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Orioles Owner Peter Angelos met with AL counsel William Schweitzer yesterday "in the clearest signal yet" owners are "pressuring" Angelos to field a replacement team. Schweitzer also hand delivered a letter from AL President Gene Budig that reminded Angelos of baseball's constitutional powers as well as the steps MLB & the AL could take if the club did not comply with the league's wishes. Those powers include fines of up to $250,000 for every game missed or seizure of the team by the league (Mark Hyman, Baltimore SUN, 1/20). Angelos stood firm on his view that replacement players would hurt his team's fan base. He released partial results of a poll he commissioned. According to Angelos, 94% of the fans surveyed supported his position, and only 17% would support the use of replacements; 82% would rather see the Orioles forfeit replacement games than use replacements (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 1/20). SOLUTIONS? One club official noted that owners have considered a "wider range of options should the Orioles refuse to field a team." One idea discussed would have different baseball officials choose a "commissioner's team" that would play their home games in FL or another site (Mark Hyman, Baltimore SUN, 1/20). In Washington, Mark Maske notes that other "baseball people" seem to believe, that because of the problems the Blue Jays might have in fielding a team, the league may not litigate with Angelos and instead play with 12 teams (WASHINGTON POST, 1/20). AND IN WASHINGTON: Labor Secretary Robert Reich, saying he was expressing the wishes of President Clinton, urged owners to resume joint negotiations. Reich sat in on the meeting between a contingent of owners and Special Mediator William Usery (Mult., 1/20). MARKETING THE GAME: In this morning's WALL STREET JOURNAL, John Helyar writes on the different marketing efforts of clubs. "Plenty of fans and companies will remain loyal to baseball because they are loath to lose a good seat or a good sign placement." But Helyar notes that the Blue Jays' radio network advertising -- normally 80% sold by now -- is currently "stuck at 20%." The Dodgers, in the first week of the season alone, will "give away everything from European trips to cars to baseball cards: they will let kids in the upper deck for free and trot out bands and cartoon characters galore" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/20). TEAM NOTES: The Blue Jays announced they will not require Manager Cito Gaston or his staff to coach a replacement team. Blue Jays GM Gord Ash: "We're going to have them report right to minor league camp, work with our minor league prospects and we'll use a replacement staff to work with the replacement players" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/19)....The A's will not hold a replacement tryout camp until next month (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 1/19)....The White Sox' new ad campaign is called "Dear Sox." They are urging fans to write the club and share their feelings about baseball in general. From those letters, Sox fans will be selected throughout the year to be featured in ads (Terry Armour, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/20)....In Atlanta, I.J. Rosenberg offers his scouting report of the Braves tryout camp that was held yesterday in Houston: "None of the 87 candidates on hand was judged capable of impersonating a major leaguer" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/20)....Phil Niekro announced he would not cross the line as a replacement player (Mult., 1/20).
MLB's expansion committee is scheduled to "confer by telephone today and is expected to recommend that owners add at least two teams," according to Marc Topkin in this morning's ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. Phillies President Bill Giles: "I anticipate we will have a phone meeting soon. We are definitely going to decide. ... I can tell you that most of the committee members do want to expand." Today's meeting is expected to cover "only whether the major leagues should expand and whether they should expand by two teams, expand by two teams with a pledge to consider adding two more later, or expand by four teams over a set period of years." Leaders in Tampa Bay and Phoenix have been "publicly confident that they are the top two choices." Orlando and Northern VA are also finalists. No ranking of the sites is expected to be released today. Suns Owner Jerry Colangelo, who is leading the Phoenix effort: "I believe in five weeks Tampa/St. Petersburg and Phoenix will be awarded franchises." After the committee recommendation, the full group of owners must vote on whether to expand -- 21 of 28 votes are needed. "There is no firm date" for an owners' meeting with expansion on the agenda. The next scheduled regular owners' meeting is March 6-8 in Palm Beach, FL (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 1/20).
The IHL Wednesday selected Houston as the next sight of the league's all-star game. According to Aeros GM Steve Patterson, the Aeros' staff is very capable of handling the festivities. Patterson: "Part of what made Houston attractive was the Aero's staff, many of whom were Rockets employees when the NBA All-Star Game was in Houston in 1989." Included in the Aeros' proposal was having the game over a weekend to "accomodate a two day 'Fanfest', something that has been successful in other sports but never attempted in hockey." The game has traditionally been held during the week so teams don't have to forfeit "valuable weekend dates at home" (Jody Goldstein, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/19).
The NHL season "opens with eight games tonight and the greatest fear of all involved -- that the 3 1/2-month lockout killed the astounding momentum the league built last season -- may not materialize," writes Len Hochberg in the WASHINGTON POST. "For the first time heading into an NHL season," Hochberg adds, "the big question isn't 'Who will win the Cup?' but "Does anybody care?' Early indications are, lost of people do" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/20). In Chicago, Bernie Lincicome writes that the shortened season is a reason to be optimistic: "Hockey really ought to be played between thaws" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/20). HOCKEY ON TV: Fox Sports execs met with the NHL yesterday to discuss a "revision of their schedule," according to Rob Longley of the TORONTO SUN. "Word is the network wants a rebate on its $31 million because of the cancellation of the All-Star Game" (TORONTO SUN, 1/20). Some team-by-team updates on Opening Day: ANAHEIM: The Mighty Ducks will return to The Pond on January 23 with an "Opening Night Entertainment Extravaganza" featuring a pre-game show with their mascot, dance team and a laser show. Every fan entering the building will also be part of the team's season-long "Loyal Fan Promotion" (Mighty Ducks). DALLAS: The Stars haven't sold out their January 30 home opener, "but they expect to." The team sold 2,000 tickets on Monday, the day after a full page ad appeared in the DALLAS MORNING NEWS and TV and radio spots hit the airwaves. The team's previous one-day ticket sales record was around 1,500. Stars President Jim Lites: "I don't know what I was expecting when (the lockout) ended, but I wasn't expecting the phones to be ringing as much as they have" (Terry Egan, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/18). NEW YORK: The Rangers expect to have captain Mark Messier in the lineup when the team opens its season and raises the '93- 94 Stanley Cup banner at Madison Square Garden tonight. Messier: "We're so close now that there's going to be an agreement" (Mark Everson, N.Y. POST, 1/20). OTTAWA: The Senators will open the season with top draft choice Radek Bonk in the fold. Bonk signed a 5-year deal worth $6.125M last night in Las Vegas. Roy MacGregor writes the signing of Bonk and the addition of veterans goalie Don Beaupre "will go a long way toward proving this team is finally getting serious about building something worth watching" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 1/20). VANCOUVER: Canucks VP Glen Ringdal said there will be at least 2,000 seats available for tonight's game. The team's season-ticket base has fallen to 8,800 from 9,300 in the wake of the lockout, Ringdal said. Ringdal: "Some [former season-ticket holders] are coming back. We've been in touch with all of them individually to see what we can do" (Iain MacIntyre, VANCOUVER SUN, 1/20). WASHINGTON: The Capitals have selected Abramson Ehrlich Manes, the Washington, DC, marketing communications firm, to create a multi-media advertising campaign for the season. The theme for the season is being characterized as "sprint to the playoffs" (Abrahmson Ehrlich Manes).