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World Series Champs Suffer Mid-Season Contraction?
July 11, 2002 9:17 AM   Subscribe

World Series Champs Suffer Mid-Season Contraction? According to Bud Selig, one MLB team might not be able to make payroll next Monday, and another is experiencing cash-flow problems so severe it may not be able to finish the season. The Houston Chronicle reported that Selig might have arranged to keep the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays alive financially this past winter. But now Selig says, "Major league baseball's credit lines are at the maximum," and "If a club can't make it, I have to let 'em go." Is it a coincidence that neither of these teams is the Minnesota Twins or Montreal Expos? Does anybody care?
posted by subgenius (24 comments total)

 
Assuming that this isn't just hype for contraction--or an attempt to distract the public from the All-Star Game debacle--I wonder what would happen if one team just disappeared. Would the team's players all become free agents? How would the league deal with schedules where teams could end up playing different numbers of regular-season games (because they had already faced, or would not face, the bankrupt team)? And would anybody care?
posted by subgenius at 9:22 AM on July 11, 2002


It's not true, I'm sure of it. Accounting is smoke and mirrors, and MLB is just another industry that's going to have to come clean.
posted by djacobs at 9:27 AM on July 11, 2002


The right outcome (although who knows if MLB would let it through) would be for MLB to take receivership and wipe out the current equity holders in the team and void the current contracts. All current players are now free agents. They can continue to play for the D-Backs at league minimum on a game by game basis, or go elsewhere if someone will take them. If they go elsewhere, the D-Backs minor league system will surely have enough prospects happy to play at league minimum.

The team will be then auctioned off, with the new owners free to negotiate higher pay packages for players they like.
posted by MattD at 9:37 AM on July 11, 2002


If the Diamondbacks go under, can we award last year's World Series to the Yankees? Please? Everytime I see the highlight of Luis Gonzales' game-winning hit, I cringe and cry.
posted by msacheson at 9:42 AM on July 11, 2002


damn, msacheson, those other 27 champeenships don't take the sting out?
posted by zoopraxiscope at 9:54 AM on July 11, 2002


zoopraxiscope, you clearly don't live in NYC ;)
posted by mkultra at 9:58 AM on July 11, 2002


If the Diamondbacks go under, can we award last year's World Series to the Yankees?

Are you serious?

1996 - Yankees
1997 - Marlins
1998 - Yankees
1999 - Yankees
2000 - Yankees
2001 - Diamondbacks Yankees

Granted, baseball is broken in many ways; but at least they're not yet rewriting history.

I don't think you'll be waiting long for another pinstripe championship. Keep your chin up.
posted by kurumi at 10:05 AM on July 11, 2002


I hear you msacheson....

Baseball has me quite depressed of late. I really don't know what they're going to do. Revenue sharing? As a Yankee fan, I'm acutely aware of the differences between the haves and the have-nots (and the problems those differences create), even as I expect (demand?) my team to do whatever it can to win within the current system. And I can grudgingly admit that parity amongst teams can create more exciting play.

If Yankee money helps the Twins, for example, I can agree it helps baseball. But the same Yankee revenue to bail out free-spending idiots like that moron-owner of the Rangers? It's one thing to have the money, quite another to spend it wisely, which the Yankees (excepting the 12mil for Sterling Hitchcock) generally do. I think this is going to get a lot uglier before it gets better. And yet here in Boston, they continue to set attendance records (in an admittedly small park) with the highest average ticket prices in the league, so perhaps there is hope.
posted by jalexei at 10:12 AM on July 11, 2002


I don't know that I buy this-- personally it sounds like more of Commissioner Bud's anti-marketing strategy.

Of course, the D'backs probably wouldn't be nearly in as much financial trouble if they hadn't been charged a huge expansion fee, cut out of TV revenues for the first few years, and so on. Reap what you sow... I'm still convinced Bud Selig is doing the best he can to ruin the game so he can use it as an excuse to make more money for his fellow owners (via contraction, salary cap, what have you).
posted by nath at 10:15 AM on July 11, 2002


I used to care.
posted by billder at 10:22 AM on July 11, 2002


The fixes seem simple:

1) revenue sharing. Maybe a 60/40 split, with teams keeping the larger share of of their local revenues, but kicking the 40% back to MLB, who would then evenly distribute that money to each team.

2) Structure minor-league salary caps and limits to signing bonuses. Today's poorer teams can't even afford to draft the top amateur talent for fear of being unable to sign them -- this causes these teams to draft lesser talent, producing an inferior team and suppressing attendance & the possibility of post-season revenues. It's a continuing cycle.

3) Fire everyone who has anything to do with marketing MLB. For the past 10 years the game has been its own worst enemy.

These three things alone would do wonders to level the playing field and, one would think, shouldn't require a work-stoppage to achieve.
posted by herc at 10:29 AM on July 11, 2002


Good, the whole bloated pay structure will collapse under it's massive obesity!
posted by themikeb at 10:39 AM on July 11, 2002


mkultra, would you believe that i live in............Boston? ;)

i just want one. that's all. just one in my lifetime. is that really so much to ask? (though i'm so bored with baseball i haven't watched a game all year. )
posted by zoopraxiscope at 10:39 AM on July 11, 2002


Clearly full revenue sharing and salary caps as in the NFL would do a lot of good, but is the game really popular enough to generate the needed revenue? A few NOTEWORTHY FACTS AND FIGURES .
posted by Mack Twain at 10:52 AM on July 11, 2002


i heard about this in the morning, but they hadn't released any team names. they had mentioned that the team that may be unable to meet payroll this monday was an established franchise: it was not an expansion team, and therefore the one in the most immediate financial trouble is neither arizona or tampa bay. (my thoughts were that it could be cincinatti, pittsburgh, but now i'm thinking it could be san francisco or oakland.)

