The AP reports that not only were the World-Series champion Anaheim Angels one of the teams targeted in last year's contraction plans, a plan to move the A's to Anaheim had been delineated according to official major-league documents including a December 11, 2001 internal memo that the AP somehow got its hands on.
The basis of the move is spelled out in a Contraction Issue list that Selig's office put together: "Angels want to 'sell;' Athletics want to move." It also mentioned that the deal was "complicated by public ownership (i.e., via Disney) of the Angels."
The complete list of considered teams is: Anaheim, Arizona, Florida, Kansas City, Minnesota, Montreal, Oakland, San Diego and Tampa Bay. Arizona, you may recall was the reigning champs at the time. Four of those teams made the playoffs in 2002. And Florida and San Diego had made it to the World Series in the past five years. Interestingly Milwaukee is conspicuously absent from the list.
I believe that Rob Neyer came up with a similar list last year when it was leaked that 6-8 teams were being considered.
The Powers That Be in baseball shrug off the Angels' inclusion in the list:
"We looked internally at dozens and dozens of options," [COO Bob] DuPuy said. "This one was one of the options discussed based on the ownership situations at the time. It was never given serious consideration."
As far as I am concerned, this just underscores the wanton greed behind the contraction rhetoric. For the want of a Carl Pohlad-type owner the Angels happened not to make the final list. The Angels were a viable team in the number-two market. They had been a perennial competitive if not exactly good team for decades (1980 was the last full season in which they failed to win 70 games). They had drawn betwen 2 and 2.5 million fans since 1998 and had not failed to draw a million fans since 1974. They had one of the world's biggest entertainment companies funding them. Why not consider contracting the Yankees if the Angels are a potential target?
What ticks me off even more is that baseball was so blase about the issue that they considered moving the A's to Anaheim, players and all, as if the fans wouldn't notice the change. If they had done that Robert Irsay's spiriting the Colts out of Baltimore under cover of darkness would have seemed fan friendly.
Of course, baseball needs to move forward to bring back the fan base. But with Ephedera, Pete Rose, and stories like this one this spring, it appears that Bud and the boys' already strained coping techniques are on overload. All they need is another tied All-Star game for the house of cards to come tumbing down.