I’m not being singularly morbid here — George or Kramer or someone asked Keith Hernandez what happens if a team plane crashes on an episode of “Seinfeld” once — but I have often wondered what happens if disaster strikes a ballclub.
Thankfully, Maury Brown has gotten a hold of a couple of fun documents fans don’t have ready access to — Major League Baseball’s rules and Baseball’s Constitution — which govern that kind of thing, as well as the business relationships between the teams and the Commissioner’s Office and other logistical matters as well. A lot of the subjects covered by these docs are things that are generally known, but it’s neat to have it all spelled out and available for browsing purposes.
Like the plane crash thing. Which, because that’s a little too real for me, let’s pretend is a shipwreck instead. Like, the entire Kansas City Royals went out for a pleasure cruise on Lake St. Clair while visiting Detroit and went down like the Edmund Fitzgerald or something. Help us Rule 29!
If a common accident, epidemic illness or other common event (referred to in this Rule 29 as an “occurrence”) causes the death, dismemberment or permanent disability from playing professional baseball of
(1) at least five players on a Major League Club’s Active, Disabled or Suspended Lists during the period beginning with the opening date of such Club’s championship season through the conclusion of such Club’s playing season (including any post-season series); or
(2) at least six players on a Major League Club’s Major League Reserve List during the period beginning with the conclusion of such Club’s playing season (including any post-season series) up to the opening date of such Club’s next championship season
then this Rule 29 shall apply and the affected Major League Club shall be a “Disabled Club.”
It goes on to explain that the “Disabled Club” gets a mourning period in which everyone gathers at the musty old Marine Sailor’s Cathedral or whatever, games are suspended, the Commissioner and the union agree whether or not it makes sense for the team to continue the season and, if not, schedules around the team’s absence.
They’d then have what is referred to as a “Restocking Draft” or a “Rule 29 Draft” in which teams would protect a certain number of players and the stricken team would basically become an expansion team, roster-wise.
It’s really detailed, actually and worth a read if you’re into cold hard tragedy being rendered in the antiseptic language of legal procedure. I can’t imagine it was much fun being the guy who had to come up with that and draft it and everything, but I guess I’m glad it’s there.