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Baseball Owners Will Not Vote On Marlins Sale This Week
Twins info is in bold - John

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 agreed upon."

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.