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The Economics of Baseball Contraction

The Economics of Baseball Contraction


In the fall of 2001, Commissioner Bud Selig announced that two teams would be eliminated from Major League Baseball. After ensuing litigation and collective bargaining, contraction has been postponed until 2007 but remains a possibility. This article examines the economics of contraction of teams in a sports league, first developing the basic welfare economics of expansion and contraction and then investigating whether the private incentives of existing teams lead to inefficient contraction decisions. The core finding is that, using financial information from the 2001 season, all teams in Major League Baseball probably generate positive net social benefits, but the existing teams will benefit by approximately $1 billion from the elimination of the two weakest teams.
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