Major League Baseball owners will gather this week for two days of meetings
in Seattle, but the primary order of business was put on hold today when
it was announced there would be no vote on the sale of the Florida Marlins.
As expected, acting commissioner Bud Selig announced that the transfer
of ownership from Wayne Huizenga to a group headed by team president Don
Smiley has not progressed to the point where it is ready for a vote.
"Don Smiley continues to work diligently to complete transfer and
I expect he will be prepared to bring it to the clubs for a vote in the
very near future," Selig said.
Topics of discussion in Seattle are expected to include an update
on the sale of the Texas Rangers to Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks, the status
of the Twins in Minnesota and their possible move to North Carolina,
and the recent surge in beanball incidents and on-field fighting.
Selig rarely calls for a full ownership vote unless he is reasonably
assured of the outcome, so today's announcement indicates that the sale
of the Marlins may not be close.
The Miami Herald reported last week that Smiley and his investors have
raised less than $145 million of Huizenga's $169 million asking price.
Huizenga would likely have to lower his asking price or keep a larger stake
of the team than he anticipated. Huizenga reportedly had hoped to keep
as little as $5 million.
Huizenga committed over $89 million to free agents prior to the 1997
season and built a team that won the World Series in just the fifth year
of its existence. But almost immediately after the World Series, Huizenga
put the team up for sale and ordered general manager Dave Dombrowski to
shed the team of its high-priced talent and the team's payroll has shrunk
from $53 million to about $16 million.
More than a dozen players from the World Series team were removed from
the roster, a purge widely regarded as an embarrassment to baseball.
Earlier this year, Hicks announced an agreement to purchase the Rangers,
the lease to The Ballpark in Arlington and surrounding land for a price
valued at $250 million.
The deal calls for Hicks, Inc. to purchase the Rangers from a limited
partnership consisting of 28 partners, including Texas Governor George
W. Bush and Edward "Rusty" Rose.
As for the Twins, voters in two North Carolina counties recently
voted down a referendum to provide funding for a proposed $210 million
stadium in the Triad Region of Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point.
Had the referendum passed, the beneficiary would have been Don Beaver,
a Hickory, North Carolina businessman who signed a letter of intent to
purchase the Twins from owner Carl Pohlad and likely move the team to North
Carolina in time for the 1999 season. The Charlotte, North Carolina region
is now expected to make a push for the Twins.
Pohlad asked for a new baseball-only stadium to be built in Minneapolis,
but the Minnesota legislature has overwhelmingly voted against funding
a new facility.
In an effort to put a stop to the brawls that have marred recent games,
Selig today instructed Major League Baseball Chief Operating Officer Paul
Beeston, National League President Leonard Coleman and American League
President Gene Budig to meet with members of the Players Association and
"devise new and more effective penalties" for players and managers
that leave the dugout area or their positions on the field during altercations.
A game between the Anaheim Angels and Kanas City Royals last week included
two bench-clearing incidents that resulted in 12 ejections. The fight-marred
game came exactly two weeks after the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles
engaged in a wild brawl.
"Current fines and suspensions -- which do not include losses of
pay -- should be revised or reformed to deter behavior which is not in
keeping with the integrity of the game," Selig said. "New guidelines
and penalties should be introduced and effective as soon as they can be
The owners are also expected to disuss scheduling issues, interleague
play and realignment. Selig championed a radicial realignment plan last
year, but could not get the approval of his fellow owners. The only team
to change leagues was Selig's Milwaukee Brewers, who moved from the AL
to the NL.