More on the Orioles

Do you know who else is an Orioles fan?  David Simon. 

Here are a couple of pieces he wrote on the Orioles.

From what I’ve read, Simon did not start off an Orioles fan.  First, he was a Senators fan. But he was a fan of the expansion Senators, a team that really, for the most part, stunk; it appears that Simon kinda liked the fact that he rooted for a team that was bad. In some ways it was a badge of honor. When Simon began to root for the Orioles, they too were a pretty bad team, but that was well after I was a Sox fan and had left the Orioles for the even more painful pastures of Red Sox devotion – that is until 2004. We’ll get to that but I’m sure your asking, “What is this expansion stuff you are talking about?”

Now, this is where baseball and the lineage of its teams gets complicated and hard to follow. Baseball, though, isn’t really alone in this. Basketball and football have their own examples of team moves and names changes as well. The bottom line is, I think, all about the money, as most everything is in business. Owners wanted more money and thought they could find greater opportunity (read cash) elsewhere. Some owners were right and some were not.  For baseball, moving franchises and expanding the game to include more teams led to some pretty weird history for baseball teams. And, some financial missteps.

You saw earlier that the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers moved to the left coast in 1958. Travel became easier for teams and some owners saw a vast, untapped market in California. They wanted to cash in. I’m not quite sure why the owner of the Senators, Calvin Griffith, wanted to move to Minnesota, but as the Post posits in his obituary, he was seeking more money. Really kind of a shame. The Senators were good and Griffith spent most of his life in DC. I can’t figure out why people move for money when their legacy would have been so much better if they’d stayed. As an aside, Calvin Griffith sure was an ugly dude.

But, in 1960 the Washington Senators, for whatever reason, wanted to move to Minnesota. Baseball, though, gave Griffith a hard time about the move. A deal was struck where Griffith got his wish and the Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins. In exchange, Washington got an expansion team called, you guessed it, the Washington Senators. The other expansion team settled in Los Angeles. They were named the Angels.

So the new Senators started there own blood line with the same name as the old Senators that moved to Minnesota. I imagine that must have been a tough choice for an old Senators fan. Root for the Twins and all the players you’d grown up with but are now far away in Minnesota or start anew with the new Senators. Of course these new Senators stunk. Why? Well, they had to pick their team in what is called an expansion draft. What is that, you ask?

Well, each baseball team has a 40 man roster, but during the season a team is only allowed to have 25 men on their big league team. This is their 25 man roster. A baseball team has more then 40 players throughout the majors and minors but they have to pick 40 to be on the 40 man roster as well. The extra 15 players are ones who can be called up rather quickly to the 25 man roster if a need should arise – an injury or a trade for example. I can get into the roster in more detail later. It can get pretty complicated and gets into things like service time and player control issues. But, for now, you just need to know that teams had and have a 25 man roster and a 40 man roster. The other fifteen guys on the 40 man roster are in the minors but can be pretty highly valued players. Some, though, are just for depth and could be considered filler players in a pinch.

For this expansion draft, in simple terms, each of the existing American League teams had to make available seven players from their 25 man roster and eight other players from their 40 man roster.  There are more details, but you get the picture. The players that were not protected were okay but not great. The new look new Senators ended up not being too good. Not much of a surprise. Here is a little bit more about the expansion draft.

Baseball has had six expansion drafts; 1960 was the first one. Here are the teams that were added in the expansion drafts:

  • 1960 Washington Senators and Los Angeles Angels
  • 1961 New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s
  • 1968 Montreal Expos, San Diego Padres, Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots
  • 1976 Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners
  • 1992 Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies
  • 1997 Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks

Now some of these teams don’t exist and you might be asking why does Seattle have two teams? Well, Seattle doesn’t have two teams.  Read on for an explanation of what happened to the teams you don’t hear anything about today.

The Colt .45s were renamed the Houston Astros three years after their founding as the Colt .45s. As you can imagine, it was pretty hot playing baseball in Houston in the summer. So, in 1964, they opened a domed stadium called the Astrodome and named the team after the stadium. I don’t think it was any kind of gun backlash, after all Texans seem to like their guns.

