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BASEBALL EXPANSION MOVES ONTO THE NOT-SO-FAST TRACK
Published February 2, 1995
"For months, baseball officials have insisted that labor negotiations and the expansion process were proceeding on separate tracks," writes Marc Topkin in today's ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. "On Wednesday, they merged." In presenting a new proposal to the players, the owners included expansion plans which call for two teams in the "near-term" and two more in the future. And Red Sox CEO John Harrington, who heads MLB's expansion commitee, "indicated it would be problematic to get owners to approve expansion unless the labor dispute is resolved first." Harrington: "When I go to the ownership meeting, if we don't have the labor agreement resolved, it could be like, 'Hey, we don't even want to consider (expansion).' I would anticipate that." The committee will hold a conference call today to discuss a number of issues, including the price, payment terms and league assignments of new teams, potential inter-league play and potential franchise sites. Harrington doubts a decision will be made today on the fee, expected to be between $125-150M (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 2/2). BUY TWO, GET ONE FREE: The chances the Washington-metro area would get a franchise "seemed to increase" with Harrington's statement that owners could opt to award three franchises -- not just two -- in the first round of expansion, according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Northern VA, represented by two different groups, "appears to be running third" behind Tampa-St. Pete and Phoenix. The group headed by telecom exec William Collins is the favorite in Northern VA. He and Bart Fisher, the leader of the other VA group, are scheduled to meet February 10. Collins "says he has no interest" in merging (WASHINGTON POST, 2/2). THE SCHEDULE: Harrington said that the committee plans to seek two votes from the owners at "face-to-face meetings": One on expansion overall, the franchise fee and inter-league play, and the other on the specific sites (Marc Topkin, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 2/2). While the owners had been expected to hold the first vote by the end of February, Harrington now expects the vote on the idea of expansion to come at the March 7-9 meetings in Palm Beach, followed by a second round of interviews and a decision on franchises by the end of March (Thom Loverro, WASHINGTON TIMES, 2/2).