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Q&A

On Baseball's Contraction

November 07, 2001|Staff and wire reports

A summary of facts about major league baseball's historic proposal to reduce its roster of teams by two:

Question: What did baseball owners do Tuesday?

Answer: They voted to eliminate two of the 30 major league teams by the start of next season.

Q: Did they announce which teams?

A: No. Montreal is considered the leading contender, with Minnesota given prominent mention among owners.

Q: Why the Twins and Expos?

A: The Expos have struggled to draw fans since their inception. Their average attendance last season was 7,935 and they were outdrawn by several minor league teams. As for the Twins, owner Carl Pohlad is frustrated by his inability to get public financing for a new ballpark.

Q: What will Pohlad and Expo owner Jeffrey Loria get out of the deal?

A: Pohlad will get $200-$250 million to shut down the Twins. Loria will take over the Florida Marlins from Florida owner John Henry, who, it is believed, will then buy the Angels from Disney.

Q: What happens to the players from the Twins and Expos?

A: According to the rumored plan, the Twins will be made available to the remaining 28 teams in the form of a dispersal draft, with teams selecting in reverse order of finish. As for the Expos, Loria might be allowed to select three major players and five from the minor leagues and take them to Florida with him. Similarly, Henry will take several Marlin players with him to the Angels. The rest of the Expos would go through the dispersal draft. It's unclear what will become of the players in the Expo and Twin minor league systems.

Q: Why allow the owners to take players with them?

A: Commissioner Bud Selig does not want the top players on the Expos, such as Vladimir Guerrero, and Twins, such as Brad Radke, to be declared free agents. He also doesn't want small-market teams such as Kansas City and Pittsburgh to select Radke, then trade him to the Dodgers or Yankees because they can't afford the outfielder.

Q: What was the players' union response?

A: The players claimed the action was "inconsistent with the law [and] our contract."

Q: If the union balks, what are the owners' options?

A: They could bargain to impasse over the issue, then attempt to unilaterally impose contraction.

Q: What could the union do if that happens?

A: The players' association could claim that there wasn't an impasse, file an unfair-labor-practice grievance and ask the National Labor Relations Board to seek an injunction in federal court that would stop contraction. Those are the steps the union successfully took in 1994-95 to block owners from changing the work rules in their expired labor contract, and the injunction caused players to end their strike after 232 days.

Q: If Montreal and Minnesota fold, that leaves 13 teams in the American League, 15 in the National League. What happens then?

A: Realignment. According to the rumored plan, Arizona will move from the NL West to the AL West, Texas from the AL West to the AL Central, and Pittsburgh from the NL Central to the NL East.

Q: Why Arizona?

A: When Diamondback owner Jerry Colangelo was granted an expansion franchise, it was with the provision that the team could be relocated without objection in its first five years.

Q: What is the weirdest thing that could happen out of all this?

A: Diamondback Manager Bob Brenly might manage the National League in next season's All-Star game, even though players from his team will play for the AL.

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