View Full Version : DC might get a baseball team

01-17-2002, 09:17 PM
Here's the link (http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/sports/2487596.htm)

Posted on Thu, Jan. 17, 2002
Selig: Washington May Get BB Team
AP Sports Writer

PHOENIX (AP) - The city that twice lost the Senators got an unexpected boost Thursday when baseball commissioner Bud Selig said Washington was the "prime candidate" to get a team through relocation.

On a day when players' union chief Donald Fehr directly spoke to all owners for the first time, Selig made the biggest news - though his aides said no team would move this season.

"There's no doubt in my mind that relocation is coming," he said. "It's just a question of when. I've always said that we need to solve the basic problems, and when we solve the basic problems we can then turn our attention to relocation."

Washington has been without a major league team since the expansion Senators became the Texas Rangers after the 1971 season. For at least a decade, groups have tried to obtain a team for either RFK Stadium or Northern Virginia.

Washington/Northern Virginia has been the most aggressive region in seeking a franchise.

"I'd have to say that given the demographics of the area, and the number of people who want I would say it's the prime candidate,'" Selig said.

Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief legal counsel, said no team will move this year. He said it was too early to tell if a team could relocate for 2003.

After Fehr spoke to owners, he briefed his players on the status of negotiations for a new labor contract, and Arizona pitcher Curt Schilling blamed Selig for the tumultuous offseason, dominated by talk of contraction and franchise sales.

"As a group, I think players are deeply disappointed the commissioner chose two days after the World Series to make the announcement he made," Schilling said.

Schilling's Diamondbacks capped one of the best World Series ever by rallying in the bottom of the ninth to beat the New York Yankees in Game 7 on Nov. 4. Two days later, owners voted to eliminate two teams, plunging baseball into an offseason of uncertainty.

The contraction plan has been halted by a Minnesota court and owners are in the midst of unprecedented franchise swapping. On Wednesday, a group headed by Florida Marlins owner John Henry was given approval to buy the Boston Red Sox in a record $660 million deal.

Owners vow to quickly approve a $158 million sale of the Marlins to Montreal Expos owner Jeffrey Loria and a $120 million sale of the Expos to the commissioner's office, which would operate the team this season - unless contraction goes through and the Expos are folded.

"We settled the Boston thing," Selig said, adding owners would deal with Florida and Montreal "expeditiously." He still says it isn't too late to eliminate two teams this season, with Montreal and Minnesota the likely targets. However, most baseball officials say the obstacles are to great for this season.

"Contraction, although it's provoked an angry and bitter response, is on the table because the owners want it to be on the table," Selig said.

Schilling said the uncertainty has hurt baseball's finances.

"The game should be going through the roof publicity-wise," he said. "Owners have killed season-ticket sales for some franchises."

Relocation for 2003 could wind up being linked with a failure to eliminate teams this year. An injunction forces the Twins - the original Senators before they moved in 1961 - to honor their 2002 lease at the Metrodome. Selig and the team are awaiting word from the Minnesota Court of Appeals on their attempt to lift the order.

Selig said that if the commissioner's office buys the Expos, an independent person would be put in charge. The commissioner's office intends to operate the Expos for one season at most.

"I'd be shocked if it was for more than one year," DuPuy said.

An option remains to eliminate two teams in 2003, including the Expos, and move another franchise. Anaheim, Oakland and Tampa Bay have been mentioned as possibilities by owners.

Both Fehr and Selig gave hope that the 2002 season will not be interrupted a work stoppage, which would be baseball's ninth in three decades. The union hasn't considered striking and owners haven't considered a lockout.

Bargaining is to resume next week on a labor contract to replace the one that expired Nov. 7. Teams proposed last week to increase the amount of shared locally generated revenue from 20 percent to 50 percent, after a deduction for ballpark expenses. The union worries that it would drain money from high-revenue teams that would otherwise spend it on players.

Owners also asked for a 50 percent luxury tax on the portions of payrolls above $98 million.

"Our view is that players aren't luxuries," Fehr said. "That's a difficult issue for us to contend with."

Most owners said it was good that Fehr addressed all teams, although owners who have attended bargaining sessions have heard similar speeches from the union leader.

Fehr, who had Selig speak to players last week, was accompanied by three players - Rich Aurilia, Tony Clark and Mark Loretta - along with union lawyers Gene Orza and Steve Fehr, the union head's brother.

Donald Fehr was pleased to have received the invitation and spoke for nearly two hours, including questions and answers. He did not publicly detail his remarks to owners but gave a general assessment of the offseason turmoil.

"We have had since the end of the World Series a number of developments which have necessitated an extended period of press coverage that hasn't been all that happy for baseball," Fehr said.