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Selig is destined to lose his battle



Published: Sun, November 4, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The words from baseball commissioner Bud Selig's lips sent shockwaves through the state of Minnesota and less-rippling ones through Canada and Florida.

"Contraction" was the ugly word used by Selig, at least for fans of the Twins and Devil Rays, Expos and Marlins.

The czar of the diamond admitted at the World Series he's going to bring to the table at next week's owners meetings, possibly as soon as Tuesday, the subject of eliminating two of the game's weakest links.

Minneapolis, Miami, Tampa Bay and Montreal are the four cities most baseball observers believe are the prime candidates for such an action.

Why it won't happen: This observer, however, cautions you -- don't hold your breath.

Selig has given any number of reasons why he's supportive of eliminating two Major League teams.

On the flip side, here are a few why it's going to take years, if it happens at all:

U The players union. Arguably the most powerful union in the world, let alone sports, the baseball players union and its leader, Donald Fehr, have canceled seasons before with less at stake. The elimination of two franchises would mean the elimination of 50 jobs. Fehr's future as head of the union rests with this case; if he allows the contraction -- and the subsequent loss of jobs -- how could he expect to have any support of the players in the future? The easy solution is to expand the rosters, but ...

U The domino effect in the minor leagues. The elimination of two major league franchises would mean the dissolution of 10 or so minor league ball clubs. In some cases, where the major league club owns the minor league franchise, it wouldn't be a problem. But what about those cities where the minor league franchise is locally owned?

No more Scrappers? Look at it this way: What would be your reaction if it was suddenly announced the Mahoning Valley Scrappers were no more? Can you say, "litigation?"

Again, contraction would also mean the loss of jobs for literally hundreds of minor league ball players. Somebody, somewhere would surely have something to say about that, although the National Association players don't have the protection of the players union.

U We've already mentioned it once, but it bears repeating: litigation.

Sure, the fan bases in the four cities faced with contraction aren't as large as others -- that's why they're candidates to be shut down, of course -- but there are still some people in each town who would be willing to do whatever it takes to keep their team afloat.

Even if he had the support of the players union, Selig could announce contraction in 2001 and it would get buried in the courts for a decade.

Baseball owners, like their brethren in every other professional sport, have no one to blame but themselves for the fiscal emergency they now find themselves in. They were too greedy, expanding their leagues to cities and markets unprepared to support such a venture.

Where to go? Some have suggested, instead of eliminating two franchises, moving them to more profitable markets. But that raises a fairly simple question: Where? What markets can support a major league franchise? Washington, D.C.? It's tried and failed twice already.

Selig probably has the right idea, but the chances of him ultimately getting what he wants are slim at best.

He'd be better advised to sit back and relax, and allow the weaker franchises to simply fold up and fade away on their own.

XRob Todor is sports editor of The Vindicator. Write to him at todor@vindy.com.




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