Owners agree baseball change is coming, but how isn't clear hTC

November 12, 1992|By Eric Sondheimer | Eric Sondheimer,Los Angeles Daily News

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Change is coming to major-league baseball. How much and when are issues the 28 clubs failed to resolve in meetings that concluded yesterday.

Revenue sharing, a future television contract, restructuring the commissioner's office and labor disputes were among the subjects discussed, but no votes were taken and no final decisions made, according to Bud Selig, chairman of baseball's executive council.

"Today was a day to express opinions on what they [owners] thought baseball needed," Selig said. "It was a day a lot of people said was unlike any other meeting we've ever had."

Chief among the discussions was debate about whether owners should exercise their option to reopen the collective bargaining agreement one year early. Both players and owners have until Dec. 11 to invoke the reopener clause. Players are concerned they will be locked out of spring training by the owners next year.

Selig said a consensus has not been reached. He said the discussion was "candid."

"I really believe this time, more than ever, it's the clubs that will make the decision," he said. "This decision should not be made by a few clubs or by a few people. It should be made by 28 teams."

The owners are scheduled to meet again Dec. 7 in Louisville, Ky., but Selig said it was possible they might meet before then. "You need a strong consensus, but you have to use common sense," he said when asked how a decision would be made on the collective-bargaining issue.

Whatever happens in the next month, changes are expected, whether it be in dealings with players, realignment or scheduling.

"I think you all know the economics of the game," Pittsburgh Pirates chairman Douglas Danforth said. "They are not good for the majority of clubs. I think people are more open now to change than we've ever been before. We're into some very good dialogue in both committee forum and open forum. There's more objectivity, more willingness to look at the whole game rather than just our own individual needs city by city."

One day after voting, 9-4, to keep the Giants in San Francisco and then refusing to comment, NL club executives were more comfortable yesterday in discussing their decision.

Phillies president Bill Giles, who joined Florida, St. Louis and Chicago in casting the only votes in favor of moving the Giants to St. Petersburg, Fla., said clubs united after the San Francisco investment group headed by Peter Magowan solidified its $100 million bid.

"Once the Magowan group came up with terms acceptable to the clubs, we didn't want them to move," Giles said. "I feel bad for Tampa. There's nothing they did wrong."

Added the Pirates' Danforth: "I think there's a general reluctance on the part of clubs to vote [for] change of location. Baseball is a game of great tradition, and I think that's really what happened."

Attorneys for Giants owner Bob Lurie are already working to reach an agreement with the Magowan group. The team will likely get a new front office, and manager Roger Craig isn't expected back. Ex-Dodger Dusty Baker has been mentioned as a possible successor to Craig.

Florida Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga wanted to make sure everybody in Florida knew he voted for the Tampa-St. Petersburg move. There has been suspicion that Huizenga didn't want to share the spotlight with a new St. Petersburg team, leading some fans to earlier picket his Blockbuster Video chain.

Owners heard from CBS sports president Neal Pilson yesterday, one day after NBC sports president Dick Ebersol made a presentation. Baseball's $1.06 billion, four-year contract with CBS ends after the 1993 season. CBS is projecting pretax losses at close to $500 million.

During three days of meetings at a resort hotel, the owners enjoyed moments of humor. George W. Bush, son of the president and general partner of the Texas Rangers, joked how his focus hadn't been on baseball lately because of a certain election.

"You're kind of talking to a guy who's been slightly out of the loop," Bush said.

Asked if his father might be interested in becoming baseball commissioner, Bush said, "I wouldn't recommend that to a guy I dearly love and respect."

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