The price of contraction

Tomorrow marks the 7th anniversary of this here blog. Seven years! That’s an amazing amount of time to have nothing happen. Regardless, the blog has been a great learning experience for me, and based on the many positive emails I get, for the readers as well. Since we nothing concrete to go on, this week calls for a series of “what-if” posts. The first one was Monday’s examination of a hypothetical group buying the A’s from Lew Wolff. Today’s post is about the word I hate talking about, contraction. It’s not an idea that has legs at the moment. If the A’s and Rays continue to stagnate money-wise at their current homes, it’s something that could become a wedge issue when the next CBA negotiations come around in 2016.

If MLB were to attempt contraction, they’d run into myriad issues, from a difficult-to-break lease at Tropicana Field to MLBPA complaining about lost jobs (or at least salary) to potentially huge PR and legal muck. If MLB were to move forward on the path towards cutting down the leagues to 28 teams, it’s important to understand what the potential economic impacts are. To that end, I’ve put together a simple table showing lost direct revenues and jobs. I’ve not gone so far as to claim indirect economic loss, because I don’t know enough about the specific economic models of the various major and minor league franchises to make such a claim. Even so, you might find that the figures are staggering.

Contraction is not as simple as changing 25-man roster to 27 in order to compensate. There's a lot more at stake.

Thursday marks Day 1096 of the MLB panel counter, the three year anniversary of the “Blue Ribbon Commission” as so many of you like to call it. I had gone back into my archives to find a specific date on which Commissioner Selig may have convened the panel – no such luck. Absent such a date, I chose to line it up with the Ides of March. So there you have it. Happy Anniversary Week!

37 thoughts on “The price of contraction

  1. Happy Anniversary! Thanks for your good work.

  2. Here, Here! This site has brought a whole other level of interest to the (unforeseen) protracted battle with stadium authorization, construction feasibility, political ineptitude, and the intricacies of coffee making (Peerless).

    @ML, i was looking for the sites post about television contract dollars but couldn’t find it. Any chance you could offer me a quick link? I don’t know if we should take the M&R tidbit about buyers seriously, but i would think the logical game plan to stay in Oakland involves a better revenue stream through improved television numbers. I follow college football contracts/expansion closely and I think there are some logical parallels for the A’s.

  3. @RM,
    Happy Anniversary brah! If you take into account the original Baseball San Jose site, we’ve been at this together for nearly 8 years! Wow! Time flies when you’re having fun (?). Looking forward to many more threads, comments as we will soon shift to a new phase of this blogs life…the realization of Cisco Field in downtown San Jose. It will happen!
    As for this thread, you made it perfectly clear why contraction WON’T happen. Could you imagine going through with this nuclear option just to appease the Giants whining and selfish, baseless claims?
    Last thought on yesterday’s “news:” nothing from, ESPN or SI. Tells yah a little something now does it.

  4. Congratulations, ML. Here’s hoping you don’t get the seven-year-itch and pack it in. Perhaps another non-existent stadium will offer you more years and more money (eight bucks). We’ll be crying about your disloyalty after you’re gone! WAAAH ML lied, he never tried!!

    Seriously, this is the only blog that I read every single day. While it hasn’t necessarily been a productive discussion, it’s been an interesting one and you’ve documented it thoroughly, with accuracy and civility. Job well done.

  5. Thanks for keeping this site going. It’s been a site that I rarely comment on, but always read.
    One day we’ll get there, wherever there is…

  6. Thanks for the years of diligent operation of new A’s ballpark, or how I refer to it in my head:


    Dr. StrangeMarineLayer or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fear of Contraction/Relocation/Having Clifford Pennington be the Everyday Shortstop.

  7. And here’s to very few more years, ML! Oh lets stop kidding, at the rate MLB decides things, we’ll be here for another 7 years before the stadium gets built.

    At least you make it entertaining, ML. Good job!

  8. I’d go nuts without you. Hell, I sometimes go nuts anyway.

  9. I’ve been following this blog religiously since 2006. Thanks ML ‘

  10. We can extrapolate that primarily two clubs would love contraction – The Yankees and the Giants.
    Okay, cool dudes. You two can pay the $1 billion buy out of the two clubs. You two can buy out all of the 8 minor league franchises (AAA, AA, and the two different A levels). You two can replace all the lost jobs, both major league and minor league. And you two can pay for the legal battles, both from the MLBPA, and from cities (up to 10 of them) affected by contraction.
    Or, the Yankess and Giants can go rot in hell. 😉
    Basically, contraction ain’t happening.

