With the recent news that the Oakland A's will not be relocating to Fremont, and with the Florida Marlins continued problems getting a new stadium built, Bill Madden of the New York Daily Newsspeculates that baseball could soon revisit the possibility of contraction. Not coincidentally, the two teams Madden believes baseball would target are the A's and Marlins. While Brewers, Royals, Nationals and Padres fans would breathe a sigh of relief; baseball fans everywhere likely shudder at the very sound of this word.
Madden makes several good points about the two teams, especially concerning how they serve as virtual farm teams with their great ability to develop players despite not being able to keep them once free agency hits. There just isn't a large enough revenue stream for either team to make money with the current state of the system.
... (B)aseball can't afford to keep dumping revenue-sharing money into hopeless franchises. Like just about every other industry in this country right now, baseball is going to have to take stock of its situation and downsize. There are too many teams in baseball anyway and it makes no sense to continue operating them in places that can't or won't support them.
Well, I don't think I can agree that there are necessarily too many teams. Before the economy took a drastic turn south, 30 teams was a fine number. That being said, he's right that there are many places currently either unable to or refusing to fully support a baseball franchise.
If things continue down this path, it's conceivable to believe two franchises would be cut from the league. Of course, choosing the A's as one of the teams would cause a bunch of extra logistical problems. It would leave the AL West with only three teams, and both leagues would have an odd number of teams. Thus, you'd have to move a team from the National League to the American League. If you didn't move a team who could fit into the AL West, you'd have to move someone else into that division. So, are you going to choose a team from the NL West to switch leagues? If so, the Dodgers and Giants would be untouchable. Good luck convincing the Padres, Diamondbacks, or Rockies that they need to completely shift their entire method of building a team, because they now play against the Angels, Mariners and Rangers.
You'd think the Nationals would be a candidate, but they just spent a ton of money to build a new ballpark, as have the Brewers, Padres and Pirates in recent memory. I can't see baseball justifying the contraction of the Royals, but they'd have to be on the short list.
If MLB did decide to contract two teams, can you imagine a contraction draft? I assume they would draft instead of having a free-for-all free agency period. Still, without a salary cap, you'd have to assume the Royals or Nationals couldn't afford to pay Hanley Ramirez what the Yankees, Red Sox, or Cubs could, so there would probably be some jockeying with trades. Thus, it would just be a case of the rich get richer. I can't see that as being good for the game as a whole.
We could go on and on, but the bottom line here is that having to contract Major League Baseball would be an absolute mess. Let's just hope things get figured out for the Marlins and A's, and that the economy turns by the end of 2009.