Biogenesis Mess Has Shades of 2002 Contraction Debacle


The Tigers’ Jhonny Peralta has been linked to Biogenesis. Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

While the media has focused on Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun in the Biogenesis mess, here in Detroit we’ve been worried about the possible loss of shortstop Jhonny Peralta. It is a legitimate concern for a team trying to win their third straight divisional title as Peralta has been consistent in a lineup that has been all or nothing lately.

I’m not here to defend PED users. My concern is that Peralta, and other named players, had not failed a drug test as it relates to this matter. Furthermore, Anthony Bosch is a questionable character considering he allegedly tried to extort money from A-Rod before agreeing to cooperate with MLB to make most of his lawsuits go away.

Peralta’s case may be a little harder to prove. In the initial information made public in February, his name appeared in the records, but he was not tied to a specific substance. According to reports, Washington Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez is also tied to the report, but will not face discipline because the substances he acquired are not banned by MLB. So what’s to say Peralta is not in a similar situation?

Baseball has been extremely tight-lipped about the matter, so much of what has been reported in the media has been conjecture. But should baseball attempt to suspend players on the word of a potential liar, it wouldn’t be the first blunder for MLB.

Who remembers the proposed contraction of 2002? You should, because it involved one of the rivals of the Detroit Tigers, the Minnesota Twins. Flashback to the 2001 World Series when the Windsor Star reported baseball would be contracting the Montreal Expos and Florida Marlins, a report Selig vehemently denied.

The reason for the denial? It was the Twins, and not the Marlins, that were the other targeted team. At the time, the Twins were desperate to leave the Metrodome. The team had been threatening to leave the Twin Cities for places willing to build them a new stadium.

The Minnesota Twins’ franchise was nearly executed prior to the 2002 season. Credit:

It made sense that the Expos franchise needed to leave Canada either via relocation or in a symbolic pine box. But that’s where it got tricky, and perhaps a little underhanded. Montreal owner, Jeffrey Loria, was jumping ship to buy the Marlins, which would in turn free the Florida owner, John Henry, to buy the Boston Red Sox.  To make this happen, Bud Selig, once an owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, had to scratch his buddies backs by allowing baseball to assume ownership of the Expos (since no one wanted to buy a franchise that had an average attendance of 7,000 fans per game in 2001).

The best way to minimize the financial losses for baseball owning the walking dead franchise of Montreal was to simply disband the team. Yet to keep an even number of teams, they’d have to kill another team, and that turned out to be the Twins, who were a bad team at the time and in search of a modern ballpark.

Baseball ultimately backed off when a Minnesota judge ordered the Twins to honor the final year of their lease with the Metrodome for the 2002 season. It was decided to table contraction to 2003, but it was never really considered again.

On one hand, it would seem this was a horrible misstep for baseball. Trying to kill a beloved franchise in Minnesota to help a pair of owners achieve their goals. It was heavy-handed, much like a mass suspension on minimal evidence would be in the Biogenesis case.

The epilogue to the 2002 ordeal is favorable. Minnesota, who had eight straight losing seasons from 1993 to 2001, won the American League Central in 2002. They won six division titles in 10 years, and opened Target Field in 2010.

The Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals with an orchestrated move by baseball, and received a beautiful new stadium. Lauria’s Marlins scored a new stadium, brought in a ton of talent to open it in 2012, and when they didn’t gel, they had a fire-sale. Lauria now has an empty new stadium and the worst team in the majors.

Henry guided the Red Sox to their first World Series title since 1918 in 2004, and another in 2007.

So all is right in the world of baseball post-contraction. A horrible idea led to positive outcomes. So was this the plan all along? Is this baseball’s end game for the Biogenesis saga?

Only time will tell.