Contraction is a touchy subject in any professional sport. No fan wants to hear even the slightest whisper from a league that it is considering taking away his or her team.
In Major League Baseball, if you’d like to know what fans think of contraction, just ask those of the Minnesota Twins, Montreal Expos or Florida Marlins what it felt like a few years ago when their teams' names were bandied about for the purposes of possible elimination.
Gone would be the history. Gone would be the tradition. Gone would be the favorite teams of so many diehard fans.
All of the effort exuded, all of the heartache suffered, all of the gnashing of teeth gnashed would have been wasted and pointless because somebody thought that the long-term viability and sustainability of franchises looked bleak and hopeless.
How are those three teams doing today?
The Expos were bought by Major League Baseball and relocated to Washington, D.C., where they have had several years of strong drafts and are beginning to look like a team that is capable of competing in the National League East before too much longer.
The Marlins have won a couple of World Series in their existence and are about to begin to play in a ballpark that they can truly call home. They’ve dabbled in extremely low payrolls over the years and routinely sell off high-profile (read: high-cost) talent for prospects, but it’s a system that has worked for them. Their profitability shouldn’t be in question once their new stadium opens, and their rebranding to become the “Miami Marlins” once they move in (circa 2012) certainly won’t hurt their image amongst their local fanbase.
As for Minnesota, they moved into their new digs (Target Field) to begin the 2010 season and saw their highest attendance and ticket revenues in their history. The outdoor stadium is gorgeous by all accounts and should keep people coming out in droves for some time on appearance and newness alone. The team on the field is perennially competitive in the American League Central Division and is built from within, which lends itself well to continued long-term success.
In other words, had the league decided to follow through with their harebrained scheme of contracting teams in Major League Baseball, none of the above would be happening today. No baseball in our nation’s capital, no new stadiums in any of the three places, the loss of countless fans (especially in Minnesota’s case since they draw western Wisconsin, the Dakotas and elsewhere as part of their reach) that would no longer have a team to call their own.
Minor league affiliates would have lost players through redrafting, and yes, talent level would have gone up on average, as 75 players would be absorbed back into the collective, but at significant cost to fan happiness and the game itself.
In short, it would have been a terrible idea.
Having said all that, allow me to tell you which five franchises Major League Baseball could do without should the topic ever come up again.
(Kind of a backhanded compliment situation, isn’t it?)
Look, the rest of this list will be much more serious in its discussion, but I couldn’t make a list of teams that baseball could do without and not put the loathe-able losers on it. As I'm a Milwaukee Brewers fan, you might claim bias on this selection, but allow me to explain.
They. Don’t. Win. What’s more, they probably never will. It’s all well and good that the movie Back to the Future II showed a headline in a newspaper of the Cubs winning the World Series, but that’s just the reason that the Cubs were selected for the bit. They don’t win, they won’t win and their fans are paying the price.
Year after year, generation after generation, countless people are born or bred into this hopeless group of idiots known as Cubs fans. I get it. If the Cubs ever do somehow win a World Series again, it’ll be the best feeling in the world for you, Cubs fans, but in the meantime you’re resigning yourself and your kids, if you are the type to procreate, to a lifetime of disappointment and failure.
Cubs fans can do something about this though. People of Chicago and the surrounding areas, you have another team that you can root for—one that has won a World Series in the last few years. That’s right, I’m going to say it: Cheer for the good guys in black. Become a White Sox fan.
Since, however, Cubs fans will never take that first step of admitting that they have a problem, it’s up to Major League Baseball to do something about it for them.
Contract the Chicago Cubs. Raze Wrigley Field to the ground before it collapses in on itself, probably killing thousands of people. (At the very least, clean the damn bathrooms with their urinal troughs.) Give the people that have never known a winner the excuse, nay, the boot to the ass that they need in order to abandon this constantly sinking ship before it finally disappears into the depths forever.
All 17 Blue Jays fans that day.
This slot almost included the Tampa Bay Rays, but despite their God-awful attendance and equally awful stadium, the Rays win and compete. The Jays and Orioles, however, are a different story.
The Orioles have been below .500 as a team for the past 13 seasons. While that figure pales in comparison to say, the Pittsburgh Pirates, it’s a lengthy run of awful. They haven’t broken the 70-win mark in five years.
It’s getting worse too. The win totals the last seven seasons for Baltimore are 78, 74, 70, 69, 68, 64 and 66. Before you get all excited at the two-win uptick, it’s probably a fluke.
Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds being added this offseason might help a little bit, but let’s be honest...wouldn’t a trip to a euthanasia clinic be better for all involved?
As for Toronto, they can be done without because they, like so many other teams around them because of a small market mentality and the basics of MLB economics, continue to trade away talented players.
