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Selig fears Twins will be next Expos
by Scott Miller

With baseball apparently dying on the vine in Montreal after Saturday's deadline passed without the Expos finding a new local buyer, Commissioner Bud Selig on Sunday reiterated his concern regarding whether Minnesota can support a major league team, given the state of the organization. ``I'm concerned about Minnesota. Very concerned,'' Selig told the Pioneer Press on Sunday at the New York Yankees' spring facility in Tampa. ``I know people don't want to hear this, but that team can't compete in Minnesota without a new stadium.

``I know people don't want to hear it, but that's the way it is.''

Asked if he views the Twins' situation as being as dire as the Expos', Selig hesitated.

``I hope not,'' he said.

However, Selig added he has no reason to believe the Twins' situation isn't heading in the Expos' direction.

``I talk to Carl (Pohlad, Twins' owner) and Jerry (Bell, club president) all the time,'' he said. ``I can't tell you there's anything new.''

Selig also called untrue an industry rumor that Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos has a proposal for other owners that they purchase the Expos and Twins, shut down both organizations and then enter the two clubs' players in a dispersal draft. According to this rumor, other small-market clubs such as Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Oakland would get first crack at beefing up their organizations by selecting Twins and Expos players.

``That's the first I've heard of it,'' Selig said. ``I would place no stock in that.''

Speaking earlier with a large group of reporters in a wide-ranging discussion, Selig, among other topics, hammered away at the importance of solving the huge disparity between baseball's haves and have-nots. He did not speak in specifics.

``Competitive balance is a daily topic of discussion,'' Selig said. ``Wherever I go, that's the first question I'm asked. In Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit and Minnesota, in a whole series of other places, they don't want to talk about anything else. They want to talk about competitive balance.

``We're in the midst of a wonderful renaissance in baseball. Baseball is more popular than it's ever been. But it's there. There's a disparity problem. Nobody can ignore that, and nobody can make it go away and say it doesn't exist. We're going to have to solve that problem. That's why I took this job.''

On a day when the Yankees and their $88 million player payroll were playing host to the Twins, who are attempting to get down to the $10 million range, it was impossible not to notice the disparity between the teams.

And at a time in which four clubs will close or leave stadiums because they're moving into new ballparks -- Seattle in July, and Detroit, Milwaukee and San Francisco in 2000 -- it is impossible not to note that the Twins continue to drift after an unsuccessful battle with the Minnesota Legislature two years ago for funding for a new stadium.

``Every community has to make their own social judgment as to what they want to do, as to their priorities,'' Selig said. ``I find it puzzling when you look at all the communities that have looked at this and raised the same issues, the same arguments, and with the same social problems, and they all built stadiums and all are thrilled with (them).''

The commissioner's blue ribbon task force on economics, a group including owners and outside economic experts, is scheduled to meet for the first time today in New York. While nothing newsworthy is anticipated from this meeting, the group plans several meetings to address economic issues facing the game.