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March 09, 2011
Contraction's just another word for nothing left to lose in stadium campaigns
I neglected to post a link yesterday to my latest Baseball Prospectus column on MLB's renewed specter of contraction. Skipping right to the stadium content:
As in 2001, much of this is likely being driven by stadium games. Back then, it was the Expos and the Twins that were in the midst of multi-year, till-then-fruitless campaigns to get public money for new stadiums in their home cities; the only reason the Twins were on the contraction list in the first place, despite being in the nation's 14th-largest media market and having a reasonable record of on-field success (they'd go on to win a division title in 2002), was that Pohlad was looking to either scare Minnesota taxpayers into coughing up stadium cash, or get a quick payoff to make his years-long stadium fight into somebody else's headache.
Likewise, on many levels contracting the A's and Rays makes no sense at all. The two Bay Areas are 6th and 14th nationwide in TV market size (Tampa-St. Pete snuck past Minneapolis-St. Paul in 2005); even if you split the S.F.-Oakland-San Jose 7.4-million-person megalopolis in two and grant the A's the smaller slice, that's still a bigger market than most teams have to play with. Both teams have been successful on the field; the Rays weren't that far below league-average in attendance last year, and even the A's routinely drew 2 million fans a year before Wolff decided to artificially reduce capacity by tarping off the Coliseum's entire upper deck. If Kang and Kodos were to land on earth with a mission of wiping a major-league baseball team off the map, they could make a far better case for, say, the Pirates, who play in the 24th-largest TV market (and shrinking), have only drawn 2 million fans once in the last 19 years (2001, when PNC Park opened), haven't smelled October baseball in just as long, and are likewise getting $60 million a year in combined revenue-sharing and central fund money.
The difference, of course, is that the Pirates already have a new stadium, while the A's and Rays are still in the hunt for them.
Much, much more if you click the link, including a 61-and-counting comment thread arguing about the best way to solve baseball's revenue sharing problems, or whether they're even problems that need to be solved in the first place.