Ken Rosenthal wrote a column today — or maybe it was yesterday; I told you that this mountain time stuff was weirding me out — in which he said he’s “hearing rumblings that certain big-market teams want to drop the A’s and Rays.” Meaning contract them.
Rosenthal then quickly proceeded to dismiss the contraction gambit as unworkable and admitted that it stands little chance of ever happening.
And he’s right to do so for the very reasons he cites: the union would consider it to be an assault on membership. Politicians who are already inclined to mess with baseball over issues that affect virtually none of their constituents would go absolutely insane if their local ballclub and the many jobs and civic identity they create were threatened. And that’s before you figure that the owners of any teams that were contracted would have to be bought out. To the tune of over a billion combined dollars for two teams, I’d reckon.
Here’s a quick financial lesson: when the very thing that is cited as a problem justifying contraction — a few teams having to pay tens or, occasionally, one hundred million dollars in revenue sharing — is way cheaper than the alleged solution, you know it’s not happening. Especially when you consider that those complaining of the problem — the Yankees and Red Sox — are vastly outnumbered by the teams who don’t have any significant revenue sharing obligations to begin with.
No, contraction isn’t happening. The only thing that even comes close to having it make sense is if franchise values become so low that buying out owners isn’t too big a deal and overall revenues decrease to the point where not contracting a couple of team imperils the others as well. In case you haven’t noticed, baseball is swimming in cash at the moment. And the ones swimming in the nicest pool are the owners of the very teams who like to moan and complain about revenue sharing.
As for Rosenthal, I can’t dispute his source. I’m sure someone has “rumbled” about the A’s and the Rays recently, because billionaires love to rumble. But it should be noted that Rosenthal himself has a bit of a hair trigger when it comes to this sort of thing. Just last May he was floating a crazy contraction scheme involving the Royals and Pirates that was designed to save the Rays and A’s.
We all have weaknesses. Mine are “best shape of his life” stories, steroids and thinking the absolute worst about the Wilpons. Ken’s seem to involve over-the-top structural changes in the game, be it his contraction ideas or his even loopier radical realignment proposals.
They’re fun — all ideas are fun, especially off-the-wall ones — but they’re just ideas, and often there isn’t a heck of a lot to the hobby horses we all like to ride from time to time.