- Jon Greenberg, Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Speaking on a panel discussion about baseball in Israel, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was asked by a fan about the possibility of international expansion. He said he'd rather see two teams contracted.
"I don't see any baseball expansion right now," he said. "If it were up to me, I would contract two teams. But I certainly don't think expansion on the horizon."
When fans yelled, "What two teams?" Reinsdorf clammed up.
"I have a habit of getting myself into trouble," he said. "I just did yesterday. So I'm not going to (get in trouble)."
While the possibility seems unlikely today, these aren't Reinsdorf's first public comments about the possibility of eliminating teams. In early 2002, he spoke of the possibility of contracting the Minnesota Twins and the benefits it would have for then-owner Carl Pohlad, telling The New York Times: 'We're not doing Carl a favor. 'If the Twins are one of the teams and Carl lets us contract him, he'd be doing us a favor.''
Reinsdorf also said to expect "an international draft, except for Japan, in the next couple of years."
Sitting a few seats away from Reinsdorf, Cubs president Theo Epstein was a little more guarded in his remarks.
Appearing during a question and answer panel with Reinsdorf, Gabe Kapler and Steve Stone for a fundraiser for the local chapter of the Israel Association of Baseball, Epstein naturally wouldn't talk about the team's current trade impasse with pitcher Ryan Dempster.
"We haven't commented on that yet, and I'm not going to start now," Epstein said with a smile. "He pitched a great game today."
The event, held at Harry Caray's restaurant, was to raise money to build up baseball in Israel and drum up support for Israel's first World Baseball Classic team. Team Israel has to qualify in a mid-September tournament against South Africa, France and Spain. The qualifying team can't use major leaguers, but could draw from Jewish minor leaguers whose season is over, along with retired players such as Kapler and Shawn Green.
Manager Brad Ausmus has a list of 50 players to draw from. Former Cub Adam Greenberg, who was hit in the head in his only major league plate appearance, tweeted recently that he's going to play on the team.
"You're talking about South Africa, Spain and France," Kapler said. "I think we're going to be very competitive."
White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis has been approached, and told ESPNChicago, "If we qualify, I think we'll have a good team."
Epstein was asked several questions from a Cubs-friendly crowd, from "What (non-Jewish) Cub would make the best Jew?" (Epstein ad-libbed, "Star of David-lin Castro.") to more secular inquiries.
When asked when he realistically thought the Cubs could compete, Epstein said, "When I took the job, they told me I wasn't allowed to talk about timetables, so I'll talk around them."
And so he did.
Reinsdorf was asked about adding pitching to his playoff-contending club, specifically bringing back Mark Buehrle, considering Miami's so-called fire sale. Reinsdorf admitted he advised Buehrle to sign with the Marlins.
"The only thing I can tell you is when Mark told me he had a $56-million, four-year contract offer, I told him he should take it," Reinsdorf said. "I really told Mark he had to take it. At this stage of your career, it's more money than you're worth. He said he was going to take it, but he'll back in four years."
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf sounded open to the idea of contraction in baseball.