Baseball owners adjourn, questions abound

Jan. 17, 2002 at 7:00 PM
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PHOENIX, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Commissioner Bud Selig sought a positive spin, but baseball owners still finished two days of meetings Thursday with plenty of unfinished business.

With just a few weeks remaining before the start of spring training, the owners failed to make a final decision on contraction, left the status of several franchises in limbo and still are a long way from reaching an agreement with the players' union.

"I've had the two best days I've had in a while," countered Selig after the owners concluded the meetings by getting together with union chief Donald Fehr.

While there were no formal negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement, the presence of Fehr was at least a small step in the right direction.

"The response was attentive, it certainly was courteous and polite," Fehr said. "There was no indication they were displeased I was there."

Selig added to the goodwill by saying the owners do not plan to lock out players when spring training starts. Fehr also implied that the players do not intend to strike this season.

In another development, Selig said that should a team need to relocate, Washington, D.C. would be a leading candidate.

The long-awaited sale of the Boston Red Sox was completed Wednesday as owners unanimously approved the $700 million sale of the club from the Jean R. Yawkey Trust to a group headed by former Florida Marlins owner John Henry.

Approving the sale of the Red Sox was essential to the owners because it allows Henry to sell the Marlins to Montreal Expos owner Jeffrey Loria. The Expos are expected to be held in receivership by the league and could be run, or even managed, by MLB executive Frank Robinson.

But the owners took no further action on the status of the Marlins and Expos on Thursday, with Selig saying only that the matter would be handled "expeditiously."

Owners voted for contraction on Nov. 6 with the Expos and Minnesota Twins rumored to be the prime candidates. Contraction for this season appears unlikely with the season fast approaching, but Selig refused to rule out a plan for the 2002 season.

"I understand pitchers and catchers are reporting (soon)," Selig said. "Contraction is an available option. Is it a perfect solution? No. I'm not ready to rule it out."

Contraction could be used as a bargaining chip with the Players Association. Should contraction fail, the Expos would likely be a candidate for a relocation in time for the 2003 season.

Selig said Thursday that "relocation is coming in the near future."

Baseball has not had a team relocate since the Washington Senators moved to Texas after the 1971 season.

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