A Campos View

Jason Campos

Baseball has for the most part done a remarkable job in rebounding from the ill effects of the owners’ lockout in 1994. Players and teams have given the fans a reason to once again take more than a passing interest in the country’s pastime.

Some highlites of the past seven years: Cal Ripken beat Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played record in 1995. The home run record for a season has been broken not once, but twice. And most recently, the World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks, which featured some drama and late game heroics that stirred the interest of the average person.

But Bud Selig and baseball owners think the game needs to be given a facelift. Last week, Selig announced that Major League Baseball would contract from its current 30 team makeup to 28, possibly as soon as next season. (In fact, the owners wanted to eliminate four teams, but it was finally decided that it would only be two teams for now.)

But the owners are treading down a path that could lead to a nasty battle between MLB and the Players Union. But I won’t talk about that potential mess right now.

Now the state of economics in baseball is not fine. Many teams struggle to generate the revenue in order to compete with the “big boys,” i.e. New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles. These financially strapped teams have a difficult time putting together a ball club that can compete day in and day out.

I believe that baseball has too many teams. Actually, baseball does not have enough top line players for thirty teams. During the 1990s, baseball expanded twice, adding two teams both in 1993 and 1998. Suddenly, players that would have been in the minor leagues found themselves playing everyday on a big league ball club.

However, even though I am not necessarily against the go ahead that baseball has given for contraction, I do have reservations about the “solution.” The main problems that the game has are not being addressed. The Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos can disappear, but the financial disadvantages that many teams would still have do not.

The disparity in team revenue comes from the television and radio deals and new ballparks. Millions of dollars can be funneled into the payroll and these teams can pursue the big free agents by outbidding the small market teams.

Money does not guarantee a championship (just ask a Red Sox fan), but it does help. The last ten World Series champions all had high payrolls. Teams with low payrolls, such as Kansas City and Pittsburgh have had for years, have not even come close to the playoffs.

Will the contraction help the game of baseball? Probably. But the motive for the contraction has nothing to do with the play on the field. It has everything to do with the wallet. Owners don’t want the deadwood of the Minnesota, Montreal, Florida, or Tampa Bay because those teams hinder their own income revenue capability.