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BASEBALL TO VOTE ON INTERLEAGUE PLAY TODAY?
Published January 18, 1996
MLB's top officials -- including acting Commissioner Bud Selig, NL President Leonard Coleman and AL President Gene Budig - - said they expect owners to vote today on a proposal to begin interleague play in '97. According to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST, "The measure almost certainly will pass if it's voted upon, for little opposition has mounted to it during the owners' quarterly meetings here" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/18). Other reports note that while interleague play may be popular, the subsequent need to re-examine the DH rule could cause complications -- particularly with the union. Last night, ESPN's Peter Gammons said he believes a vote will be tabled today. Gammons: "The point is maybe they should work the deal out with the union, get an agreement there, and then just make it official -- rather than make it official and then have to barter with the union" ("SportsCenter," 1/17). Red Sox CEO John Harrington is expected to introduce the proposal to try it for one year "and see how it goes." Harrington, Phillies President Bill Giles and Astros Owner Drayton McLane -- the major proponents of interleague play -- "appear to have the necessary votes" (Alan Truex, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/18). THE GREAT DH DEBATE: In New York, Murray Chass writes that the DH issue "threatened ... to undermine the revolutionary concept before it can be implemented." One possible scenario: the union could propose adding the DH to the NL, instead of dropping it from the AL -- most likely causing NL owners to turn against interleague play. MLBPA Assoc General Counsel Gene Orza: "Why is the elimination of the DH the proposed solution rather than the expansion of the DH?" Chass notes, while no one in management would admit to it, "the desire to eliminate the [DH] is more an economic issue than one of sanctity of the nine-man lineup" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/18). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck also notes the possibility of the union using interleague play as a "catalyst for the expansion of the DH rule" -- although the current state of labor relations means "it probably won't come to that" (Baltimore SUN, 1/18). In Atlanta, I.J. Rosenberg notes the average salary for 10 regular DHs in the AL was $3,458,573 in '95 (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/18). NEWS & VIEWS: Gammons: "I think one of the things baseball people have come to realize is that baseball is not simply a part of some historic trust, it's part of an entertainment industry" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/17). CBS' Dan Rather mentioned the expected approval of interleague play, saying it will be accepted because of "a concern over falling attendance" ("CBS Evening News," 1/17). In Philly, Bill Lyon writes, "Baseball desperately needs to do whatever will bring back the fans, whatever will broaden and deepen interest. Interleague play is so obvious" (PHILA. INQUIRER, 1/18). The Rangers (who would play the NL West) oppose interleague play because of added travel and an increased number of late-night games (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/18). TV SITUATION: Despite an offer from Time Warner Sports President Seth Abraham to have interleague games carried on HBO, Bill Giles, head of MLB's TV Committee, said the networks that have regular-season TV rights under the new deal -- Fox, ESPN and Fox/Liberty cable -- will carry the interleague games (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 1/18). RELATED ISSUES: One "frequently discussed scenario" cited in the ST. PETE TIMES has the Devil Rays in the AL East and the Diamondbacks in the NL West. D'Backs Managing General Partner Jerry Colangelo: "I've been told by enough people that if interleague play is approved they will probably go 15 and 15. And if it goes that way, we're in the NL" (Marc Topkin, ST. PETE TIMES, 1/18). Naimoli told the TAMPA TRIBUNE he feels they will end up in the AL East, even though it would mean a "double switch" of teams in the other divisions (Bill Chastain, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 1/18).