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Keith Hernandez wants to contract four teams. Does it make any sense?

Jun 28, 2010, 9:47 AM EDT

I don't think it does, but who would you contract if you could? And why?

I missed this the other day, but Keith Hernandez was quoted in the USA Today saying that if baseball really wants to speed up the game it needs to stop pussyfooting around with the rules and simply axe four teams, thereby eliminating the worst 45-50 pitchers in the game.  You know, the ones who can’t throw strikes.

Notably, Mex doesn’t say which teams he’d contract, probably because that would be hard and controversial.  You find this sort of lack of specificity with anyone who talks big about hard issues, be it contraction, the collective bargaining agreement, drug policy and the like. It has its analog in politics with people who talk big about reducing the deficit but never say what, exactly, they’d cut.

But I’ll cut Hernandez some slack here because he actually goes on more about how long games are a function of pitcher usage rather than pitcher quality, saying that the real problem is when a starter who is cruising is lifted due to a pitch count and the bullpen takes over. I’ll join in with that complaint. Less so on pitch count grounds — you have to be careful with young guys — than on the grounds that La Russian hyper-substitution and specialization are just total game-stoppers that lead to more innings being thrown by worse pitchers.

I’d still like to hear who he’d contract, though.  Or you too, by the way, if you agree with a contraction scheme.  Put your contraction arguments in the comments. But let’s keep it pragmatic. Everyone can name the four worst teams in baseball. But it’s not like you can just contract anyone. Most teams have new ballparks that make contraction a political impossibility. Many of the usual suspects — the Marlins, the Pirates, etc. — also tend to be quite profitable, meaning that their owners would likely fight tooth and nail against such a thing.

Really — and I’m not advocating this at all, so don’t jump all over me — the only teams that seem like they could even arguably be contracted, politically speaking, are the Athletics, Blue Jays and Rays. The A’s and Rays each have stadium problems, and messing with the Jays wouldn’t have U.S. political repercussions. At least not those as immediate and severe as those arising out of attempts to contract any of the other 29 teams. The A’s, Rays and Jays also have the added benefit of rhyming, and that might make the media cut a contraction plan more slack because we like little rhyming headlines and stuff.

Ultimately I don’t think you could do it, even if there was a will on the part of baseball to try. Which there is not.  But I would love to hear your arguments.

  1. BC - Jun 28, 2010 at 9:59 AM

    Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Houston are three pretty obvious ones. And just for a hoot, why not contract Baltimore and put Angelos out of his misery (and ours).

  2. BC - Jun 28, 2010 at 10:01 AM

    Or wait, I got it. Milwaukee. What better drama than Bud Light contracting his own team?

  3. Old Gator - Jun 28, 2010 at 10:10 AM

    I would contract the Borg, the Beanbags, the Bums and the Rangers. The Borg, because it’d be a superb anti-inflationary move, there’s already a team in New York and with George Steinbrenner gone, it’s got a more entertaining executive staff now. The Beanbags, because like the Borg they force up the price of labor – and anyway, with no Borg, what’s the point of the Beanbags’ continued existence anyway? We could do nicely without the Bums because there’s already a team in the area – the Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Tarzana, Culver City, Inglewood, Burbank, Venice, Pasadena, Glendale and Oxnard Angels of Manhattan Beach, Garden Grove, Newport, Laguna, Capistrano and Anaheim; worse, the Bums are liable to wind up being run by a woman, and we all saw what that was like in Cincinnatti – even if Jamie doesn’t harbor any heretofore undisclosed Nazi sympathies. The Rangers, because Hicks is an asshole who uncorked the evil genie of absurd payrolls, we’re all sick and tired of hearing about their bankruptcy fiasco, which anyway reminds us all too much of those pain in the ass telephone calls we get from our own goddamned creditors.

  4. Megary - Jun 28, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    When looking at a set of data it is sometimes helpful to disregard any points at the extremes…throw out the high and low. Practically speaking, the game would be more competitive without The Yankees and Pirates (or Royals if you don’t believe in the “process”). However, MLB probably needs the Yankees moreso than the reverse. (The Bombers could probably exist sans an organized league in a Globetrotters kind of way, even if they would need to use an “ABA” style baseball to really make that work.)

  5. Jonny5 - Jun 28, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    I couldn’t name any. The agony fans endure when a team changes cities is enough, let alone when they just go belly up for good. I watched the Jackie Robinson story (again, with my 8 year old this time) last night and thought of how rough it would be for my team to just up and move to Cali. The thought of that alone made me puke in my mouth a little. BTW Jackie did a pretty good job with that movie, he is one of the very few, maybe only, American sports figures who actually changed our country for the better.

  6. Aarcraft - Jun 28, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    Houston? The 4th largest city in the U.S., with a top 10 TV market. I guess because the Astros are bad right now. That pretty myopic, don’t you think?

  7. Brad - Jun 28, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    I think most baseball fans would love to contract the Yankees. That would solve a lot of baseball’s competative balance problems right there, and we’d be rid of all their annoying fans who can’t have a reasonable discussion about baseball.