  11. Congrats ML. Seven years does go by fast. Hopefully future discussions will center around the A’s and their ballpark, rather than the Giants and their territorial rights.

  12. ML, thank you so very very much for running this blog, and being so very thoroughly well researched and informative. Fantastic job!
    I read this blog almost daily (sometimes several times a day), and often post. I love having a say on this, and I love reading other people’s posts.
    And I really think that the presence of this blog has been a great help in getting the A’s to SJ, or a new ballpark of some sort. Not that Bud or the other owners read it. But Lew Wolff does, as his extensive interview with you last year is total proof. And the information served up on this blog is a great counter balance to all the BS that gets spewed in the general media. This blog has also convinced, through thorough research and being fair and being extremely informative, several people who were on the fence or on the other side of the fence on TR and stadium issues, to the side of building of a new ball bark in San Jose.
    In short ML, your work here has made a huge difference. Take that as a feather in your cap, and hopefully motivation to keep up the excellent work.

  13. IIRC, you mused on AN about starting a new stadium blog one day, and something like the next day there it was. I recall those early slide decks you put together for the various sites under consideration at the time. They were the first and best documented summary of the options and their respective pros and cons. And it’s only gotten better from there. Great work, ML. I can’t possibly communicate how much it’s appreciated.

  14. I’d like to think MLB wouldn’t be stupid enough to spend Big $$ to contract the A’s and leave all that Silicon Valley $$ on the table just because Selig is afraid of the Giants. I’d like to think that…

  15. They’re not stupid, nor are they “afraid” of the Giants. That’s a fact! Not an opinion.

  16. It’s obvious the Giants are a loose cannon on deck: Forming an astroturf group to fight the A’s; apparently leaking disinformation to the press; telling Quan they could tie up A’s-to-San Jose in court for 10 years. At what point does Selig bring about strict disciplinary measures against the Giants? Maybe have MLB take control of the franchise? As long as MLB is not willing to do anything about it, what incentive do the Giants have to stop?

  17. In spite of recent columnist stuff that makes the situation “look” negative, still most indicators point to San Jose.
    The Madden piece, which practically stated the Giants T-rights being upheld due to TR precedent as being a foregone conclusion, was quickly debunked by none other than Bud Selig himself.
    The T&R piece is completely unsubstantiated, no detail, no sources. Just speculation.
    We can all theorize that they were both Giants’ PR plants, which could be possible, and due to the Stand From San Jose astroturf campaign, highly plausible.
    But regardless, just looking at the big picture – look at all that untapped wealth in the Silicon Valley – all those big, rich companies currently not doing business with the Giants or A’s due to proximity, who would gladly do business if they had a team and stadium in their immediate area. Just look at the fact that the Bay Area is the smallest in terms of population of the two team markets, but one of the biggest in terms of corporate wealth and overall media market size (it can easily support two teams). Just look at the idea of having a new baseball stadium for one of the most historic and successful franchises in baseball. Just look at the idea of getting that franchise off revenue sharing and independently profitable. Just look at how long it has taken. I really believe that if Selig and the rest of the owners were unmovable on TR, the answer would have “NO” a long, long time ago. It’s just a matter of building consensus (as much as possible) within the lodge, and negotiating compensation to the Giants. And I think it’s just taking those processes a long time.

  18. @pjk
    Doubtless, Selig is very very irritated with the Giants. I think Selig is bending over backwards to fair to them, but they are not budging at all, and they are trying be as obstructionist as possible with their astroturf StandFromSJ funding, and possibly their PR plants (Madden and M&R). Selig’s last comment, besides the “it’s on the front burner” was that he wants to make sure the Giants would stop suing (clearly, Selig is really bothered by StandFromSJ funding, and the stating to Quan that they would tie it up in courts for years).
    It will happen, I think. And I’m trying not to base this on “wishful thinking”. The A’s in SJ really is in the best interests of baseball. And who knows, maybe Selig and the rest of the lodge will say “enough is enough” to the Giants, and it blows up in the Giants’ faces.