The Montreal Expos are a complicated story and make you wonder about baseball a bit. The Expos had some pretty decent teams, finishing first once and second 7 times in their 35 year history. They never won a World Series and never a National League title. The worst thing for the Expos was that they finished first in 1994, but that season was shortened and canceled because of a strike by the players in August 1994. The playoffs, including the World Series, were also canceled. The Expos and their fans got screwed. The strike hurt baseball but really seemed to hurt the Expos because they were looking to build a new ballpark – they played in a place called Olympic Stadium that was built for the Montreal Olympics (where Frank Shorter won the marathon for the US) and was not really built for baseball games. It was not a great place to watch a game; ask Marc, he’s seen a game at Olympic Stadium I think. After the 1994 season, the ownership of the Expos held a fire sale and got rid of all their really good players. Attendance suffered and never really came back.

In 1999 a guy named Jeffrey Loria took control of the Expos. To many people, he is a really bad apple. He sought a new stadium for the Expos, but for once a city said no. The city government actually said it could not justify building a stadium with public money when it was also closing hospitals.

Now things get a little conspiracy like. In 2001, baseball (meaning the 30 owners) voted to contract and eliminate two teams. It was rumored that the Expos and Twins would be the teams shutting down (the only two teams voting against contraction were, not suprising, the Expos and Twins). Now it gets weird and the Sox are tangentially tied in. In 2001 the Sox were sold to John Henry, then the owner of the Marlins. To make this possible – you can’t own two franchises – Henry sold the Marlins to Loria. All 30 owners then agreed to form a corporation called Expos Baseball LP to buy the Expos from Loria. Loria took all the Expos personnel (not players though), scouting reports, office equipment and computers to Florida. It looked like this was the first step to shutting down the Expos and completing baseball’s master contraction plan.

However, back in Minnesota the owner of the stadium where the Twins played got an injunction from a court requiring the Twins to play there in 2002. Baseball needed two teams to contract otherwise they would have an odd number of teams and scheduling would be a nightmare. So, the Expos lived, albeit on life support and with not much oxygen. MLB then owned the Expos and hired a staff to run the team.  You can imagine there were lots of conflicts here. It was a crazy time. MLBs ownership of the Expos kept up until 2004. Finally, MLB moved the Expos to Washington and renamed them the Washington Nationals. Crazy stuff. But, baseball owners can be crazy, selfish people.

Now you ask, why isn’t there a Senators and Nationals team in Washington. Well, because the new Senators (not the old Senators that became the Twins) moved in 1972 to Arlington, Texas and became the Texas Rangers. Three things about the new Senators/Rangers. First, Marc’s favorite player was Frank Howard, who played most of his career for the new Senators. Second, Ted Williams was the Senators manager when they moved to Texas. Third, George Bush the Younger was a part owner of the Rangers. Wonder how he got that gig, huh?

The Seattle Pilots are not related to the Seattle Mariners, the 1976 expansion team. The Pilots moved from Seattle in 1970 only two years after their creation. You’d think these owners would have some idea about the viability of a team in a certain city wouldn’t you? The Pilots moved to Milwaukee in 1970 and became the Brewers. Here is another moment of incest. There had been a team in Milwaukee before the Brewers. It was the Milwaukee Braves. Do you know who played for the Braves? Hank Aaron, the guy who hit more home runs then Babe Ruth and was then surpassed by Barry Bonds. The Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966. Milwaukee had been without a team for a while and there had been a push from this car salesman and former minority owner of the Milwaukee Braves to get a team back in Milwaukee. Have you ever heard of Bud Selig? No. Well, he was that car salesman and eventually became the commissioner of baseball; he still is commissioner. Odd, huh? Selig bought the Pilots and moved the team to Milwuakee. There was lots of legal wrangling, but in the end, the Pilots moved to Seattle.

That sounds pretty incredible doesn’t it. All these moves and financial collapses and sales and moves and collapses. It makes you wonder if baseball owners have much business sense or if they lose their minds when they own a team or if they expect public support and have no fallback position when that fails. Whatever the reason, there is lots of inside dealing in baseball. We’ll get back to that some more as we talk about the Red Sox.

I didn’t get back to the Orioles after all in this post. I promise I will in the next post. Weird how one tangent leads you to another and next thing you know you are talking about the business and expansion of baseball.

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