As recently as two years ago, the Florida Marlins were said to be a potential candidate for contraction from Major League Baseball. This was nothing new in 2009, as the Marlins have been mentioned in contraction rumors for the better part of the last decade, as they struggled to attract fans to the cavernous Sun Life Stadium.
But when reports popped up this week that MLB is once again discussing the viability of contracting two teams, the Marlins found themselves safe from the proverbial chopping block. Joel Sherman of the New York Post blogged Thursday that MLB officials have "discussed" a contraction plan that would involve the elimination of the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics. The owners of those franchises would then be able to buy out the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively.
The Dodgers' and Mets' owners are both facing financial difficulties which could force them to sell their teams. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is in the process of a messy divorce which could result in half the team being awarded to his estranged wife. Mets owner Fred Wilpon is facing legal trouble of his own connected to his dealings with convicted Ponzi-schemer Bernard Madoff.
The A's and Rays both struggle to draw fans, like the Marlins, but unlike the Fish, neither has a new stadium under construction. MLB commissioner Bud Selig has long expressed his desire for the Rays to move from their current stadium in St. Petersburg to one closer to the heart of Tampa, while the A's have been trying unsuccessfully to move to nearby San Jose. To middling franchises in bad stadium deals they can't seem to overcome, sound familiar?
Apparently all it takes to get Selig off your back is a shiny but expensive new stadium with a retractable roof paid for with a boatload of taxpayer money.
Marlins fans have made a habit of criticizing team owner Jeffrey Loria for his big mouth and quick trigger finger when it comes to firing managers. But were it not for his cunning manuevering with local governments, the Marlins would not be moving into that fancy new stadium next year, Marlins fans would have to once again deal with the uncertainty that their favorite team might not be around much longer.