Jerry Reinsdorf Says The C Word

Chairman of the Board of the Chicago White Sox Jerry Reinsdorf on the field before the start of a game against the Texas Rangers at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

The White Sox chairman was at a fundraiser, and mentioned the word "contraction". Should baseball eliminate two teams?

A fundraiser was held in Chicago Wednesday night to support baseball in Israel and Israel's attempt to make the 2013 World Baseball Classic in a qualifying tournament in September.*

* If they qualify, the Israeli team might be better than you think, as it can draw from Jewish minor-leaguers and former major leaguers such as Gabe Kapler and Shawn Green.

White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was on a speakers' panel at this fundraiser and, as he did a decade ago, raised the issue of contracting major-league baseball teams:

"I don't see any baseball expansion right now," he said. "If it were up to me, I would contract two teams. But I certainly don't think expansion [is] on the horizon."

When fans yelled, "What two teams?" Reinsdorf clammed up.

"I have a habit of getting myself into trouble," he said. "I just did yesterday. So I'm not going to (get in trouble)."

Ten years ago, when the topic of contraction was briefly on the front burner, the Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos were mentioned as possible candidates. But the Twins have a new stadium now, and the Expos are now the Washington Nationals, a team with a shiny new ballpark and the best record in the National League, and a team that seems headed for a date with October.

So unclam Reinsdorf's mouth. Which two teams could he have been speaking of?

The logical assumption is that he's thinking about the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics, the only two clubs that don't have either:

  • a classic, revered old ballpark, or
  • a renovated stadium suited to the modern age, or
  • a new stadium built within the last two decades

The Rays, though, have made the playoffs three of the last four years and are still in wild-card contention; they've been one of the best-run organizations in recent years. The A's have been on an amazing 15-2 run this month and, far ahead of perhaps even their own timetable to contention, find themselves the wild-card leaders Thursday morning. Reinsdorf might like the A's to go away, so as to eliminate their stadium issue, but that isn't likely to happen.

Further, MLB is about to enter a big change in 2013 with realignment into two odd-numbered leagues for the first time; the Astros are switching leagues and divisions, with year-round interleague play on the horizon. It's unlikely that owners would approve switching back to 14-team leagues so soon after making this somewhat-radical change.

Though Reinsdorf dismissed the possibility of expansion, that would seem to be the logical end to all of this -- adding two teams to make a pair of 16-team leagues, which would allow realignment into four four-team divisions in each league, as the NFL has done. Obviously, right now, with the economy still in tatters, isn't the right time to expand, but I can easily see MLB doing this, perhaps a decade from now.

What do you think? Should MLB contract, and if so, which teams should be contracted? Or, if you think baseball could expand by a pair of clubs, where would they go? Vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments.

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