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  • BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 155: TESTING THE DRAFT

         Top prospect Jason Varitek, who was selected by the Mariners
    in last June's amateur draft, "took a step yesterday that could
    lead to free agency for drafted amateur players."  Varitek signed
    yesterday with the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League, a
    league not affiliated with MLB or the NAPBL. Bill Murray, Exec Dir
    of Baseball Operations in the Commissioner's Office, said the
    Mariners would still have the rights to him until next June, when
    Varitek goes back into the draft.  But Varitek and his agent,
    Scott Boras, contend that by signing a professional contract,
    Varitek is no longer subject to the Mariners' rights or the next
    "amateur" draft.  "In other words, the case is probably headed to
    an arbitrator or judge" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 1/13).  The
    Saints are owned by Mike Veeck, son of the late Bill Veeck.  He
    claims that Varitek does have the right to sign with another major
    league organization (St. Paul PIONEER PRESS, 1/13).
         IN TOWN FOR THE O.J. TRIAL?  MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr's
    tour stopped in L.A. yesterday where he met with about 175 players
    and several agents.  The union has updated about 600 players on
    the current tour.  There are three more scheduled stops:  Dallas,
    Caracas and the Dominican Republic.  MLBPA General Counsel Gene
    Orza said that the current signing freeze probably will stay in
    place until there is a bargaining settlement (Ross Newhan, L.A.
    TIMES, 1/13).
         TRICKLING REPLACEMENT PLANS:  ESPN's Keith Olbermann reported
    that the owners have made the following decisions regarding the
    use of replacements: 1) Rosters will be increased to 32, with 25
    players eligible per game; 2) Players' minimum salary will be
    $115,000, maximum salary $200,000, none of it guaranteed; 3)
    Replacements will be guaranteed first class airfare, a $125 per
    diem at spring training, a $10,000 bonus for being on the roster
    opening day, and a $20,000 bonus for being on the roster in the
    case of a settlement;  4) The highest a team payroll could be is
    $7.5M ("SportsCenter," 1/12).  In Washington, Thomas Boswell asks,
    "Can you annihilate an entire season -- or play a whole year with
    replacement players -- without risking the health of your product?
    In baseball's case, you'd be ruining two seasons" (WASHINGTON
    POST, 1/13).
         IS MR. SELIG AWARE OF THIS?  Brewers GM Sal Bando said he is
    not spending time trying to field a replacement team: "We'll sign
    some (minor league) free agents, but only if we think they have a
    chance to make the major-league club at some point.  We won't be
    putting together a replacement team as such" (Tom Haudricourt,
    MILWAUKEE SENTINEL, 1/13).
         TICKET PRICES:  Royals GM Herk Robinson said yesterday that a
    ticket policy regarding the use of replacements will be announced
    shortly.  It will likely be similar to policies announced by other
    teams which is half-price.  Ticket prices would increase if any
    Major Leaguers crossed the picket line (Jeffrey Flanagan, K.C.
    STAR, 1/13).
         THE UMPS:  Negotiators for locked-out umpires and the owners
    met in New York yesterday "without progress."  The two sides meet
    again next Thursday in Philadelphia.  Umpires want a 60% raise
    over four years (Rod Beeton, USA TODAY, 1/13).
    

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  • CFL FRANCHISE UPDATE: OTTAWA, THE POSSE & EXPANSION

         Ottawa Rough Riders President Phil Kershaw announced
    yesterday that he has been negotiating for "about two weeks" with
    an out-of-town investor to buy the team from Bruce Firestone.
    Kershaw who currently does not own a piece of the team, is likely
    to acquire a minority stake if the team is sold to this investor
    (Don Campbell, OTTAWA CITIZEN, 1/13).   THE L.A. POSSE?
    Businessman Phil Johnson is "100 percent certain" that he is on
    the verge of becoming the first black owner in the history of pro
    football.  Johnson is leading a group that has agreed to terms to
    acquire and operate the Posse and move the team to L.A.  According
    to Johnson, it is just a matter of the CFL Board of Governors
    approving the sale (Marty York, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/13).
         BIRMINGHAM:  The CFL confirmed that it has received a formal
    application for an expansion franchise to be based in Birmingham
    from retired insurance exec Arthur Williams.  Williams has named
    Larry Lemak, a local orthopedic surgeon, president and part owner
    of the potential franchise (CFL).
    

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  • FIRST WORLD GOLF TOUR EVENT TO BE HELD IN JAPAN IN NOVEMBER?

         In a telephone interview, World Golf Tour Exec Dir John
    Montgomery Jr. said that he is trying to schedule the Tour's
    inaugural event for next November, most likely to held in Japan
    and televised in the U.S. on Fox.  The PGA Tour season ends in
    October with the Tour Championship.  Montgomery said that neither
    he nor Greg Norman have "given up on their plan to eventually
    start an eight-event world tour" featuring the game's top 30
    players.  He added there is still "widespread interest from
    potential sponsors."  Fox initially said it would pay the World
    Tour $25M in rights fees for an 8-event schedule.  A Fox
    spokesperson said the network was still interested in the concept
    and "is waiting for further word from Montgomery."  PGA Tour
    Commissioner Tim Finchem said this week that he met with Norman
    last Thursday and that Norman told him "he's taking a step back.
    He recognizes it can't move ahead in its current configuration."
    Finchem said that reps from various int'l tours will convene in FL
    in March to discuss the possibility of a world tour from a long-
    term perspective (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 1/13).
    

