Ventura blasts baseball

Governor calls for salary cap, revenue sharing

Posted: Tuesday, November 20, 2001

NEW YORK -- Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura said Monday he wouldn't fund a new ballpark for the beleaguered Twins unless owners and players agree to a salary cap and increased revenue sharing.

Meanwhile, the Twins and major league baseball asked the state Court of Appeals to lift the injunction preventing owners from folding the team next season.

Ventura, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, criticized commissioner Bud Selig for five years of inaction on the sport's economic problems.

''They continue to pay these outrageous salaries,'' Ventura said. ''At some point the union and management, for the good of baseball, better get their act together.''

In New York, players and owners held a bargaining session but failed to set a date for the start of the union's grievance to block owners from scrapping two teams next season, most likely the Twins and Montreal Expos. Lawyers said they expect the date of the hearing to be set Tuesday.

In Minnesota, there was no indication when the court would consider the appeal of District Judge Harry Seymour Crump's order Friday, which compelled the Twins to play their home games next season in the Metrodome, owned by the Minneapolis Sports Facilities Commission.

In court papers filed Monday, the Twins said they will seek an ''accelerated appeal,'' meaning they would like to bypass the appeals panel altogether and have the case heard by the state Supreme Court. Attorney Roger Magnuson said the team would explain that request in papers to be filed within two days.

Magnuson acknowledged that it was unusual for the state high court to grant such accelerated reviews.

Lawyers for baseball and the Twins told the court they intend to file papers by Wednesday requesting both an expedited appeal and an accelerated review by Minnesota's Supreme Court.

Andy Shea, a lawyer for the facilities commission, questioned the need for hasty review.

''I haven't seen anything yet that would indicate that this is an emergency in any sense of the word,'' Shea said.

In Washington, the House Judiciary Committee prepared to schedule a hearing on baseball's antitrust exemption, probably for the week of Dec. 3. Legislation was introduced in the House and Senate last week that would strip baseball of its 79-year-old antitrust exemption in cases of franchise elimination or relocation.

The Minnesota state task force on stadium issues set its first hearing for Tuesday to discuss a possible new ballpark for the Twins, who say they can't generate enough revenue at the Metrodome to survive. Former Twins stars Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek and Bert Blyleven are among the witnesses.

Ventura, who agreed Friday to take up the cause of the Twins after years of opposition, said there was wiggle room in ballpark negotiations despite his pledge not to use state money.

''I want to be as creative as possible in light of the times,'' he said, suggesting ''a user fee, as long it doesn't impinge on my direct budget.''

The former professional wrestler criticized baseball's salaries, citing the $75 million, six-year contract agreed to last week by Andruw Jones and the Atlanta Braves.

''God bless Andruw Jones -- more power to him,'' Ventura said. ''But he only hit .250 and was rewarded with a $75 million contract. Can you imagine what Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva are thinking? You're going to pay a .250 hitter $75 million? Doesn't that tell you something's wrong with the league?''

Jones, who would have been eligible for free agency after next season, hit .251 with 34 homers and a team-high 104 RBIs as Atlanta won its 10th consecutive division title.

Last Friday, Ventura met with Twins owner Carl Pohlad and asked that baseball delay its contraction decision for at least one year. Ventura criticized the sport's leadership for failing to address the imbalance between the large- and small-market teams.

''Commissioner Selig has talked for five years that they're going to fix baseball, and that's all he said,'' the governor related. ''It would be a pretty sad day and a black eye to baseball to lose a team like the Minnesota Twins. They're the last small-market team to win the World Series championship.''

Ventura was unsure if baseball owners would heed his plea. Even if the injunction is upheld, the Twins' lease at the Metrodome expires after next season.

''I think the next step is baseball's step,'' he said. ''I've let it be know that we're not ready to let baseball leave Minnesota. But it's out of our hands. If baseball owners want to get rid of the Minnesota Twins, they have the power to do it.''

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