  19. @ML
    Congrats on 7 years! Thank you for making this the best source for the A’s stadium information. I wouldn’t know jack without you.

  20. Yes, congratulations on a great blog! Most hobby bloggers can’t keep it going the way you have. Here’s hoping in seven more years there actually will be a new A’s stadium.

  21. ML: Great work! Let’s play a new what if game…Let’s say the new stadium is approved somewhere in the Bay Area, what happens to the blog? We just can’t stop reading cold turkey man 🙂

  22. @Stomper00 – I’d love to write about the design, features, amenities. That’s the stuff I really geek out about. Someday.

  23. Once the ballpark saga has concluded, people can head back to the real hot spot of the A’s community– Kara’s Hot Corner.

  24. Given that, ML, can we look forward to a new blog on the Niners’ new stadium once construction really gets started? Or will you cover that here?

  25. I am very grateful for this blog. I am amazed that I get to read this content for free. This blog has given me a great education about public policy, architecture, city laws, finance, etc. You are a very good teacher.

  26. Ideally MLB would bite the bullet and contract 2 or more teams but the time for contraction appears to have passed . They screwed the pooch by expanding (Tampa, COL, MIA, ARI) and relocating (WAS) into markets that would require revenue sharing for their teams rather than being able to pay into revenue sharing.

    ML, thanks for the blog and the forum to comment on the posts. You obviously put in a lot of work and it shows.

  27. A few humble counterpoints:

    1. Those 11 minor-league teams would be eliminated…but not those 11 markets. I would foresee instead some massive minor-league musical chairs:

    One of the remaining four California teams take up an affiliation with Sacramento, which would be very appealing to them – one of the prettiest parks in MiLB, great fan base in place already, closer than their current affiliates.

    Whomever gets Sacramento, their affiliate immediately becomes more desirable for at least one of the remaining Cali teams. Ex. Giants get Sacramento and consolidate all of Northern California, the Dodgers or Angels probably move to Fresno.

    My point is, you eventually lose one of the crappiest markets and locations – NOT Sacramento. So it’s possible that we are overestimating the negative financial impacts. Albaquerque or Salt Lake City is eventually up for grabs, and maybe one of the already-out-place International League teams moves there, or maybe those cities become an affiliate at a lower level, which would help consolidate PCL travel (and save money).

    2. I think this same effect would happen with each of the levels, eventually eliminating some of the worst minor league markets. And, some of the worst prospects, some of the worst scouts, the worst front-office employees, the 22ish worst pitchers currently in major-league baseball, etc. Beane and Friedman will simply be running teams elsewhere. With the best members of their staffs. One could argue that some fat would be trimmed leaguewide, in all facets. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    3. Teams that might be favor of contraction: Everyone in the AL West, since their direct playoff competitors once again would be one fewer; Everyone in the AL East, for the reduced travel they’d get from losing the Rays and the same “-1” divisional argument the AL West would have; any other additional team that fears a 2nd or 3rd team encroaching upon their market, since contraction is also a symbolic show against allowing the A’s to have San Jose (so, add the two Chicago teams, the Mets, Phillies, Astros, Giants, and Braves). All these teams love having big TV territories, and losing the A’s/Rays, and reinforcing that no one new can ever come on their turf, would have to make them happy.

    I feel like I just came up with a good reason for 15 different franchises to vote in favor of contraction, ESPECIALLY if the financial hit for buying out the Rays and A’s ($1 billion?) is borne equally amongst the remaining 28 teams. Because we know that financial hit, if it is equal for all, will burden the other 13 (mostly small-market) franchises more than it’ll burden the 15 who stand to directly benefit from the Rays and A’s being gone. For the Yankees to spend a one-time $35M ($1B divided by 28) hit to permanently eliminate one of their toughest competitors, I mean…that’s just a drop in the bucket. That’s one off-season splurge for any of the big-market teams.

    One team that I am certain would vote against contraction is the one that gets asked/told to move to the AL, since we’d once again have two more NL teams than AL. But there’s away around that too – just wait for a sold NL franchise and force the new buyer to accept the switch as part of his purchase, like they did with the Astros. The “switcher” would then join the AL West or East depending upon their geography and bring that division back up to five teams.

