October 08, 2002

Twins-Angels and Cards-Giants. You'd have gotten some kind of odds on those matchups back in April, let me tell you. Welcome to the Payroll-Isn't-Destiny Playoffs, folks.

Two articles in USA Today about the Twins, contraction, and Bellzebud Selig. Ian O'Connor says Bud will visit the Metrodome during the playoffs, despite his status as the state's most hated man. He gives Selig way too much credit when he says that Selig was "the guy who made a labor deal that saved the Twins season". No, that was the players' union capitulating because they knew they'd unfairly blamed for a strike. Selig would have been perfectly happy to go forward with a strike had it been the way to acheive the owners' goals of reducing labor costs. The players surrendered before that happened.

Hal Bodley makes the case that the whole contraction thing wasn't all Bud's fault:

Contraction became a part of baseball's vocabulary in January 2000 when Colorado Rockies owner Jerry McMorris suggested that eliminating failing franchises would help solve some of the game's economic problems. Larry Lucchino, San Diego Padres president at the time, also began to back the concept.

Give Selig credit. Originally, he was opposed. Former MLB president Paul Beeston urged him to reconsider his views.

"I was reluctant," Selig says. "I knew the heartache it would cause. I'll never forget when the Braves left Milwaukee for Atlanta. That's why I got into baseball originally.

"This wasn't Bud Selig wanting to contract something. It was an overwhelming demand from owners that we do it. In all my over 32 years in baseball, I'd never seen anything that had more unanimity among owners. In fact, there were many who were widely quoted who wanted four teams contracted."

The Twins weren't even on the original list. Although Selig refuses to confirm it, owner Carl Pohlad, frustrated with the failure to get a new stadium, volunteered his franchise for elimination.

In reality, contraction isn't about the team on the field. It's about teams with low revenue, heavily subsidized by revenue sharing. The rich franchises pushed for contraction because they were weary of keeping some teams alive.

There's some truth to this, and I do believe that Minnesotans in particular haven't sufficiently demonized Carl Pohlad for his role in the contraction fiasco. Still, I say that a real commissioner would have actually tried to point out to the owners that contraction wouldn't solve any of their problems. If only Bart Giamatti had taken better care of himself...

Finally, whatever you may think of the Yankees, people watched them in the playoffs. We'll see what happens this year.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 08, 2002 to Baseball