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, News Corp./Fox, PGA Tour
  • HOCKEY RELEASED! DESPITE GRUMBLINGS, RATIFICATION EXPECTED

         The NHL and its players reached agreement on the "major items
    among the 'transitional issues' that are still casting a shadow on
    today's contract-ratification vote by the players," according to
    today's Toronto GLOBE & MAIL.  While most were optimistic that the
    new CBA would receive a majority vote from the 700 NHLPA members,
    the issue of "grandfathering" for players formerly classed as
    Group I could cause some "no" votes.  While the union was telling
    agents that the players would be eligible for arbitration under
    the old rules, there was no indication that the league had agreed
    to that.  Several agents were promising legal action if their
    clients were going to be forced to live under the new rules this
    year (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/13).
         VOTE QUOTES:  Bruin Cam Neely, one of the 30-year-old players
    who will have to wait longer to be a free agent, will vote no:
    "If that's what we had to give up, you'd think we could have given
    that in August or September" (Nancy Marrapese, BOSTON GLOBE,
    1/13).  Blackhawk Ed Belfour, another 30-year-old non-free agent:
    "You can't always get what you want" (Daryl Van Schouwen, CHICAGO
    SUN-TIMES, 1/13).  Panthers Player Rep John Vanbiesbrouk predicted
    that doubts about the transitional issues would not affect any
    votes (David Neal, MIAMI HERALD, 1/13).  But "rumblings" from the
    Islanders indicate the vote may be closer than expected (Peter
    Botte, N.Y. POST, 1/13).  Red Wings Player Rep Terry Carkner:  "We
    have to remind the guys that a 'no' vote means you want the season
    to end" (Helene Elliott, L.A. TIMES, 1/13).  Canuck Sergio
    Momesso:  "A lot of guys don't want to sign and have them say
    they'll take care of the transitional things later.  There is not
    a lot of trust" (Elliott Pap, VANCOUVER SUN, 1/13).  23-year-old
    Bruin Bryan Smolinski:  "It's too bad I can't vote for none of the
    above" (Joe Gordon, BOSTON HERALD, 1/13).
         MORE POST-DEAL REAX:  Blues Player Rep Guy Carbonneau,
    assessing the deal:  "Unrestricted free agency, even if it's at
    age 32, we still have free agency, and that's never been
    negotiated in any CBA in sports.  It's always been won with court
    or legal action" (Dave Luecking, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/13).
    In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont writes that the players will be
    "candid enough to say who won.  The vote to ratify could be a sign
    of what they're thinking" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/13).  In Washington,
    Dave Fay writes there are still no "restraints to save the owners
    from themselves" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/13).  In Toronto, William
    Houston's WINNERS:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA Exec Dir
    Bob Goodenow, Maple Leafs Pres/GM Cliff Fletcher;  LOSERS:  Bruins
    Pres/GM Harry Sinden, the NHL's "seven dwarves, er, hawks" (Jacobs
    of Boston, McMullen of New Jersey, Pollin of Washington, Ilitch of
    Detroit, Wirtz of Chicago, Aubut of Quebec, Shenkarow of
    Winnipeg), Chris Chelios and Brett Hull (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL,
    1/13).  In Chicago, Bob Verdi writes if Blackhawks Owner Bill
    Wirtz "were interested only in padding his bottom line, he could
    have pared his organization with layoffs.  He did nothing of the
    kind.  He held a Christmas party" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/13).
    Harvard Law's Paul Weiler calls the rookie cap the "biggest win
    for the owners" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 1/13).
         LOOKING DOWN THE ROAD:  In Montreal, Peter Hadekel writes
    that the deal "could be the start of a long overdue market
    correction in professional-sports salaries" and that it is a "good
    start on laying groundwork for some form of revenue-sharing"
    (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 1/13).  Edmonton-based columnist Cam Cole, on
    the "patronizing" treatment afforded small-market Canadian cities
    by big-market NHL owners:  "We were patted on the head a lot"
    (SOUTHAM NEWS, 1/13).  Nordiques Owner Marcel Aubut, Oilers Owner
    Peter Pocklington and Senators Owner Rod Bryden all predicted the
    league would institute a "slush fund" to defray the disparity
    between U.S. and Canadian currency for financially-strapped
    Canadian franchises.  Bryden:  "I don't know how totally complete
    the protection will be, but there will be significant movement by
    the league in the current year to be of help to us" (CP/ OTTAWA
    CITIZEN, 1/13).  Agent Mike Gillis predicts a "new era of
    litigation" over arbitration and the rookie cap (Tony Gallagher,
    Vancouver PROVINCE, 1/13).  ESPN'S Jimmy Roberts examined the
    Americanization of the NHL:  The migration of stars (Messier,
    Gretzky) to U.S. media markets, the rewarding of 4 out of the last
    5 expansion teams to U.S. warm weather sites, and the emphasis on
    marketing the whole-game experience for U.S. fans ("SportsCenter,"
    ESPN, 1/12).
    

    Print | Tags: Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, ESPN, Leagues and Governing Bodies, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, New York Islanders, NHL, Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Walt Disney
  • STEINBRENNER SAYS MLB EXPANSION IS ON THE FAST TRACK

         Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner, who serves on MLB's
    expansion committee, indicated that "optimism about expansion was
    warranted": "I told you [Acting MLB Commissioner Bud] Selig had it
    on a fast track, and believe me, you're not going to believe how
    fast that track is."  Sen. Connie Mack said he would not back off
    his support of legislation that revoke MLB's anti-trust exemption
    unless MLB promises an expansion team for Tampa Bay.  Vince
    Naimoli, head of the Tampa expansion effort:  "I'm always
    extremely encouraged to hear of things like that.  I know Mr.
    Steinbrenner has been a very vocal advocate and supporter of our
    area getting major league baseball and I continue to appreciate
    everything he does for us" (David Dahl, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES,
    1/13).
    

    Print | Tags: Anheuser Busch, Leagues and Governing Bodies, MLB, New York Yankees, YankeeNets
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