Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig says the League’s owners have made little progress on eliminating two teams before the start of next season. At the owner's meeting in Chicago Wednesday, the owners extended Selig’s tenure as commissioner and talked about contraction. They didn’t name which teams they plan to cut, but the Twins and Montreal Expos are widely considered the top candidates. Selig says the injunction by the Hennepin County District Court and other legal challenges have made contraction an obstacle for next season, but he still thinks they can cut teams before next year.
After meeting for most of the afternoon in a hotel ballroom, the owners and Bud Selig did little to calm Twins fans' fears that their team may be eliminated. After the meeting Selig said he still hopes the league can move ahead with their plans to cut teams before spring training. He said there’s no other way for the league to survive, citing figures that 25 of the league’s 30 owners lost money last season.
"I've had to live with something that a lot of people don’t understand," Selig said. "The economics of our business have greatly deteriorated. We have a loss this year, as the owners know, of over $500 million."
Selig says he’s prepared to take those numbers to Washington. The House Judiciary Committee has asked Selig to testify at a hearing next week. Some congressional leaders say they’ve strongly considered revoking baseball’s antitrust exemption. Selig says he will open the league’s books and every team's finances at those hearings.
While owners were relatively quiet on the subject of contraction, they showed their approval of the action Selig is taking by extending his contract for another three years. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner complimented Selig’s leadership as commissioner.
"He’s the man we feel is best suited to lead baseball through some very tough times we’re in now. And I can’t think of anyone better in that chair, and I’ve been through a lot of commissioners than Bud Selig," Steinbrenner said.
At the back of the press room Twins owner Carl Pohlad listened to the other owners endorse Selig and whispered comments to his son, Jim, and Twins President Jerry Bell.
Pohlad wouldn’t comment about the meeting. Bell said no progress was made on the determining the team’s future. He wouldn’t speculate about the Twins fielding a team next season but said they did start sending out season ticket forms to fans.
"We sent a letter to our season ticket customer that will be going out today or tomorrow, assuring them that if the season is not played, all of their money will be refunded immediately. And if it is played, of course, you may want to get your seats quick. We have a list of 100,000 buyers," according to Bell.
Those 100,000 buyers are the fans in the upper Midwest who signed petitions in the past two weeks asking Major League Baseball to keep the Twins in the state. Keep the Twins at Home organizers arrived at the meeting with the petitions and insisted on hand delivering them to Selig.
The transaction was done behind closed doors. Organizer Paul Ridgeway says he hopes the petitions will persuade Selig to keep the Twins and reconsider contraction.
"We’re going to keep this team in Minnesota and I do appreciate the fact the he took the time to meet with us. That was very gracious of him, but we still have to make sure that he realizes that we are not going to let the Twins leave," Ridgeway said.
If the petitions don’t persuade Selig to at least delay contraction for a year, perhaps the courts will. The Twins and Major League Baseball are under order by Hennepin County District Court Judge Harry Crump to play in the Metrodome next season. The Twins and Major League Baseball have appealed the decision and are asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to expedite a hearing on the matter.
The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which filed the suit, must file a brief explaining why the Twins and Major League Baseball should not be give a quick hearing.