Selig won't rule out reducing franchises

`All options are on table' to get economic balance, commissioner says

October 29, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

PHOENIX - Baseball commissioner Bud Selig repeated yesterday that "all options are on the table" in the industry's attempt to achieve economic balance, and refused to rule out the dissolution of one or two teams before the start of the 2002 season.

"Can it be worked out for 2002?" Selig said. "I can't tell you. I wouldn't rule it out."

Ownership officials have been floating the idea of contraction as a possible solution to the large- market/small-market quandary that has troubled Major League Baseball for the past couple of decades, but it could only be accomplished in time for next season if management can cut a side deal with the Major League Baseball Players Association before full-scale bargaining begins on a new labor agreement.

The owners believe they have the right to reduce the number of franchises unilaterally, but they still would have to deal with the union over the impact of contraction on the players, since 40 roster positions a team are under union jurisdiction.

Union executive director Donald Fehr has insisted that contraction - if the owners are truly serious about the possibility - would have to be negotiated as part of the next collective bargaining agreement.

The owners also continue to ponder the relocation of struggling franchises, which Washington baseball promoters hope will lead to the placement of a team in the nation's capital or Northern Virginia, but it seems unlikely that any move could be completed before the beginning of the 2002 season.

"There are a myriad of possible solutions," Selig said, "and everything is on the table."

Management's ability to implement any of those possible solutions also is affected by a requirement in the current Basic Agreement that the schedule for 2002 be submitted to the union by July 31 of this year.

Clubs apparently would have to negotiate with the union to change the schedule that already has been devised.

The owners are scheduled to meet Nov. 6 in Chicago to discuss those issues and prepare for the start of full-scale collective bargaining.

The current collective bargaining agreement expires after the World Series.

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