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MLB franchises are considering "mandatory across-the-board reductions in minor league affiliates for every organization," according to USA TODAY. Any such action could not take place until after '97, when the agreement between MLB and NAPBL expires. But MLB Dir of Operations Bill Murray said Astros Owner Drayton McLane and the strategic planning committee he heads are "actively investigating" it as a cost-cutting option. At November meetings in Phoenix, MLB GMs floated the idea of limiting each team to four minor league affiliates -- one Rookie League, and one each in A, AA, and AAA. The impact would be heaviest at the A level, where as many as 51 teams could be cut loose. USA TODAY's Rod Beaton notes that would mean a savings of $500,000 to $1M per organization -- the typical price of a utility infielder. Beaton asks, "Are the majors being penny wise and dollar foolish?" (USA TODAY, 1/5). SHUTDOWN BLUES: In New York, Murray Chass examines the effect of the federal government shutdown on baseball with the unfair labor practices charge filed by the union last March still before the NLRB. The NLRB -- with its employees furloughed -- received a proposal from the MLBPA on the terms they want in a settlement, but owners never got the chance to read it and respond. Randy Levine, chief labor negotiator for the owners, said they are "anxious" to resolve the matter without going to trial (N.Y. TIMES, 1/5).
A panel of 14 NFL owners on hand for a presentation by Cleveland Mayor Michael White "came away convinced that the city's $175 million plan to renovate 65-year-old Cleveland Stadium is solid." But, as Bart Hubbuch of the Akron BEACON JOURNAL notes, the message from the owners to White was: "Replace, don't rebuild." NFL President Neil Austrian, who presided over the Atlanta meeting: "The consensus of our group is that the $175 million is rock solid. But you also have to ask whether it makes sense -- if you're going to spend $715 million - - to rebuild a stadium that was built in the 1930s." White said their decision to renovate was based on the request of Browns Owner Art Modell. But he said he told the NFL "we would not close our minds to any alternative." Austrian described the proposal that another team move to Cleveland as merely an "afterthought" because of the implications of having another abandoned city. White "surprised" the committee by saying they would even welcome Modell back, calling it a "small price to pay" to keep the Browns (Akron BEACON JOURNAL, 1/5). However, White ruled out the idea of letting the Browns go under the condition Cleveland would get another team at a later date. White: "That is DOA" (Jon Morgan, Baltimore SUN, 1/5). NO DEAL: Cleveland officials also denied reports that the city would negotiate an out-of-court settlement with the Browns, an idea originally floated by Maryland Stadium Authority Chair John Moag. Nancy Lesic, Press Secretary for Mayor White: "This is just a desperate attempt by John Moag to turn public opinion around in his favor, and I don't think that's going to happen" (Akron BEACON JOURNAL, 1/5).