SBD/Issue 88/Leagues & Governing Bodies

MLB At A Crossroads, Day 79: MN Court Denies MLB's Appeal

MLB owners "suffered a major defeat" in their efforts to disband the Twins before next season, as the MN Court of Appeals yesterday upheld a lower-court decision forcing the Twins to play their '02 season at the Metrodome, according to Randy Furst of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. With pitchers and catchers reporting February 15, Roger Magnuson, attorney for MLB, said that the owners will "seek an expedited appeal" before the MN State Supreme Court. Magnuson: "The good thing about baseball, and to some degree courts, is it's still three strikes and you're out, and we intend to take a full swing before the Supreme Court." Attorneys for the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC), landlord of the Metrodome that sued the Twins and MLB to have the Twins perform under the final year of their lease, said that they "oppose an expedited process." MSFC attorney Andrew Shea: "[MLB] created this time problem, not the Supreme Court and not our courts and our court system should not be turned upside down to put [MLB] at the front of the line, particularly after the well-reasoned opinion of the Appeals Court." The 22-page opinion was issued unanimously by the three judge appellate panel (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/23). In the opinion, Chief Judge Edward Toussaint wrote, "Since it appears from the record that money could not compensate the commission for the intangible losses that would result if the Twins breached their promise to play, the district court did not abuse its discretion" (THE DAILY). Read the Appeals Court's full decision.

REAX: MLB Commissioner Bud Selig: "We're appealing. As of now this changes nothing. I'm not prepared to make any determination yet on contraction this year. All I'm going to say is we will contract, that's a promise" (Luke Cyphers, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/23). MLB Exec VP/Administration & CLO Robert DuPuy said, "While we are disappointed with the decision of the appeals court, we are not surprised. We will seek a final determination in the Minnesota Supreme Court as soon as possible" (Mult., 1/23). MLB Senior VP/PR Rich Levin said, "Nothing's changed" with contraction. But MLBPA General Counsel Gene Orza said, "It certainly doesn't make their job any easier. Talking to me about it is an idle exercise. There's only one group of people — one person —who controls that decision" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/23).

MORE FROM THE RULING: MSFC Exec Dir Bill Lester: "We're ecstatic. This is a great ruling for fans of the Minnesota Twins and the people of Minnesota" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 1/22). Twins SS and union player rep Denny Hocking: "I'm excited about this. It looks to me like contraction will be put off, past the 2002 season, which I had anticipated all along." One unnamed Twins office employee said, "This is the news we've been waiting all winter to hear." Twins Senior VP/Business Affairs Dave St. Peter said the ruling "doesn't really change a thing" for the team's operations. St. Peter: "We've been operating as though we're going to play. We've been on full-speed ahead anyway for several week, and we're going to continue down that path until told otherwise my [MLB]" (Jim Souhan, STAR TRIBUNE, 1/23). Fred Malek, leader of a group trying to bring an MLB team to Washington, DC, said, "I don't think (the ruling) changes anything concerning Washington. I didn't expect they were going to be able to (contract) for this year anyhow" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/23). ABC Radio's Keith Olbermann said, "It's unlikely that this settles things, because it's unlikely a state court has jurisdiction over an interstate business with an anti-trust exemption" (ABC Radio, 1/22).

DECISION DAY? In MN, Kahn & Pina report that if the MN Supreme Court hears the case in an expedited manner, a decision "could come before the season opener April 1" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 1/23). In Toronto, Jeff Blair writes Selig has "never given a deadline for the contraction, and there are those in his inner circle who believe he is so serious about [it] ... that he would do so even after spring training starts" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/23). In N.Y., Buster Olney writes, "There is even the possibility that baseball would have to pull teams off practice fields in Florida or Arizona, perhaps facing more litigation" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/23).

STADIUM ISSUE: In MN, Aron Kahn writes that while a MN task force has recommended that the Legislature authorize new stadiums for the Twins and Vikings, leaders think the ballpark project is "all voters can handle." MN House Speaker Steve Sviggum added if the Twins want public money for a ballpark, "a change of ownership is probably necessary to get anything done" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 1/23).

SPRING TRAINING TICKET SALES: Meanwhile, USA TODAY's Rod Beaton notes the Expos and Twins — the two teams likely targeted for contraction — report "good sales" for their spring training tickets. Gloria Elwell, who sells spring training tickets for the Twins in Ft. Myers, FL, said sales are "going wonderfully. Some games we have no boxes left. Saturday, when they went on sale, the line was three hours long" (USA TODAY, 1/23).

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