Major League Baseball over the past several weeks has discussed a scenario in
which Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad would be bought out as part of multiteam
ownership change that would eliminate franchises in the Twin Cities and
Montreal, the Miami Herald reported in today's editions.
Florida Marlins owner John Henry would buy the Anaheim Angels, and Montreal
Expos owner Jeffrey Loria would become owner of the Marlins, according to
industry sources with direct knowledge of the discussion, the Herald reported.
Under one of the numerous plans discussed by league officials, the Twins and
Expos would be eliminated, according to two sources.
The sources indicated the likelihood of the deal occurring is believed to be
less than 50 percent because several parties would have to agree to financial
terms, and baseball would need to eliminate two teams, which probably would meet
Asked Wednesday whether anyone in Major League Baseball had contacted him
regarding his team and contraction, Pohlad said: "I don't know. Right now
we're waiting for the World Series, and then what to do with baseball's labor
situation. All of baseball is waiting to see what happens with the labor
Asked whether he has considered contraction, he said: "I haven't even
thought about it. That's newspaper talk."
Baseball spokesman Rich Levin, asked about the possibility of Henry owning
the Angels, Loria owning the Marlins, and the Twins and Expos disbanding, said:
"It's just another rumor. It's very fluid. Contraction is viable. The
commissioner has said he will address these issues after the World Series."
If Pohlad, 86, wants to be bought out, contraction would be much easier. But
even if he does, there could be legal challenges to such moves by the cities
losing teams and by the Major League Baseball Players Association, which says
baseball's hierarchy has to negotiate contraction.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig could not be reached for comment. Selig and a
few owners have vaguely discussed the idea of contraction for more than a year.
The franchises with stadium and attendance problems were the likely candidates.
The argument for contraction is that eliminating weaker franchises would make
the other teams stronger -- the player pool would not be spread as thin -- and
serve as leverage in negotiations with the players union for the next collective
bargaining agreement. The current deal expires at the end of this season's World
Series, which starts Saturday.
Reports this week in the New York Daily News and the Windsor Star of Windsor,
Ontario, said the Marlins and Tampa Bay Devil Rays would be eliminated. Selig
denied that report in Wednesday's New York Times.
"I've made no decisions yet," Selig said, according to the Times.
"I've been saying for a year that it's a viable option. We have a lot of
work to do. We have a lot of questions we haven't answered yet."
The Twins, Expos, Marlins and Angels have struggled in recent years to build
revenue-producing stadiums or fill the ones they have.
The Twins' latest plan for a $300 million open-air stadium involved public
funding, but the bill was not voted on during the 2001 Minnesota Legislature.
The Twins declined to endorse a proposal made in May by St. Paul Mayor Norm
Coleman to build a stadium near the Xcel Energy Center because the plan required
too much investment by the team.
Yet another state panel has been formed to explore stadium options. That
group could issue a report by the time the 2002 Legislature convenes Jan. 29.
But the panel only has the power to offer suggestions, and there is no clear
signal politicians and the public are ready for public funding of a stadium for
the Twins or Vikings.
Meanwhile, on Oct. 6, Pohlad announced he had sold most of his family's
interest in Marquette Banks for what industry sources estimated to be $800
million to $1 billion.
The possibility of the Twins being sold or eliminated raises new questions
about the timing of manager Tom Kelly's retirement. During his Oct. 12 news
conference announcing his retirement, Kelly said a general feeling of weariness
this season, along with some "very personal" reasons, led to the
decision he made about two weeks earlier.
But Kelly, who has been as close to Pohlad as anyone in the organization,
said Wednesday night that his decision to retire had nothing to do with the way
he sees the future of the franchise and that he hasn't heard anything about any
proposals to eliminate the Twins. Kelly said Pohlad offered him a three-year
contract to manage the Twins.
"That doesn't make sense," he said. "If I had an inkling the
team was going to be contracted, why wouldn't I sign a three-year contract?
Somebody's going to pay me. Why would the man offer a three-year contract if he
knows the team is going to be contracted?"
Buying the Angels would benefit Henry, who has been unable to secure a new
stadium in south Florida, and appeal to Loria, whose Expos have drawn sparse
crowds. Disney, which owns the Angels, has wanted to sell the Angels. Henry, the
Marlins' owner, declined to comment Wednesday because Selig is threatening a $1
million fine for baseball officials who speak about the game's economics.
Potential lawsuits are the most serious obstacle facing baseball if it
decides to eliminate two teams. According to a source, Selig is fearful Florida
Attorney General Bob Butterworth would go to court if Major League Baseball
tries to move or eliminate the Marlins or Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Baseball also fears lawsuits from companies affiliated with the eliminated
teams, such as broadcast partners.