Forbes’ Mike Ozanian mused about contraction yesterday:
From what I am hearing, I doubt there will be any baseball at Tropicana Field after 2014 even though the team’s lease runs to 2027.
The funny part is that in the comments, someone pointed out to him that a second team would have to be contracted to make it work, which he casually acknowledged and then pointed the finger at the A’s.
Today the blowback has begun, from Craig Calcaterra’s brief and annoyed response to a much lengthier one from Maury Brown. That follows what Ken Rosenthal wrote six weeks ago, which I deconstructed in short order. None of the sensible arguments against contraction have changed. They’re just not noisy or loud enough.
Consensus appears to be that MLB is doing this to win concessions against MLBPA, which I find barely plausible at best. Instead, I think it’s more appropriate to look at the more hidden agenda. The endgame for the A’s and Rays would involve having New Yorker Stuart Sternberg own Mets and Los Angeles resident Lew Wolff own the Dodgers. Nevermind that Wolff owns less than 10% of the A’s, he could conceivably bring on big money partners to take on the rest of the Dodgers, a team with a $800 million franchise value.
It’s far more likely that interests in the two largest markets in the country want in on some kind of ownership piece and are on the outside looking in. They see Sternberg and Wolff as ways to get in The Lodge, and the greater the FUD spread about Fred Wilpon and Frank McCourt, the better their chances are. MLB is happy to entertain the notions for now, since they ultimately have the power to act on them – or not act on them, which is most likely. That’s a great strategy, as long as you’re only looking at things through a very narrow scope. Big picture, none of this makes any sense. As I argued in February, MLB has to get its own house in order before confronting MLBPA on any major issues. To get the Mets and Dodgers healthy and properly functioning again, it makes more sense to get new, non-crony blood owning those teams. There will be willing buyers, it’s just a matter of whether prospective buyers will balk when they look at those teams’ debt positions.
The debt and revenue problems for the Mets and Dodgers have far greater implications leaguewide than the A’s and Rays getting a combined $50 million in revenue sharing every year. When the Mets and Dodgers have large revenue and attendance drops, it hurts the league much more than changes to the A’s and Rays’ revenue profiles. While MLB could deal with all four teams in one fell swoop, a deeper look reveals that it’s not nearly as convenient as it appears. Wilpon and McCourt continue to be wrapped up in nasty litigation battles, and while McCourt’s divorce proceedings could end soon, the Wilpon-Madoff mess could stretch throughout the rest of the baseball season, if not longer. And if Bud Selig is as paralyzed by the Dodgers’ situation as he is by the A’s-Giants T-rights ordeal, nothing improves. Would that lack of progress and decisive action surprise anyone out there?