Corey Seager hitting third to open the post-season for the Dodgers. Seager, one of baseball’s top prospects entering the season according to most, hit .337/.425/.561 in 113 plate appearances after making his big league debut on September 3.

Rougned Odor steals the show to send Rangers to 2-0 ALDS lead over the Blue Jays

Rougned Odor
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The Rangers outlasted the Blue Jays in 14 innings to take the second game of the ALDS on Friday 6-4, moving to a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. Second baseman Rougned Odor‘s star shone brightest, as he used his speed to set up the go-ahead run in the top of the 14th.

With LaTroy Hawkins on the mound and the Jays employing an infield shift, Odor slapped a weak ground ball towards Josh Donaldson, positioned where the shortstop would normally play. Donaldson’s momentum took his momentum away from first base, so he had to make an off-balance throw. Odor then moved to second base on Chris Jimenez’s single to right field — narrowly making it back to the second base bag after rounding too far, a play which required replay review. Odor scored the go-ahead run, breaking a 4-4 tie, when Hanser Alberto (Adrian Beltre‘s replacement at third base) lined a single to center field.

Center fielder Delino DeShields had three hits with an RBI and two runs scored in seven at-bats. The RBI padded the Rangers’ lead to 6-4 in the 14th, as he beat out an infield single against Liam Hendriks. Starter Cole Hamels was strong over seven innings, allowing four runs (only two earned) on six hits with no walks and six strikeouts. The Rangers’ bullpen pitched seven scoreless innings of relief, including Ross Ohlendorf‘s 14th inning in which he recorded all three outs on strikeouts.

On the Jays’ side of things, Josh Donaldson hit a home run and helped instigate a benches-clearing argument with Rangers reliever Keone Kela. Donaldson had smoked a Kela offering home run distance was foul, then repeatedly swore at Kela because he felt the right-hander was quick-pitching him, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

Jays starter Marcus Stroman was shaky early, coughing up three runs in the first two innings, but was able to settle down. He ultimately allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts in seven innings. The Jays’ bullpen allowed only four base runners on two hits and two walks through the 13th, before Hawkins and Hendriks relented.

The two teams will have an off-day on Saturday as they travel to Texas to continue the ALDS. Game 3 starts on Sunday at 8:00 PM EDT, featuring Marco Estrada starting for the Jays and Martin Perez for the Rangers. The Blue Jays are still in search of their first playoff victory since Joe Carter’s walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series.