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Baseball owners vote to contract, but which teams?
by Jim Souhan

CHICAGO -- Major League Baseball owners voted to eliminate two teams before the start of the 2002 season, and while commissioner Bud Selig refused to identify the teams, neither he nor Twins owner Carl Pohlad said anything to alter the perception that the Twins seem headed for contraction.

While leaving the Chicago O'Hare Hyatt following the owners' meetings on Tuesday, Pohlad refused to discuss the day's events, but when asked how he felt about them said, "It's not easy. After 15 years of work, it's not easy."

Selig said some owners favored eliminating four teams, and that he hoped to name the two doomed franchises "expeditiously."

"There are so many moving parts to this puzzle -- we're plowing historic ground here," Selig said. "We know no modern American sport has done this. We know there will be potholes along the way...

"The fact of the matter is that we haven't picked the final two teams, and there is a lot of negotiation to be done."

Selig said the owners voted "overwhelmingly" in favor of eliminating two teams. While his unwillingness to name the teams could give Twins' fans hope that the team could be saved, Selig said that an ownership change would not change a doomed team's fate, and indicated that baseball only needs to tie up loose ends before announcing the identity of the teams.

In a statement released by MLB, Selig said, "The franchises proposed for contraction will not be identified, pending the completion of negotiations with the clubs as well as the resolution of other details, such as minor league affiliations, notification of employees, and scheduling."

Asked why relocating franchises is not a better option than contraction, Selig said, "Contraction, we believe, deals with this problem because whatever the two franchises are that we finally contract, and there are more than two candidates at this time, there are teams that we've judged to be not capable now or in the future of generating enough revenue to be a productive franchise."

The notion of contraction was quickly condemned by Players Association director Donald Fehr. In a statement, he said, "Today's announcement by the commissioner -- that the clubs will attempt to imediately eliminate two as yet unnamed major league clubs -- is most imprudent and unfortunate.

"This decision has been made unilaterally without any attempt to negotiate with the players, apparently without any serious consideration of other options, including relocation, and seemingly with little concern for the interests of the fans.

"We consider this action to be inconsistent with the law, our contract, and perhaps most important, the long-term welfare of the sport."