Miami and Denver are expected to be approved as the National League's 13th and 14th teams today, but the imminent departure of the president of the Pittsburgh Pirates to Miami has raised a question of a possible conflict of interest in the selection process.
Major-league owners are scheduled to vote on the two expansion franchises in a conference call. Approval, which is considered a foregone conclusion, requires the votes of three-fourths of the National League owners and a majority of American League owners.
Once the teams are approved for play, beginning in 1993, the new owners will begin to build their organizations, and that is where the possible conflict of interest regarding the choice of Miami comes in.
Carl Barger is the president of the Pirates, and he is also a longtime friend of H. Wayne Huizenga, the owner of the Miami franchise.
Douglas Danforth is the Pirates' chairman and also heads the National League expansion committee, which selected Miami and Denver.
Several baseball officials have said privately that Barger will leave the Pirates and become president of the Miami club. An announcement is expected next week.
Barger, who is a member of the board of directors of Huizenga's Blockbuster Video, also is expected to receive a small percentage of ownership in the club.
Barger declined to confirm his impending move but said, "We will end the speculation very shortly, early next week."
The appearance of a conflict has arisen because of the positions of Barger and Danforth, but they and others involved denied that any such conflict existed and rejected the idea that the Barger-Danforth association influenced the selection of Miami.
"Carl Barger never asked about the expansion franchises," Danforth said by telephone from Pittsburgh. "He never talked to me about it, and I never talked to him about it. Carl was very professional about it. He realized its sensitivity. He learned about the cities along with the other owners at the meetings June 13."
Barger, a lawyer who has been the Pirates' president for nearly four years, echoed Danforth.
"Anyone that knows the members of the expansion committee would know that they wouldn't be affected by any sort of persuasion," he said by telephone from Pittsburgh.
"Anybody who knows me knows I wouldn't do it. I didn't even have casual conversations with Doug about it. I purposely kept at arm's length."
Commissioner Fay Vincent declined to discuss the matter, and Bill White, the National League president and a member of the expansion committee, did not return telephone calls.
The two new teams each will select 36 players in an expansion draft which will be held in November 1992.
The 12 National League clubs each will lose three players, but only eight American League teams will lose three players each. The other six will lose two each.
Each of the 26 contributing teams will initially protest 15 players.