Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why MLB Contraction Won't Happen. Period.

After writing why it's time to "Redact the Contraction Talk," I simply cannot stress enough that the threat of contracting the Tampa Bay Rays (and Oakland Athletics) isn't worth the paper (or LCD screens) the rumors are printed on.

While it may fall short of tortious interference, columnists and "experts" who toss around the C-word are irresponsibly creating leverage for the league. Bud Selig won't directly threaten contraction, but he may make a well-placed call to Ken Rosenthal or Peter Gammons. It has the same effect.

Why won't MLB contract?

The league grossed $7 billion in 2010. It's doing very well in a terrible economy. The Rays were a profitable team despite a bad television contract and a bad stadium location. Could they be more profitable? Sure. Do they hinder MLB's profitable operation? No.

And, when you consider the Rays are due for a huge windfall when their television rights are renegotiated in a few years, there's no way MLB would contract a team in the 14th-largest media market in the country.

Simply put, there's no traction for contraction (hat tip to friend Maury Brown at Biz of Baseball).

And even if MLB wanted to contract the Rays and A's, there are insurmountable problems with MLBPA union issues and various television deals.

For an idea of how tough it is to contract teams in a major professional league, look to the NHL - a league decimated by overexpansion. Both their product and profits have suffered in the last 20 years, but all 30 teams have somehow survived. Many of the Southern teams shouldn't have.

Right now, Anaheim is 25th in attendence despite a good record and playing in the No. 2 media market. Atlanta is 28th despite playing .500 hockey in the No. 8 media market. And Phoenix is 29th despite their second-place record in the 12th-largest media market.

If any league needs to contract, it's the NHL. Or maybe I'm wrong and all those teams simply need new stadiums to cure their attendance ills?

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