Persons old enough to remember talk of contracting the Minnesota Twins might take a dim view of Forbes’ Mike Ozanian whispering, “from what I am hearing, I doubt there will be any baseball at Tropicana Field after 2014.”
“High-revenue team owners tell me the Rays are a dead brand commercially that needs to be pulled from life support,” sneers Ozanian, who must be on a first name basis with John Henry and Artie Moreno. However, Biz Of Baseball’s Maury Brown — who might have fewer imaginary famous friends as Ozanian — reminds residents of PLANET EARTH that “closing up clubs is not that simple”.
The MLBPA certainly had something to say about it in 2001 with the Expos and Twins, as they do today. Simply put, contraction equals laying off workers. Even if there were a dispersal draft, there would be less roster spots at the major league level, and even though they aren’t union members, the associated minor league clubs would be dissolved, as well. A source at the MLBPA confirmed that they would vigorously fight any attempt at contraction.
Unlike the Expos, who had no great broadcast deal, the Twins had reached one with Midwest Sports Channel in 1998 that would run through the 2003 season, and Fox Sports Net Minnesota had purchased all the assets associated with MSC. Now, just two years later, the Twins were saying they were interested in being contraction partners with the Expos after relocation efforts failed. Fox was applying pressure to hold the Twins to their broadcast agreements by suing them (see FOX SportsNet Minnesota v Minnesota Twins)
It’s possible that that would happen again. While Ozanian said that he doubts “there will be any baseball at Tropicana Field after 2014”, the fact is, the Rays reached an 8-year extension with FSN Florida in 2008, meaning that broadcast agreement won’t be expiring until 2016.
The real issue with all this contraction talk is, no owner in MLB is willing to allow relocation out of a club’s given territory. The owners of clubs that don’t have financial issues (and, ironically, that now includes the Twins), would rather try and contract teams rather than have them land in their “backyard”
In the unlikely event the Rays are contracted, I hope we can all remember the real victim : Greg Vaughn, denied an opportunity to play in a Tampa Old-Timer’s Day game.