Let’s play a Contraction Series!

For everyone who’s calling Bud Selig a kiljoy, here’s a concept: Let’s not boo Bud for saying two teams have to leave Major League Baseball, let’s have a tournament.

OK, calling for the subtraction of two teams within two days of the World Series — especially this World Series — was not a good PR move. Four years ago, the now-World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks and the now-nearly defunct Devil Rays paid $130 million to join MLB. Now for $250 million a team, two clubs are being asked to leave.

They’re not coming to Washington, or even Oregon (Portland, to be precise). They’re going to small-market heaven. By some coincidence, Milwaukee got a new ballpark and won’t have to worry about contraction.

The most likely suspects for contraction instead are the Devil Rays, Expos, Marlins and Twins.

“The problems facing the potentially affected teams will not be resolved by either changing ownership or changing location,” Selig said in his news release. “Merely transferring existing problems to another ownership group or another city would only exacerbate the problem, not resolve it. We will continue to review relocation as a long-term solution as we work to stabilize the industry’s economics.

“After long and arduous study, we have determined that there is no other acceptable current solution but to contract two teams.”

Who wants to leave such a fate to the baseball establishment? Or to a sellout like Carl Pohlad, who seems quite content to add to his fortune without trying to build a franchise in Minnesota’s Twin Cities? Let’s decide it in the four baseball stadiums.

The best news is that we can hold this tournament in the middle of the winter, if need be. Montreal, Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Florida can truly play a do-or-die, four-team series. All four play in domes or in the Sunshine State. And if you thought Byung-Hyun Kim and Mariano Rivera could blow games, wait until see you these teams. No one will be yawning when they watch Esteban Yan.

The players’ union and Congress will do their share of grandstanding in the coming months, but there’s only one true way for these teams to prove they belong: Play games. Think of it; they’d even have the box scores all to themselves.

Two teams get to stay in the majors. Or is that have to stay? (Even those who escape contraction still will have to contend against teams with $100 million payroll advantages.) Here’s one nomination to decide who remains in the baseball’s premier division — and who gets relegated: Have each of the four jeopardized clubs play a six-game round-robin schedule. The best team on the field gets to play in 2002. So does the best team at the gate.

No amount of Felix Martinez Bobble Head Days could save the Devil Rays. In fact, not many people’s feelings would be hurt if the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning were contracted, too.

Which basically leaves us in a three-to-make-two situation.

Even with Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Vidro, the Expos would be in big trouble under both criteria. The Marlins, meanwhile, own the best World Series title money could buy and they could have the game’s top prospect in flamethrower Josh Beckett. Still, the smart money’s on Minnesota for wins and for fans.

Minnesota lacks power hitters, but features a good combination of pitching, speed and defense. The Twins won two World Series despite going 0-6 on the road in those series (1987, 1991). Surely, they could muster up a spirited, Homer Hanky-charged run at a Contraction Series crown.

Just think of the excitement. A big Twins-Marlins game in which a team really could have its back against the wall, and really would be fighting to stave off elimination. Wait, was that the Twins against the Marlins? Come to think of it, maybe Bud has a point.

Lacy Lusk is a staff writer for the Potomac News & Manassas Journal Messenger. Reach him at (703) 878-8053 or via e-mail at [email protected]

Similar Posts