Union officials concede that management has the right to determine the number of franchises, but the MLPBA retains the right to bargain over a number of issues that would spring directly from contraction. That's why union director Donald Fehr has indicated that the players would resist any contraction proposal that wasn't negotiated as part of the greater collective bargaining agreement that the union and ownership will try to hammer out over the next several months.
There are other obstacles, too. Baseball could be expected to face a variety of lawsuits from public and private entities that suffer economic harm as a result of contraction. The industry might also face new pressure from federal lawmakers to relinquish its antitrust protection.
The upside is obvious. The remaining franchises would enjoy a larger cut of the sport's television revenues and - in the case of a plan that would eliminate the Twins and Expos - recoup the approximately $20 million a team that annually filters down to those franchises through revenue sharing.
Critics of contraction say that the benefit would work out to about $4 million a team annually and probably would be eaten up by increased payroll expenditures. If so, that would not justify the cost of buying out the two folded franchises, which could cost each of the remaining 28 major-league clubs up to $15 million.
The other option, of course, is relocation. There are ownership groups waiting in Washington for the chance to buy one of the struggling franchises and put it either in a new downtown stadium or in suburban Northern Virginia, but that isn't likely to happen in the very near future.
Selig's opposition to relocation and his desire to keep ownership united for the coming labor negotiations make it unlikely that he'll ignore the opposition of Angelos and water down the Orioles' fan base.