Roy Halladay got traded away before the 2010 season to Philadelphia. 2010’s Opening Day starter, Shaun Marcum, was sent to Milwaukee in a trade about a month ago for the Brewers’ top prospect. What can we expect for 2011’s Opening Day starter? No doubt some sort of move to some other place that has a better chance to win.
Ultimately, though, the reason that both of these teams are on this list is that they play in the American League East, home of the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.
Yeah...neither of these teams is going to be worthwhile any time soon. Bash ‘em with a shovel and move on.
The uniqueness in this case study in ineptitude is that the Astros were actually good fairly recently. Beginning in 1996, the Astros posted four consecutive winning seasons and 10 of the next 11. They made the playoffs six times, reaching the World Series once (they were swept in the loss, but still).
But a funny thing happened on the way to the 2007 season. Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte left town back for the Big Apple. Roy Oswalt, truly an ace, was left to try to carry the entire team on his own. Oswalt was able to post a 14-7 record that year, but it was all for naught.
The Astros have been spiraling downward since to the point where Oswalt himself waived his no-trade clause in order to be dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies last year.
Group all of those issues with low attendance, continual managerial changes and a minor league system widely regarded as terrible, and despite the fairly recent history of success, Major League Baseball should do everyone a favor and nip this is in the bud for all the “fans” that Houston still somehow has.
Shin-Soo Choo shows off his gold medal which he won with Team Korea, which is easily the most success that any member of the Indians is going to have any time soon.
Has there ever been a more moribund franchise than the Cleveland Indians? They win 96 games in 2007 and then decide that they simply can’t spend money to retain their own top-flight talent.
Midway through the 2008 season, with his free agency pending at the end of the year, the Indians deal reigning Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers. They finish 2008 with 81 wins.
So what do they decide to do in 2009? How about trade another reigning Cy Young Award winner in Cliff Lee? His 22-3 record in 2008 clearly meant that he was much better off in a different uniform.
The Indians have poor attendance and little talent at the major league level if for no other reason than they trade it away. The unfortunate thing for Cleveland and their fans is that it’s not exactly like they’re Florida Marlins North in that they win a World Series and then trade away all their top-flight talent. Nope, they simply trade good and sometimes great players away without letting them win in Cleveland first.
If that messed-up direction from the Indians’ front office isn’t grounds for contraction, what is?
A perennially underperforming team in a perennially winnable division, the Oakland Athletics haven’t been serious contenders for any sort of quite some time.
Sure, they reached the ALCS as recently as 2006 after winning the American League West Division under Ken Macha, but they were swept into the offseason in four games.
They’ve had plenty of postseason successes in their history, but nothing recent. They went to three consecutive World Series in 1988-1990, winning one, and even won three consecutive World Series from 1972-1974, but as we all know, professional sports are very much a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” situation. And the Oakland Athletics, by way of Kansas City and Philadelphia, haven’t done much.
Their stadium is awful, they have bad attendance and they have strong competition for the fan dollar in their area, just to name a few problems.
Let’s break down those talking points:
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum hosted its first baseball game in 1968. That’s not a typo. Another figure that isn’t a typo is its capacity of 35,067. That’s after a 1995 renovation which added 22,000 seats, 90 luxury suites (along with two then-state-of-the-art scoreboards and two club areas). With so many new stadiums throughout the league, including one only 11 years old right across the bay, why would anyone want to sit in an old, ugly, bland and boring stadium?
The proof that nobody wants to come out to the old ballpark is seen in the attendance figures from the past few years. Let’s go back just five seasons. The highest they ranked in total attendance in that span of time? 26th. If you read back a bit, you’ll remember that the Athletics went to the ALCS in 2006. Their 2006 attendance ranking after 93 victories was 26th, and they couldn’t even break the two million mark in total attendance.
That’s pathetic support for a winning team. They don’t have those problems in that other stadium in the area that I mentioned.
Speaking of that other stadium, AT&T Park rests comfortably along the waterfront in San Francisco and plays home to the reigning world champion San Francisco Giants. There is some sentiment in the Bay Area that you’re either an A’s fan or a Giants fan, but not both. However, it’s nothing like the splits that exist in New York or Chicago.
The masses have a bit of bandwagon in them, and what better time to turn in your green and yellow for orange and black than when your near neighbor has just won it all? That makes it difficult for Oakland to attract new fans and even to simply retain the ones that they have. That’s not good for the bottom line.
This could really go on for quite a bit longer, but suffice it to say that with the problems, lack of a promising future and quite simply better options, the team that Major League Baseball could most easily do without is clear.
The teams that just missed making my top five are as follows (in no particular order):
San Diego Padres