  28. By the way, I am NOT for contraction, even though I have written about it several times. I am strongly in favor of a new stadium in San Jose, because I think that’s the only one that makes a two-team market financially viable long-term. I also think a new stadium in SJ takes contraction off the table permanently, which is what SHOULD happen, since the league finally achieved some nice divisional symmetry with this Astros thing, and the new playoff proposal.

    And it would give the league 15 years to find a similarly pleasant situation for the Rays, their last “limbo” team. Their lease expires in 2027. If they can’t agree to build something in downtown Tampa I would love to see a retractable roof state-of-the-art ballpark for them in Montreal and form a great rivalry with the Blue Jays.

  29. @nsj – 1/2. I ran through some musical chairs scenarios. Vegas would be the obvious one out in the PCL due to the state of Cashman Field. The Angels could either keep their affiliate in SLC or move to Sacto, or the Blue Jays’ AAA team could move to the Capitol. It would be the start of a domino effect and wouldn’t be pretty, even if there is a lot of “fat” as you suggest. The final effect is that 13 cities somewhere in the US would no longer have MLB/MiLB baseball, and that’s not something that can be spun as positive in any way.
    3. I’ve frequently heard about votes for this or that because some team wants to get rid of or put to the screws to competition. If that were case, then historically ownership votes would be far more divisive than they’ve been in recent years. Owners generally don’t vote primarily out of self-interest, and Selig seems to discourage it in favor of consensus.

  30. @notsellingjeans…I agree with you, I’m all for the A’s to SJ (A year ago I thought I would never say this, hell, Angela Woodall even quoted me in the Oakland Tribune at last years Opening Day Tailgate on how I opposed the move.i) but here’s my problem with putting a team in Montreal…It didn’t work!
    I hate to see a team move to a new location only to bring another team in its place. It makes me question the reasons for a team to move in the first place. And this isn’t restricted to MLB, look at the NBA and Seattle, the NFL and the Raiders and Rams.
    I just moved to the Bay Area a couple of months ago from the LA area and I would hate to see the Raiders go back to LA. LA is about to Invest a lot of money for the new stadium and for what? So the Raiders can move back to Oakland again some time around 2030? The Raiders destroyed the Oakland tax payers and our A’s in Oakland.
    If a team wants a new stadium, it needs to stay put for a significant amount of time before they even request a new stadium. With that said, the Raiders should stay in the Coliseum until the debt for Mt. Davis is paid off.

  31. @ ML – concur with others that this site is the real authority on not only the A’s stadium situation (and definitely media “out”lets), but for all things pertaining to sports venue development in general. It’s interesting to see and learn so much about the whole process of politics, design, and actual construction! No doubt, as i said a few years back, this site is the definitive source bar none!

  32. Thanks for your hard work, ML.

  33. Hi. New here but loving it.

    This may have been covered before but how on earth could they even consider contracting the A’s. They were formed in 1901 (you think this blog is old) and were one of the eight original teams in the AL. There is simply too much history and tradition there to even think about it! This is probably as much of or even more of a factor in Selig’s wanting to resolve this issue in favor of moving to San Jose than him being buddy-buddy with Wolfe.

  34. I agree with most everyone, thanks for all your work on this blog. I’ve loved reading it since I discovered it what seems like ages ago.

  35. I don’t think that contraction is even on the table at this time, especially with the long line of investors wanting to buy the A’s and build Coliseum City! But seriously, congrats on 7 years ML! Too bad the BA media does not read this more often, they might actually sound intelligent when they start flapping their gums about the subject! I’ve learned a lot in a few months and I owe it all to you. Thanks! Hopefully, by this time next year we will reading about important things like the amount of foul territory planned for Cisco Field!

  36. All the media stories and plants I have read makes me wonder how they ever became reporters. No wonder traditional media is struggling. The real gems are few and far in between. It’s incredible an “amateur” blog can be a million times more professional than the professional media. Keep up the good work, and I also look forward to the day when I can read about designs, amenities, construction, etc.

  37. Thanks for the dedication and passion over these last 7 years. This site was instrumental in my Architectrural thesis to build a downtown park for the A’s.

    I hope we all will not need this site some day soon. but until then god bless and good luck.

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