CHICAGO, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Major League Baseball owners voted Tuesday to reduce the number teams in their sport from 30 to 28 before play begins next season.
No immediate announcement was made as to which teams would be eliminated, but various reports indicated the Minnesota and Montreal franchises would be bought out as part of baseball's ongoing financial crisis.
Commissioner Bud Selig, speaking after the owners had agreed to the historic step, said there was even sentiment to cut more than two teams.
"It makes no sense for Major League Baseball to be in markets that generate insufficient local revenues to justify the investment in the franchise," Selig said. "The teams to be contracted have a long record of failing to generate enough revenues to operate a viable major league franchise.
"For example, there is one club with local revenues that are less then eight percent of the local revenues of those generated by the top club, and less than 18 percent of the industry average.
"There are more than two candidates. We haven't picked the final teams. There were people who were in favor of four teams.
"This action, though difficult, should not surprise anyone who is familiar with the economics of the game. Our industry has significant financial problems that we are trying to address in a myriad of ways. Contraction is one step toward addressing the industry's problem."
In addition to the question as to how many teams would be in the majors next year, baseball must deal with the absence of a contract with its players. The current contract expires Wednesday and there have been concerns that the start of the 2002 season and perhaps the entire season is in jeopardy.
In an attempt to defuse that issue, Selig said the owners had decided not to lock out players and would allow free agents to be signed. Despite that olive branch, however, the union could balk at the jobs with two teams being eliminated.
The sport is still trying to recover from the 1994 strike that wiped out the World Series. Ironically, baseball reached a peak in popularity since that strike when the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees conducted a memorable World Series last week.
Cal Pohlad, owner of the Minnesota Twins, reportedly went to Chicago with the intention of accepting a $150-$200 million buyout from his fellow owners.
Pohlad said recently that League team has been eliminated since the 19th century owners prefer.
Pohlad said recently that a plan had been put in place to eliminate the Twins and Expos with Expos owner Jeffrey Loria then taking over the Florida Marlins and Marlins owner John Henry taking over the Anaheim Angels.
The Walt Disney Co., current owner of the Angels, has expressed a desire to get out of the baseball business.
Selig said the idea of relocating teams has not been ruled out, but that it does not appear to be a practical solution.
"The problems facing the potentially affected teams will not be resolved by either changing ownership or changing location," he said. "Merely transferring existing problems to another ownership group or another city would only exacerbate the problem, not resolve it. We will continue to review relocation as a long-term solution as we work to stabilize the industry's economics. After long and arduous study, we have determined that there is no other acceptable current solution but to contract two teams."