SBD/2/Leagues Governing Bodies

BASEBALL EXPANSION MOVES ONTO THE NOT-SO-FAST TRACK

     "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).
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