Owners set to meet, but won't decide on contraction

Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2001

NEW YORK -- Baseball commissioner Bud Selig is expected to get a term extension when owners meet Tuesday in Chicago, but it appeared no decision will be made on the Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos.

Owners voted Nov. 6 to eliminate two teams before next season but didn't select them. The Expos and Twins are the most likely candidates, and contraction then ground to a halt 10 days later when a Minnesota judge issued a temporary injunction that forced the Twins to fulfill their lease next season at the Metrodome.

Selig did not want to ask owners to make any decisions on contraction while the injunction was in place, a high-ranking baseball official said Monday on the condition he not be identified.

The Twins and baseball have asked the Minnesota Supreme Court for a speedy review of the injunction, requesting a hearing no later than Dec. 7. The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which operates the Metrodome, must file its response by Wednesday.

Owners want to eliminate the Expos, who averaged just 7,648 fans per game at Olympic Stadium this year.

Twins owner Carl Pohlad, frustrated at the Minnesota government's refusal to fund a new ballpark, is willing to have his team eliminated in exchange for a contraction payment, even though his team has been profitable in recent years and raised its average attendance from 13,083 in 2000 to 22,287 this year.

Meanwhile, no decisions have been made on the possible sales of the Florida Marlins or Anaheim Angels. Expos owner Jeffrey Loria has talked to Marlins owner John Henry about buying the Marlins, but has not reached an agreement, the baseball official said.

Henry has expressed interest in purchasing the Angels from The Walt Disney Co., but those talks haven't progressed and Henry has said he is willing to become a minority investor in Tom Werner's bid to buy control of the Boston Red Sox.

While the Twins and Expos await word on whether they'll be around next year, Selig is likely to stay in place for years.

Selig, whose family has controlled the Milwaukee Brewers since 1970, was elected to a five-year term as commissioner in July 1998, and owners will be asked to extend it for at least three additional years, according to a high-ranking team official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Selig, 67, is expected to gain the extension with little or no opposition is expected from owners, many indebted to him for his past assistance with individual team problems.

Meanwhile, the players and owners still were unable to agree on dates for arbitrator Shyam Das to hear the grievance the union filed to stop contraction. Players claim the Nov. 6 decision violate the terms of their expired labor agreement, and that owners can't eliminate clubs without the union's consent.

Das probably will have to arbitrate the timing of the arbitration.

''Assuming we haven't reached an agreement, we're going to go to him and ask for some help,'' said Gene Orza, the union's No. 2 official.

Partly because of the contraction debate, there has been little negotiation between owners and players on a labor contract to replace the one that expired Nov. 7.

Some Twins fans planned to attend the meeting at O'Hare International Airport with the intent of giving Selig petitions with more than 110,000 signatures urging the team be saved.

Paul Ridgeway, one of the organizers, and former-Twin Frank Quilici said their caravan planned to stop in Selig's hometown of Milwaukee.

''Here's a message to you and the owners: Think twice about doing this to the Minnesota Twins,'' Quilici said.

Ridgeway said if Selig refused to meet them in Chicago, they'll park a motor home outside his office in Milwaukee on Wednesday.

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