If Major League Baseball owners vote today to eliminate the Twins, the
Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission is ready to take its swings in a legal
battle against the move.
The commission, which owns and operates the Metrodome, issued a resolution
Monday denouncing Major League Baseball's possible contraction plans and
revealed terms of a binding lease agreement with the Twins for the 2002 season
that has no provisions for a buyout.
If the Twins are eliminated at today's owners meeting in Chicago, the team
could be liable for its 2002 rental fee of $500,000 to $750,000 as well as
possible other legal ramifications. The Twins signed a one-year lease extension
for 2002 on Sept. 27.
"It is our expectation that the Twins will live up to their
agreement," commission chairwoman Kathryn Roberts said Monday at a special
meeting called to address the contraction issue. "Another way to put it is
that there is no way to pay off the citizens for next year's season."
Twins officials are unable to comment on contraction issues because of the
threat of a $1 million fine by Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. Roberts and the
other eight commission members made it clear Monday that their discontent is not
aimed at the Twins.
The panel strongly criticized Selig and team owners who appear ready to
eliminate the Twins to increase profits in baseball's revenue-sharing plan.
Commission executive director Bill Lester said the two-page resolution will be
shipped overnight to the site of today's owners meetings at a Chicago-area
Among the key points of the resolution, the commission called on "Major
League Baseball to cease any further consideration of contraction with respect
to Minnesota or the Minnesota Twins."
"We want to let the owners know that this isn't a community that's going
to roll over and let an asset as important as the Twins go away just because
somebody thinks they can save a few bucks on us," Lester said. "We
don't see how this is in the best interest of baseball."
Lester, however, stopped short of saying the commission would file a lawsuit
against Major League Baseball or seek an injunction if the Twins are eliminated.
"That part of it I can't discuss, but we intend to exercise all
opportunities available within our legal authority," he said.
Representatives of the commission's law firm of McGrann, Shea, Franzen,
Carnival, Straughn and Lamb attended Monday's meeting and advised commission
members to limit specific discussions of possible legal action against the Twins
or Major League Baseball.
If the Twins are eliminated, attorney William R. McGrann said, the commission
hopes to use findings in the Blue Ribbon Panel on Baseball Economics as part of
its legal strategy. The Blue Ribbon Panel, a five-year study headed by former
U.S. Sen. George Mitchell of Maine, reported in July 2000 that Major League
Baseball has an "outdated economics system" that fosters a lack of
"If the owners had taken steps to clean things up, there wouldn't be a
need for contraction," McGrann said.
Roberts quoted recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Panel when making her
opening remarks about the commission's action. She said the commission had
studied the report, furthering negative views among commission members about
Major League Baseball's financial system and claims by owners that the Twins
generate too little revenue to remain a viable franchise.
"Before Major League Baseball becomes too critical of what we're doing,
they need to examine their own role," Roberts said. "As we all know,
Major League Baseball has not kept its commitment to reform."
The commission agreed to use Monday's resolution to draft legislation at the
next meeting in December and present it to state lawmakers for another stadium
bill pitch. Several commission members have been touring cities across the state
to gauge the residents' interest in the Twins. Lester said the response has been
more positive than expected.
"We've found that the Twins are a very key part of the quality of life
in Minnesota," he said. "The people really want the team to stay. When
they talk about a new stadium, it just has to be more private financing."
Lester said no commission members plan to attend today's owners meetings.