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Pohlad: Folding is really possible
by Charley Walters and Gordon Wittenmyer

Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad insisted Wednesday that he has not asked Major League Baseball to buy him out and dissolve the franchise, but he added that it could happen if baseball's other owners want to do so, perhaps as early as next week.

Pohlad reacted with some frustration when asked if he was concerned about his legacy if he agreed to end major league baseball in Minnesota.

"I've furnished a team here for 15 years and put $150 million cash into it, and I'm not going to do it anymore," Pohlad said. "I'm tired of it. A business has to pay for itself. Nobody in this town in the last 15 years has given as much as I have to baseball."

Other baseball owners will have to pay Pohlad to dissolve the franchise under any plan to reduce the number of major league teams. When asked how much money he could get from contraction, whether it would be $150 million to $200 million, Pohlad said he "has no idea."

Pohlad said he would sell the Twins "in a heartbeat" to local in-vestors before he would consider being bought out by other owners.

For how much? "I have no idea, and nobody's made an offer," Pohlad said. "I'd like to sell it to somebody who has the ability to get a stadium here."

Stadiums are a chief source of revenue for most pro teams. The Twins can't generate the needed revenue at the Metrodome, Poh-lad and other team officials say. Repeated efforts to obtain public funding for a stadium have been thwarted. Pohlad's frustration and the Twins' stadium situation are part of why the team is a candidate for elimination in several reorganization plans being discussed by owners.

"It's up to Major League Baseball what is best for Major League Baseball," Pohlad said. "And this ... is about a new labor deal. They have certain standards for you, for instance, whether you have an adequate stadium. ... But (contraction) is one of their options."

The issue will be discussed Tuesday when the owners meet in Chicago. Pohlad said the issue could be decided next week. Commissioner Bud Selig said Sunday that major decisions would not be made at Tuesday's meeting, but Selig said contraction before the 2002 season was possible.

Sandy Alderson, the major leagues' executive vice president of baseball operations, said Wednesday night before Game 4 of the World Series in New York: "It's been known for some time that there are a substantial number of owners interested in contraction. Whether that constitutes a majority, I couldn't tell you."

The collective bargaining agreement between the owners and the players union expires after the World Series, and the contraction discussion is part of the equation. The players union does not want jobs eliminated and says the owners have to negotiate contraction. The owners say the players have no say in the matter.

Baseball teams share less of their revenue than pro football, and baseball's richest teams don't like propping up franchises such as the Twins and Montreal Expos that produce less revenue, regardless of the wealth of their owners.

The plan reported most recently as being discussed would have Montreal Expos owner Jeffrey Loria and Pohlad selling their franchises, which would both be eliminated. Loria would buy the Florida Marlins from John Henry, and Henry would buy the Anaheim Angels from Walt Disney Co., which has wanted to sell the Angels for more than two years.

Alderson wouldn't comment on whether Pohlad approached Major League Baseball officials or other owners to offer his franchise for contraction or whether he was asked by other owners to consider it.

Selig said officials have planned for many options, including contraction, but have declined to be specific. It seems clear that owners are at least talking more seriously about contraction for weaker franchises than about other solutions, such as relocation.

Alderson seemed to discount relocation when he said, "That would require a significant economic analysis."