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Pohlads consider Twins hopeless
by Gordon Wittenmyer

Twins owner Carl Pohlad's "willingness" to accept an industry buyout that would kill the franchise results from a sense of "hopelessness" in the team's ability to compete economically in Minnesota, according to a letter signed by Pohlad's son Jim and distributed to team employees Friday.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Pioneer Press, reads in part: "Baseball has committed itself to economic and competitive reform. Contraction is a response to markets where local revenues are insufficient to contribute to competitiveness. Our willingness to go along with contraction, if the Commissioner so decides, has come from a feeling of hopelessness. Within the context of baseball's commitment, when we are posed the question, "why should the Minnesota Twins not be contracted?' we are unable to find a plausible answer."

Meanwhile, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said on, Major League Baseball's official Web site, that the elimination of two teams could be completed this month.

"I honestly believe that we can get this done by the end of November," Selig said. "Now after November is over you may come to me and say, "What happened?' But I think that is a realistic goal."

The Associated Press reported Friday that an attorney for the owners told general managers this week in Chicago that contraction could take place by Dec. 15.

Selig announced Tuesday that owners had voted to eliminate two of the 30 teams before the 2002 season. Selig wouldn't identify the teams, but industry sources have said they are the Twins and the Montreal Expos. Lawsuits and challenges from lawmakers, the Minnesota attorney general and the baseball players' union could get in Selig's way.

Carl and Jim Pohlad met with team employees Friday for the first time since reports of the Twins being eliminated in a contraction plan surfaced three weeks ago.

But the letter and their often noncommittal responses to questions Friday did little to ease fears of employees, according to several people who attended the meeting.

The letter spoke of the family's "failure to communicate the contribution" that baseball makes to the community. "Instead, we have a climate of mistrust, finger pointing and non-cooperation that has brought us to where we are today."

If the team folds, the letter said, the family will feel "a sadness and sense of failure that no amount of money will cure."

The Pohlads are likely to be paid between $100 million and $200 million by the other baseball owners.

Twins employees had more questions than the Pohlads had time for, with the Pohlads ending the meeting after about an hour, employees said.

"There were a number of questions, but those questions were answered to the extent you can," team President Jerry Bell said. "What everyone would want to know -- are we or aren't we? -- we don't know.

"There are obstacles to this -- potential lawsuits and the players' association to deal with. I don't know what the outcome will be. . . . It's uncertain. It's awful. Awful."

A major topic at the meeting was a "pay to stay" plan for retaining staff during the period of limbo.

If baseball succeeds in shutting down the Twins, employees who remain on staff until then would receive three months' salary in addition to a standard severance package, Bell confirmed.

"We outlined what affects the employees. Make no mistake about it, that's my first concern," Bell said. "I wanted to do that. Carl and Jim wanted to do that. . . . Employees who have been here for years and years are my priority."