Owners begin restructuring, with Selig as overseer Giants move delayed, AL-NL play debated

September 10, 1992|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Staff Writer

ST.LOUIS — ST. LOUIS -- Major League Baseball owners yesterday appointed a caretaker replacement for ex-commissioner Fay Vincent and gave San Franciscans another at-bat to keep the Giants from moving to Florida.

The owners also took the first steps toward what could be a dramatic restructuring of the sport, including the end of the all-powerful commissioner.

Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig was named chairman of the owners' executive council, a title previously held by Vincent.

Selig's precise responsibilities were not clear, but they appear to fall somewhere between that of an autonomous commissioner and the powerful executive council.

Meanwhile, a special committee appointed yesterday will explore restructuring baseball, especially the role -- if any -- of a commissioner.

Under the temporary arrangement, the 12-person council, which includes Orioles owner Eli S. Jacobs, will retain the authority previously vested in Vincent.

"Bud has been given the authority to act on all matters and I expect the council will back him up," said Haywood Sullivan, a general partner of the Boston Red Sox and member of the Executive Council.

Selig, a leader of the palace coup that forced Vincent out, said, "I'll try generally to lead by consensus."

He said he will divide his time between Milwaukee and the New York headquarters of Major League Baseball. Deputy commissioner Stephen Greenberg will oversee day-to-day operations, he said.

Meanwhile, the restructuring committee will explore a wide range of issues -- even interleague play -- beginning with sweeping recommendations issued in 1982 by a similar owners committee, Sullivan said.

Many members of the new committee will be the same as in 1982, including Selig and Sullivan. Orioles president Larry Lucchino will be a member, as will Paul Beeston of Toronto and the Dodgers' Peter O'Malley, among others.

The 1982 panel recommended elevating the owners into a unified "board of directors" that would appoint a CEO-like commissioner.

Under the current structure, created in 1920 to restore the sport's image in the wake of the Black Sox scandal, the commissioner was entrusted with wide discretion to act "in the best interests of baseball."

Vincent, one of the most assertive of the eight commissioners who followed, lost the support of the owners largely through his use of that clause. He sought to realign the leagues, settle labor disputes, and suspend players -- sometimes against the wishes of many owners.

Under the 1982 plan the National League and American League would move closer to a merger, with their individual presidents answering to the commissioner. Baseball has been slow to follow other sports in merging the operations of formerly competing leagues. The National and American leagues operate under different rules, maintain their own presidents and play only postseason games with each other.

"I think the restructuring committee will have the ability to look at all aspects of baseball," said Jacobs.

He declined to say what changes he would like to see, but cautioned against reading too much into the appointment of Selig, an opponent of the strong commissioner system.

Jacobs, who supported Vincent, seconded the motion to appoint Selig.

"He's a beloved figure in baseball," Jacobs said.

Minnesota Twins owner Carl Polhad said, "We will look at the entire structure of baseball."

Asked about the possibility of interleague play, he said, "Everything will be considered."

Meanwhile, fans in St. Petersburg were disappointed with the delay in the vote. The Giants were scheduled to begin play next season in a domed stadium there. The owners said questions had arisen in the application of the investment group there.

Investors also have emerged in San Francisco, where officials continue to fight for the team despite voters four times rejecting a publicly financed stadium to replace Candlestick Park.

"We're doing the kind of job that we think has to be done. . . . There is some homework still to be done," said St. Louis Cardinals president Fred Kuhlmann, chairman of a committee on ownership groups.

National League president Bill White went even further, saying, "All we are trying to do is make sure the people of San Francisco have an opportunity to keep the team there."

Giants chairman Bob Lurie has accepted a $115 million offer from an investment group in Tampa-St. Petersburg and pushed for approval of the deal.

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