View Full Version : Contraction and Realignment

11-05-2001, 05:09 PM
Scripps Howard News Service
PHOENIX -- The Arizona Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees in the 2001 World Series.

They may have to beat the Yankees to get to the 2002 World Series.
A proposed contraction Major League Baseball owners are considering would eliminate the Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos. It would include a move of Arizona to the American League, according to baseball sources at the World Series.

Eliminating one team from each league would leave the National League with 15 teams and American League with 13. To balance the leagues at 14 apiece, Arizona would be moved to the AL for its fifth season, the sources said.

As part of the expansion agreement that brought Arizona and Tampa Bay into existence in 1998, neither team can block having its league affiliation changed through this offseason.

If the owners decide to eliminate franchises for the first time since the National League went from 12 teams to eight in 1898, they would create three divisions in each league with four teams in the West divisions and five each in the Central and East.

To accommodate that, the Diamondbacks would move from the NL West to the AL West, and Texas would be moved from the AL West to AL Central, replacing Minnesota. That would mean all four AL West teams would be in the same time zone -- Arizona does not observe daylight savings time. Currently Texas, which is on Central time, suffers from being in a division with three teams on Pacific time, meaning the Rangers' divisional road night games do not start until 9 p.m., in Texas.

It also mean the return of the four-team NL West that existed prior to the most recent expansion -- Colorado, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. To balance the NL East and Central at five teams apiece, Pittsburgh would shift from the current six-team NL Central to the NL East, replacing Montreal and keeping that division at five teams.

Commissioner Bud Selig declined to discuss details of the contraction proposal. But he admitted during the World Series that it will be a topic of discussions when the owners hold their quarterly meeting in Chicago on Monday. The meeting was originally postponed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Selig would need 23 of the 30 teams to support contraction for it to be approved. The most talked-about plan has the ownership in Minnesota and Montreal receiving $250 million to fold the franchises, with Montreal owner Jeffrey Loria then buying the Florida Marlins, and Marlins owners John Henry in turn buying the Anaheim Angels.

However, there also is a plan under which Florida moves to Washington, D.C., and eventually plays in a new stadium that Virginia's congressional delegation has proposed as a national shrine to the victims of the terrorist attacks.

In that case, Loria would buy the Tampa Bay franchise, and baseball would deal with four of its most troubled franchises, eliminating Minnesota and Montreal, moving Florida and getting a new owner for Tampa Bay.

There also has been talk of folding Florida, but that depends on Twins owner Carl Pohlad. If Pohlad wants to unload his team, he would have priority, and there are growing signs that the 86-year-old Pohlad is ready to get out of baseball because of a lack of support for government help in building a new stadium in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

"I've sat around for the last 10 years pouring money into the operation for the purpose of keeping baseball in Minnesota, and we're in a time of recession," Pohlad told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "I have an obligation to my family and I am going to do what is right for my family."

The key for baseball is that Montreal, Minnesota and Florida all have one-year stadium leases, which would limit the financial obligation the remaining owners would face in buying out those deals.

To try and help the changing owners become competitive quicker, there is one proposal that would allow them to take three players from their current major-league roster and five players from their minor-league system with them to the new teams. The team also would split the first four selections in a dispersal draft of the remaining players from Montreal plus the players from Minnesota before the 26 other teams select in inverse order of their 2001 record.

To help alleviate concerns by the Major League Baseball Players Association about he loss of jobs the owners will consider expanding current in-season active rosters from 25 to 27 players, which would actually create four more jobs than contraction would eliminate.