Realignment talks under way Discussion expected to heat up today

September 17, 1997|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Baseball owners converged on Atlanta yesterday and are expected to spend much of their three-day quarterly meeting trying to hash out a realignment plan that will be acceptable to all, but the issue has created so much internal turmoil that an agreement this week seems highly unlikely.

"Everybody wants to do something, but nobody wants it to affect them," said Boston Red Sox general partner John Harrington, who chairs Major League Baseball's realignment committee. "Do open-heart surgery and not leave a mark."

The realignment committee met last night for several hours and the subject will dominate today's meetings.

The committee originally was expected to present a plan to the full ownership tomorrow, but few owners are confident that they will be in a position to vote on anything that soon. In fact, interim commissioner Bud Selig said after the meeting that even more possible scenarios are being examined.

"The focus is just on developing a plan we can all live with," Selig said. "I'm not going to put a timetable on it."

Harrington and Selig have been pushing hard for a far-reaching realignment plan that promotes regional rivalries at the expense of traditional league affiliations.

There is a lot of support for "radical realignment," but several teams with provincial interests are expected to fight for a much more modest plan.

San Francisco Giants owner Peter McGowan is the latest to step forward in opposition, threatening legal action if baseball institutes any plan that puts his team in the same league as the cross-bay rival Oakland Athletics.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos said Monday that the Orioles might even raise an objection if it appears that the geographic realignment increases the likelihood that a team will be placed in Washington, D.C., or its Northern Virginia suburbs.

"It may have an effect, consciously or subconsciously," Angelos said. "We don't think there should be another major-league team 35 miles away from Camden Yards. If you want an Oakland-San Francisco situation, then you do something like that."

The Orioles are not being asked to change leagues in any of the likely scenarios, so they would not have veto power over an objectionable proposal. The club would represent just one of the eight American League votes necessary to overrule an unfavorable plan.

The Giants apparently believe that their territorial rights in the National League would give them legal standing to block any plan that would force them to join Oakland in the same league or division.

"I understand that there is some trepidation and concerns that some clubs have," Selig said, "but if it [realignment] is worthwhile and it's good, it will be worth it."

McGowan remained resolute yesterday, complaining that baseball is bending over backward to accommodate Arizona Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo's desire to be in the National League at the expense of one of baseball's oldest franchises.

"The fact that he [Colangelo] doesn't like the American League, the Giants are being asked to be the one team in pro sports history to share their market with a competitor," McGowan said.

Texas Rangers president Tom Schieffer is just as adamant that radical realignment is necessary for the long-term health of the sport. He said early in the realignment debate that he would be willing to move the Rangers to accommodate virtually any scenario.

Realignment is crucial, Schieffer said, "if we're going to grow the game and not just for fans this season, but for 20 years from now."

"I think what you have to have is realignment that provides you with geographic rivalries and time-zone alignment, and there are a lot of ways to do that," Schieffer added. "I know that some people will say various things in the heat of the moment, but I hope that rationality will win out.

"We would support radical realignment, and radical is not a word that I use easily. We think that logical realignment is what we ought to be pursuing."

Pub Date: 9/17/97

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