Then, when the deadline officially passed and it was up to Major League Baseball to possibly take the District of Columbia to binding arbitration, they balked. They gave more time. Finally, the D.C. Council passed legislation, but it isn't to the liking of Bud Selig and his buddies. Now, it goes to arbitration? Not yet. Why the feet dragging? There's no new owner and not even a stadium deal in place. Curious.
Consider that further down I-95, the Florida Marlins are embarking on a well publicized search for a new home. Now, one of the places that they're talking to is Norfolk, Virginia. A great town and an area that could potentially support baseball. There's already a movement afoot there to bring baseball to town and they were even mentioned as a potential home for the Nationals (of course, back then they were the Expos). So, with the Orioles, Nationals and Marlins (or whatever they would be called) all within a short distance of each other, Orioles owner Peter Angelos has to be threatening one lawsuit after another and going completely ballistic, right? Nope. Not a word. Curious.
Then, the other week, the Minnesota Twins received a favorable court ruling that said they don't have to play in the Metrodome past 2006. Oh, and that news didn't get a lot of play in the media. Twins owner Carl Pohlad wasn't thumping his chest about needing a new stadium and neither was Selig or anyone else from baseball for that matter. Curious.
Finally, there's the little publicized paragraph in the collective bargaining agreement - which ends after the 2006 season - that allows Major League Baseball to contract two teams effective for the 2007 season, but they have to do so by July 1st and they also have to announce the teams by then. Curious.
Now, you may think that I'm looking at this and thinking that the Twins and Marlins simply get contracted. Wrong. I'm looking at this and thinking that the Twins and Nationals get contracted. Stay with me on this one.
Pohlad is 90 years old and had basically volunteered his team for contraction a few years ago. His one son wanted to try to save the franchise and contraction was called off anyway, so it wasn't necessary. Now though, his son has also soured on the potential long-term future of the club and Selig still loves the idea of contraction. Plus, there's no messy stadium lease to hold the Twins in Minnesota or even in existance for that matter. MLB simply gives Pohlad $200 million and the Twins become a note in the history books of baseball.
So, why do the Nationals get contracted? First of all, there is no owner to buyout. The other owners did that a few years ago and still own the team. They simply eat their investment, which is easier than having to pay out another $200 million or so to Jeff Loria to buyout the Marlins and contract them. Then, the Marlins move into Norfolk, which is certainly more agreeable to Angleos, but still close enough to D.C. to draw some fan base and also fit into the Orioles cable network which MLB conveniently set up for them. In short, contraction not only solves the problems of two struggling teams, but of three struggling teams.
Then, there is the fact of the collective bargaining agreement ending. Selig doesn't have to negotiate contraction, but the players union could insist on things like adding a spot or two to both the 25 and 40 man rosters to make up for the jobs that would be lost. Not a deal breaker and since neither side wants a labor issue again, it's likely that the CBA is simply renegotiated and another deal is done in time for the 2007 season. Oh sure, there will be some tough words and nasty little threats thrown back and forth and then everybody will be all smiles as another work stoppage is avoided and everybody is happy.