If I Ran the Zoo…You’d All Be Applying for Transfers
Don weighs in with his opinion of Bud Selig’s contraction ideas.
You?d All Be Applying
The Expos are
here in town (San Francisco) this week, and the media is once again circling
the team like a pack of leering vultures. Bud Selig?s suicide ploy for the game?
?contraction??is all over the news, and the local columnists, needing to fill
space in the papers, are having at it.
What?s interesting?no, typical?in John Shea?s article in the San
Francisco Chronicle is its utter lack of historical perspective. Baseball
has always had its share of ?have not? teams, but no team has disbanded in one
hundred and one years?in 1900, to be exact, when the National League ?contracted?
from twelve teams to eight.
Of course, that
?contraction? was swiftly followed by the evolution of the American League,
which brought eight new teams into the major league fold and cemented the structure
of the game that we all know so well (and cling to as part of the game?s often
arch sense of ?tradition?).
What Shea and
other media types don?t bother to examine is that fact that revenue sharing
is the real villain in the internicine war amongst the Baseball Lords. What
rankles the owners is that certain teams (the Expos being one) have used the
revenue sharing rules put into place in the most recent collective bargaining
agreement to ?sandbag? with respect to the current salary structure and actually
use the luxury tax money as a way to turn a profit.
We shouldn?t expect
Shea, or any columnist writing for a major metropolitan newspaper, to unburden
us with the real story. That?s not how the corporate game is played, and even
the guys in the toy department are not exempt from those rules.
What I can tell
you is that Bud Selig?s ideas continue to be as addled as ever, and are
probably a much greater threat to the well-being of the game/business than the
purported problems of three or four franchises.
What the Expos
probably need to do is fire Felipe Alou, who has clearly lost his effectiveness
as a nurturer of young talent, and spend some money trying to reawaken their
dormant?not dead?fan base.
Selig seems to
forget (along with so many other things?) that his own city of Milwaukee went
through an interesting roller-coaster ride, wooing, winning and being abandoned
by the Braves in the space of thirteen short years, and being returned to a
few years later.
In short, the
Lords are playing a new version of their Chicken Little game, trying to make
people think that there are no alternatives for so-called ?failing? franchises
but to disappear from the face of the earth.
disbelief for the moment and stipulate that the Expos and any ?failing? franchise
from the AL of your choice need to have something done about them. Why on earth
has the option of relocation been dismissed out of hand?
Because of revenue
sharing and its internicine dilemmas for the politics raging between so-called
small and large-market teams. Baseball?s ?brain trust? is comprised mostly of
men who?ve been lifted out of ?small market? areas and who are used to appeasement
within their own ranks.
They have always been vulnerable to ?large market? bullying of one sort or
another, a fact that goes all the way back to the days of Walter O?Malley,
who was the architect of baseball?s transformation when he moved the Dodgers
to the west coast.
What Bud Selig?s
bobble-headed brain trust is unwilling to grasp is that by contracting, they
set in motion forces that signify a complete breach of trust with the fan base.
It is far better to relocate these ?failing franchises? and hold out the carrot
of a new franchise (as occurred in Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Seattle). The
balance between fans and team is disrupted, but not destroyed.
What they are
also unwilling to face up to is the fact that there are places for ?failing
franchises? to relocate.
Where are those
In the big-market
areas—in New Jersey, and in the eastern quadrant of Los Angeles (Riverside
and San Bernardino counties).
If the Expos and
the AL ?loser of your choice? need to be moved, then move those guys right into
those areas with new ownership and give them the incentive of a larger fan base.
If the abandoned fans in Montreal and pick-your-poisoned-AL-metropolis get mad
enough, they?ll get their acts together and petition for a new franchise.
Of course, there
is no way that the Chicken Little outfit running baseball will do this. (I was
going to use another word that began with ?chicken?, but Furtado/Forman are
family men and while they might swear like sailors in private, they don?t want
it done on their site.)
Budzilla and company
simply don?t have the guts to do so, much less the vision.
What they don?t
understand is that crying wolf is one thing, but acting on it is quite another.
The idea of replacement players was intensely repugnant to baseball?s fan base,
and hastened the demise of the owners? most recent attempt to destroy the Players?
Association. The idea of ?contraction? is taking the threat of hara-kiri and
making it actual: once you do it, you will eventually bleed to death.
Once you contract,
how do you convince anyone that your next expansion will be viable?
There are so many
other possible remedies to the rather limited set of problems facing baseball
that one can only assume that the owners have some kind of collective death
wish when they fixate on the one action that is certain to put dark clouds over
iron out its schedule/logistical difficulties, baseball needs 32 franchises.
There?s no earthly reason why they can?t still get there, and create either
a four-league structure with a reasonable amount of interleague play (a gimmick
that most fans seem to enjoy) or a symmetrical two-league structure with eight-team
The current schedule
(unbalanced division play and interleague play) is comically unwieldy and adds
even more random luck to the outcome than the previous three-division schedule
structures. Baseball in the next millennium might be wisest to simply discard
divisions altogether, while permitting a little variety by retaining interleague
play. (Especially if you wind up with three teams in New York and Los Angeles,
all of which will presumably be in different leagues.)
will doubtless loudly object to the idea of four leagues on the basis that it
destroys ?tradition.? We need to get past such arguments if the game is to progress
beyond its recent internicine stage. A fresh start, a fresh structure that at
the same time celebrates the pre-expansion roots of the game would be a giant
breath of fresh air in a sport that is stale with its ingrown cynicism. Break
up the media center revenue imbalance, and we can get back to the game, with
new traditions and new rivalries, and all of the old ones, too.
That?s what I?d
do, if I ran the zoo.
Posted: May 14, 2001 at 06:00 AM | 19 comment(s)
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