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MLB - Contract Owners, Not Teams

By James Anderson
Sunday, July 28th, 2002

Owners like Jeffrey Loria and Carl Pohlad are the prime examples of owners that don't need to own teams. Neither owner has an ability or willingness to run a top-notch franchise. Baseball leadership needs to look at their own house because it let Loria get rid of one franchise that he tried to run into the ground and buy right into the Florida Marlins. What's that about going from one troubled franchise directly to another?

Jeffrey Loria owned the Montreal Expos and couldn't accomplish a television deal for a Major League Baseball team. That's an absolute joke in a city like Montreal. He barely got a radio deal and that's in French.

The minority owners of the team are taking Loria and Commissioner Bud Selig to court for racketeering and fraud because of the way the team was run and the attempt to contract them. The owners feel they were lied to and that's not what they got into when they invested into the team.

I must not be very intelligent, but why would you let an owner like Loria get out of a bad situation in Montreal to take over another struggling franchise like Florida? The Marlins haven't been the same since the 1997 World Series team when they sold off anyone valuable afterwards.

The crowds haven't particularly been flooding the stadium to see the team regardless of the team's performance. Luis Castillo had a 35-game hitting streak and the crowds were pretty much the same. It seems like there's a pattern of leadership going on here. Nothing was done in Montreal and nothing is being done in Florida to help promote the team.

The Minnesota Twins have been on the contraction list for a while now, but this city is fighting back hard. They are going to court to save the team and the team has the biggest division lead in all of baseball. Attendance is about the same, but it's still higher than a lot of teams in baseball and the huge lead probably has taken the sense of urgency from fans. When it's all said and done, Minnesota has supported its team and the only person that wants the team contracted is the owner Carl Pohlad.

Pohlad was more than willing to let the Twins be contracted because he was going to make about $99 million dollars from contraction. He once loaned Bud Selig $4 million dollars while Selig was in charge of the Brewers, so clearly a favor was in store for Pohlad. It looks like contraction of the Twins was going to be the payback for that loan. Pohlad needs to be looking for another group of investors for the team rather than being determined to chase them out of town.

I think baseball needs to look at any future owners on why they want to own a team. If the only reason to own a team is to get a huge tax write-off, then they should be denied. A potential owner should be interviewed to find out what they are willing to do to win and make the franchise successful. If you aren't willing to add talent and spend a little bit of money, you're gone.

That's where the potential salary cap maximum and minimum come into play. An owner will have to prove they are willing and able to spend a minimum amount of money to maintain a team. Owners will have to keep some of their players rather than selling off the best ones by June each season.

The Oakland A's are the franchise to emulate. VP and General Manager Billy Beane is simply the best front office guy in baseball. Oakland seems to reload on pitching talent, which has kept them competitive for several years now. They make all the right little deals that keep them in the game until the next player is due for a big payday and someone fills that hole. Pitching wins and Beane must be a fortuneteller because the A's just seem to find the best pitchers among the thousands that try and play that position.

Seattle has clearly become adept at plugging in new faces, too. To lose Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Alex Rodriguez in successive years and yet get better says a lot about Pat Gillick. Seattle apparently will pay so much for its players before letting them go and that requires a general manager with some skill.

I'm not going to run down every team in baseball and say stay or go, but play to win or be eliminated -- it's that easy. An owner has to be willing to spend money or get a general manager that is talented at his job and can be a difference-maker. A team like Tampa Bay doesn't play to win and therefore has no business being in pro baseball. Tampa Bay acts like a farm system to the rest of baseball and there are already enough minor league teams to have one in the major leagues, too.

Baseball as a whole needs to do a better job at what people they let own teams. Having the upfront money to buy a team should not weigh as much as what they will do with a team. Everyone can't be like the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, and L.A. Dodgers in available money to spend, but you can't be as cheap as Tampa Bay, Montreal, and Kansas City, either.

Say what you want about George Steinbrenner, but he makes every effort to win every game. There's a lot of money in the world to be spent and only those willing to spend in order to win need apply for ownership.

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