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ABL: The ABL signed Jennifer Azzi to a four-year contract extension (ABL). League CEO Gary Cavalli said Azzi's signing means 29 of the ABL's top 35 players have signed contract extensions. Cavalli: "We expect three more to be announced soon, leaving three others who want to wait." The Rage's Dawn Staley has yet to resign and Cavalli said Staley is "very, very important to the league. Obviously she's No. 1 on our list" (PHILA. INQUIRER, 10/24). GENERAL: MLS Deputy Commissioner Sunil Gulati said that the league will likely retain all its foreign players in '98, and he predicts that about 20 new international players will come into the league next season (USA TODAY, 10/24). ...CART's season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix has been moved from March 1 to March 15 "in order to secure a better" TV package. Details of the TV deal were not disclosed (STAR- NEWS, 10/24)....The Pacers-Hornets exhibition game on Tuesday in Nashville drew 9,338 at the 16,000-plus seat Nashville arena (NASHVILLE BANNER, 10/23)....The Panthers have filed a grievance with the NFL Management Council. The team is looking to collect the unpaid fines that former Panther Kevin Greene incurred during his holdout. It is also looking to recoup a $350,000 roster bonus that it paid Greene last February. The matter goes before an independent arbitrator next week (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/24).
In a "rare outburst of anger and candor," Marlins Manager Jim Leyland "lashed out at critics" of the '97 World Series, according to Dan Shaughnessy of the BOSTON GLOBE. Leyland "seemed to be directing some of his anger" at Acting Commissioner Bud Selig, who criticized the quality and pace of play during the first few games. Leyland: "I'm sick and tired of hearing about New York and Atlanta and Baltimore. We won it. We are the teams that are supposed to be here, and it makes me puke when I continue to hear people talking about the Marlins and the Indians." More Leyland: "This game has a hell of a lot more problems than the (expletive) TV ratings" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/24). Leyland added that MLB should start its World Series games earlier: "[I]n my opinion, we contradict ourselves a lot in baseball. We're trying to get the youth involved, for God sakes. Most youth are sleeping by 9 o'clock, and more importantly, so is the guy that works from 7 o'clock to 4 or 5 in the afternoon. The blue-collar guy is tired. ... The ratings of this World Series (are) not very high on the list of problems we've got with baseball" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 10/24). REAX: In Washington, Thomas Boswell noted both the comments of Selig and Leyland: "Is baseball finally coming out of its denial phase? This may end up being the worst- played, least watched World Series in history. But it also could be a watershed in candor. For the first time, baseball is admitting publicly the depth and number of its problems" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/24). In Philadelphia, Bill Conlin called Leyland's remarks "one of the great bursts of compulsive truth-telling ever heard in a sport in which lying is an accepted art" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 10/24). In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes Leyland spoke "honestly, and from the heart, without editing himself. ... His rant turned out to be better than these games, and moved along much quicker" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/24). Also in N.Y., Tom Keegan called Leyland's remarks "refreshing" (N.Y. POST, 10/24). RATINGS: Reaction continued to the Series' low ratings. NEWSDAY's Steve Zipay writes the "big reason" for the interest drop "is that we're seeing the continuing residue from the bitter strike" and cancelled Series of '94. Zipay: "The casual viewer left and never came back. Simple as that" (NEWSDAY, 10/24). In Toronto, Stephen Brunt writes the Series "has to win an audience anew each and every year. And all of the things that wouldn't have mattered so much when it was a cultural institution -- the late start times, the long games, the bad play, the lack of entertainment value -- matter a great deal" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/24). An editorial in today's PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: "Wake up, baseball. Move up the starting times and speed up the games" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/24). ROUND-UP: In NC, Caulton Tudor writes the '97 Series is "yet another reminder of the sport's mortality." Tudor: "Once entrenched as the national pastime, baseball has become a rebel without a cause, clue, compass or conscience" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 10/24). But in Philadelphia, Jayson Stark writes, "In the '90s, life is different and the World Series are different. Too bad some folks just haven't figured that out yet" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/24).
The NBPA "hopes to present a united front when its agents advisory committee meets" today in N.Y., according to ESPN's David Aldridge. Aldridge: "The committee contains most of the agents who were part of the unsuccessful decertification effort two years ago. But now most of those agents -- including David Falk, Arn Tellem, Mark Bartelstein, Bill Strickland -- are firmly in control of the union. They'll likely come out of the meeting talking about more exemptions for veterans, and decrying the league's contention that a third of its teams could lose money this season while a half dozen coaches received financial windfalls in the offseason" ("SportsCenter," 10/23).