If the Diamondbacks go under, can we award last year's World Series to the Yankees? Please? Everytime I see the highlight of Luis Gonzales' game-winning hit, I cringe and cry.

no. anything i can do to help screw the yankees and prevent them from a world series championship will be done. they sure do anything they can to screw everyone else.

herc:

2) Structure minor-league salary caps and limits to signing bonuses. Today's poorer teams can't even afford to draft the top amateur talent for fear of being unable to sign them -- this causes these teams to draft lesser talent, producing an inferior team and suppressing attendance & the possibility of post-season revenues. It's a continuing cycle.

there already is a minimum salary paid to minor league players: $40,000 a year. players making more than that are signed to major-league contracts despite being in the minor leagues. (those teams already take a large penalty to sign such players: they must place those minor leaguers on their major league 40-man roster.) there really are not many players signed to major league contracts in the minor leagues, because having to pay so much money per year plus losing a spot on the 40-man kills you.
posted by moz at 10:52 AM on July 11, 2002


If Yankee money helps the Twins, for example, I can agree it helps baseball. But the same Yankee revenue to bail out free-spending idiots like that moron-owner of the Rangers?

The Rangers aren't receiving any money due to revenue sharing; they're one of the big-market teams giving up money ($9 million in 2001).
posted by rcade at 10:58 AM on July 11, 2002


I echo jalexei's comments (about being a Yankee fan, embarrassed by the difference between the haves and have-nots, but I expect my team to do what it can to win, no apologies...about revenue sharing with smart teams in small markets like the Twins & A's, but the Rangers don't deserve help if they can't help themselves first...etc.)

herc, your 2nd point (re: the draft and minor league contracts) is a good one, though I don't think it has much effect on the current situation, your reasoning is sound and may sway me.

In the SportsFilter thread on the same topic, PeteyStock has some good ideas to renew competetive balance, including contraction and ditching the DH (two common ideas unpopular with the players).

Oh, and I know I'm being a greedy Yankee fan for wishing to overturn the Diamondbacks 2001 championship if they fold. (Congrats and props to them for winning a classic Series, no doubt.) kurumi's list of champs since 1996 shows that besides the Yanks and D-backs, the Florida Marlins are the only other winners. And we all know how they rented players to buy their one run at the title, then sold off everyone to return to expansion level.

What's my point? (besides it takes $$$ to win) That the Yankees could have had 6 in a row!
posted by msacheson at 11:02 AM on July 11, 2002


Revenue-sharing would need to be accompanied by a salary floor. Peter Gammons had a column this off-season detailing how the Expos (when Loria still owned them) were spending less in salaries than they received in free money from large-market teams. Tampa Bay is another offender, having slashed the payroll from last year's star-studded team 40%.
posted by yerfatma at 11:30 AM on July 11, 2002


The Rangers aren't receiving any money due to revenue sharing; they're one of the big-market teams giving up money ($9 million in 2001).

rcade you are certainly correct - the reference was from an article (I forget where) predicting that the Rangers (based on things like A-Rod's contract) might in the future be a team that needs a bit of bailing out. My apologies for the misleading comment.
posted by jalexei at 12:53 PM on July 11, 2002


It wouldn't be the Reds, Unle Carl has been pretty tight fisted. Imgine, running baseball like a business.
posted by Mick at 3:05 PM on July 11, 2002


there already is a minimum salary paid to minor league players: $40,000 a year. players making more than that are signed to major-league contracts despite being in the minor leagues. (those teams already take a large penalty to sign such players: they must place those minor leaguers on their major league 40-man roster.) there really are not many players signed to major league contracts in the minor leagues, because having to pay so much money per year plus losing a spot on the 40-man kills you.

You aren't listening. He was talking about caps and removing the ability to do this with minor leaguers at all. The Twins drafted Joe Mauer because they believed Mark Price was unsignable. The Cubs gave Price a giant contract and he is doing EXTREMELY well. Tell me another sport where this happens.
posted by McBain at 7:27 PM on July 11, 2002


I don't think it's likely that Tom Hicks would need a bailout. The Alex Rodriguez deal is a moneymaker for him, because the guy's one of the game's most marquee players and Hicks plans to use the Rangers and Dallas Stars (which he also owns) as the cornerstones for a regional sports TV network. Though attendance is down, the size of the Dallas-Fort Worth media market is enough for him to continue to spend money on players.
posted by rcade at 8:56 PM on July 11, 2002


The Twins drafted Joe Mauer because they believed Mark Price was unsignable.

Mark PRIOR. Mark Price played point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers. ;)
posted by mmesker at 9:51 PM on July 12, 2002


the Yankees could have had 6 in a row!

Well, you know, except for the part where they lost to the Indians in '97, and not the Marlins. Didn't even make the World Series that year.

If anyone reads Baseball Prospectus, I think they have the right angle-- killer ideas, good writing, smart people.

I don't know what the solution is to any problems baseball faces, but I'm pretty sure Bud Selig isn't a part of it.
posted by nath at 11:42 PM on July 12, 2002


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