  8. BC - Jun 28, 2010 at 10:49 AM

    Drayton McLane is a horrible owner – the guy is worth more than Steinbrenner and hasn’t done anything to improve the team in the last 5 years. Their farm system stinks and 2 of their three good players (Oswalt and Berkman) are likely to be gone (I’m counting Bourn as the other good player). They’re going to be awful for the forseeable future. Why not shoot them? They should thank their lucky stars that the Pirates are in their division, or they’d lose 115 games.

  9. APBA Guy - Jun 28, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    At the end of the week I’ll have a superb assessment because by then the A’s will have played Pittsburgh (A’s swept), Cleveland, and Baltimore. Combined with Gator’s Feesh input and the general comments around KC, that’s a fine survey of the likely candidates. Right now I’d lean Baltimore, because the MASN contract the Nats had to sign is an affront to man and nature, which can only mean it is the unholy spawn of Selig and Angelos. And that’s reason enough for contraction.

  10. funi - Jun 28, 2010 at 12:15 PM

    Lokk at the newest teams to be contratced! Fla, Colorado, AZ and T.B.! But we know all 4 won’t know go. A few years ago, everyone wanted Minnesota to be contacted now look at them! Look at the history of teams. Sure Pirates have been bad, however 5 world series! Cubs none in over 100 years! Look at teams with new stadiums within last 10-15 years. Mets are second fiddle in New York as are the Angels in L.A. Tampa plays in a horrible stadium and sucked for years until the young players started to play, like the Pirates will be. Look at the population of cities of these teams and attendance of these teams. If you have 3-4 million in a city abd can’t not sell out, there is a problem! If you contract 4 teams, I say Florida, T.B, Milwaukee and yes the CUBS!

  11. Ditto65 - Jun 28, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    Hey, watch it! You are just jealous of the 27 rings and Jeter’s jump-turn-throw (it really is amazing!)!

  12. Will - Jun 28, 2010 at 1:00 PM

    I hate it when I agree with Gator, but I’d nuke the Cubs rather than the Rangers just to keep it to two teams in each league.

  13. scatterbrian - Jun 28, 2010 at 1:39 PM

    So much for pragmatism…

  14. scatterbrian - Jun 28, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    I don’t see the need to dump four teams, but two teams seems feasible. The math still isn’t perfect, as you’d likely have 14 teams in each league but no even distribution for divisions. But it does provide an opportunity for a more radical change: have each team play the other 27 teams six times, three at home and three on the road. (27 x 6 = 162)

  15. Utley's hair - Jun 28, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    Just throwing this out there in the spirit of the World Cup–what about relegation?

  16. Ditto65 - Jun 28, 2010 at 2:52 PM

    Ditch Califronia.

  17. MG19 - Jun 28, 2010 at 3:29 PM

    ditch the muts…theyre just gross, and there colors are the ones of throwup.
    realistically, everytime has been successful in their history one time or another (pirates of the 70s, royals of whenever i forgot, cal ripken and few success stories of the orioles, and even the phillies who have lost the most games of ALL time, but they did win in 80, my friends) so bottom line is, shutup keith, nothing you say will change shit.

  18. Flup - Jun 28, 2010 at 4:01 PM

    This thread would be funny if it weren’t annoying. Everyone wants either to contract the teams that have been bad in recent seasons, or the teams that irritate them (although here OG gets a pass, since his is the only post that’s clearly intentionally ironic). Which I guess goes to show that there are no clear candidates for contraction. Realignment, now, that is worth considering.
    MG19 – if you look at winning percentage, the O’s were pretty much the best team in the AL for twenty years running from the mid sixties through the early eighties. So: more than “a few success stories.” It depresses me to hell that nobody remembers what a great team the Orioles were.

  19. Boo Hoo Florio picked on your team - GET OVER IT - Jun 28, 2010 at 7:48 PM

    I’d contract Keith Hernandez.
    Every time we have contraction talk, everybody goes scrambling for the franchises doing the worst win/loss-wise. But that’s dumb, as you pointed out, because most of those owners undercut their teams in the name of profit. Carl Pohlad of the Twins is one of the richer owners in the league yet proclaims his franchise can’t afford to keep up with the Joneses. Balderdash. It’s a money-making business for some of these owners, not a passion.
    I’d rather talk about contracting [i]owners[/i] for the good of baseball. Jeffrey Lurie would be an obvious top choice.

  20. walk - Jun 28, 2010 at 8:10 PM

    Take average payroll over a period of years, say last 10-15 years cut the four lowest payrolls or go by attendance. Those may even be the same teams. Hmmm wonder if fan graphs has that info, think im gonna go grab a beer and see if i can find something on it. The issue i have with contraction is it is a case of what have you done for me lately. For instance Baltimore is a historic team but are sucking it up right now and i bet many people would place them on list to be contracted, just food for thought.

  21. MG19 - Jun 29, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    im 19 years old, cant help it..thats why i didnt name any specifics because i would have been way off

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