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Baseball postpones contraction until 2003
By Ronald Blum
Associated Press
February 5, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) - Faced with a string of legal losses, baseball commissioner Bud Selig finally decided Tuesday that the sport won't try to eliminate teams this year and postponed it until 2003.

Baseball had attempted to fold the Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos but was thwarted by the Twins' landlord, which obtained an injunction that forced the team to honor its 2002 lease.

"While the clubs would have preferred to contract for 2002 and begin addressing the economic issues immediately," Selig said, "events outside of our direct control, including yesterday's court decision in Minnesota, have required us to move the date of contraction to 2003."

On Monday, the Minnesota Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal of the injunction by the Twins and Selig.

Owners voted Nov. 6 to eliminate two teams but did not specify which ones. Their labor negotiators later told the players' association the Twins and Expos were targeted.

Selig, without specificying teams, vowed to press forward with contraction for 2003.

"Contraction was an initiative of the 30 clubs and continues to be wholly supported by that group," he said. "The clubs recognize that our current economic circumstance make contraction absolutely inevitable, as certain franchises simply cannot compete and cannot generate enough revenues to survive. Quite a few of our clubs advocate contraction by as many as four clubs, and our ultimate implementation of contraction obviously may well be affected by the economics of the industry in 2002."

The players' association remains an obstacle to eliminating teams for 2003. The union filed a grievance to block contraction, claiming the owners' vote violated the players' labor contract, which expired Nov. 7 but remains in force.

Arbitrator Shyam Das was to hear his 12th day of testimony in the case Tuesday.

"I, personally, had hoped that the union had an interest in helping us solve our economic and competitive balance problems," said Paul Beeston, baseball's chief operating officer. "It is evident now that they have no such interest and that is a great disappointment to me.

"We had several discussions this spring and summer indicating our consideration of contraction. The union's vigorous opposition to contraction was inconsistent with those earlier discussions."

Owners claim they must bargain with the union only on the effects of contraction, such as player dispersal, not the decision to eliminate teams.

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