MLB invited five groups to make formal presentations to the expansion committee on November 1 in Chicago. The groups selected to make presentations: St. Petersburg, Orlando, Phoenix, and two groups from Northern Virginia. The five were not called finalists for the next round of major league expansion, "but privately, baseball officials said it's reasonable to assume these are the groups still in the running" (Maske & Lipton, WASHINGTON POST, 10/22). Phoenix and St. Petersburg are widely believed to be the favorites if baseball expands by two teams as early as '96. Red Sox General Partner John Harrington, chair of the expansion committee, said, "The decision to expand has not yet been made. These are preliminary interviews" (MLB). ST. PETE: Group Attorney John Higgins: "If you put the facts down, they favor the Tampa Bay area -- a season ticket base, an existing facility, a strong ownership group and a long baseball tradition." Harrington, in an interview with the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES: "We are going to get into their financial information. We want to know who their decision maker will be." Harrington also said the expansion issue is agreeable to the MLBPA, saying the union "previously made a proposal that called for expansion." Harrington: "It has been brought up in discussion with them [players union] that we would like to have included in the next basic agreement the ability to expand. They didn't reject that" (Mark Topkin, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 10/22) ORLANDO: Paul Jacobs, a partner in the effort to bring baseball to Orlando: "We knew the process was moving along. It's the next step. It's a big step." Orange County Chairman Linda Chapin: "We've got to feel good that Orlando is recognized as an important, vibrant, growing community. That is what the owners appear to be saying here" (Lawrence Lebowitz, ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/22). VIRGINIA: Attorney Bart Fisher, head of Capital Baseball Inc.: "What it says is that baseball is interested in the area. We're against three other cities. I would hope they add four teams. But even if they only add two, I feel good about our chances" (Maske & Lipton, WASHINGTON POST, 10/22). William Collins, head of Virginia Baseball Club said, "I think Major League Baseball is very serious about baseball in Northern Virginia" (Kevin Lyons, WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/22). Both said if they are awarded a franchise they would play in RFK Stadium while a Virginia ballpark is under construction. Several local officials and activists said it was time for Fisher and Collins "to level with the public about where a local stadium might be built" (Eric Lipton, WASHINGTON POST, 10/22).
Leagues Governing Bodies
While both sides are denying that the resumption of talk is imminent, "there will be a secret meeting early this week" between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow "at an undisclosed location," according to a report in this morning's TORONTO STAR. One top player agent: "This is a very important week" (Damien Cox, TORONTO STAR, 10/24). It is believed the league "is prepared to bring a new proposal" to meetings this week (Roy Cummings, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 10/22). Meanwhile, the league is taking its case to agents sending them information on their proposal and the state of negotiations. While Murray Chass refers to it as "Phase II" of the NHL's effort to generate support on the opposing side, one agent said it was just a "propaganda package" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/24). Agent Don Meehan: "I am a little tired of both sides trying to convince me of how right they are and I'd like both sides to direct some energies to sitting down and finding out a way to resolve these issues" (CANADIAN PRESS/VANCOUVER SUN, 10/24). NHLPA ALL-STAR GAME: The NHLPA has made preliminary inquiries regarding the availability of Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, in late November for a possible exhibition all-star game (VANCOUVER SUN, 10/22). EUROPE & THE MINORS: The Swedish Elite League effectively "froze out" NHL players by announcing that it would allow them to compete only if they committed to an entire season (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/23). In New York, Joe LaPointe examines the "hands- off" policy taken by the IHL owners toward signing NHL players. Agent/former player Brian Lawton: "Part of it is fear. The NHL is very powerful." Agent Mark Gandler: "They are just looking for excuses. I say it's a bunch of baloney. I will give them another few days and then I will look at a legal recourse" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/23). In Newark, Walt MacPeek writes, "It is only a matter of time, perhaps a week, before an agent or a player sues one of the minor leagues, along with the NHL, and then the whole labor-management dispute could become further tangled in the courts" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 10/23). CAN'T TELL THE OWNERS WITHOUT A SCORECARD: In Toronto, William Houston breaks ownership into three groups: Hawks, Doves and Fence-Sitters. THE HAWKS: Bruins (Jeremy Jacobs), Devils (John McMullen), Red Wings (Mike Ilitch), Blackhawks (Bill Wirtz), Flyers (Ed Snider), Jets (Barry Shenkarow), Panthers (Wayne Huizenga), Whalers (Peter Karmanos) & Penguins (Howard Baldwin). THE DOVES: Maple Leafs (Steve Stavro), Mighty Ducks (Michael Eisner), Rangers (Charles Dolan), Kings (Jeffrey Sudikoff), Canucks (Arthur Griffiths), Flames, Canadiens (Molson), Islanders (Robert Rosenthal and Stephen Walsh) & Oilers (Peter Pocklington). THE FENCE-SITTERS: Blues, Capitals, Sharks, Stars, Nordiques, Sabres, Lightning & Senators. Baldwin went from Dove to Hawk after becoming upset with Goodenow's "obstinance." Pocklington changed his stance after getting a more favorable lease (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/22). SAVE THE SMALL-MARKETS: Milwaukee-based sports-valuation expert Michael Megna sees a "high probability" that within a decade there may only be three Canadian teams remaining -- Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver -- with others moving to bigger U.S. cities such as Denver and Phoenix. Buy Bruins President & GM Harry Sinden calls that prospect "the worst thing we could do." Noting that 2/3 of NHL players are Canadian, Sinden says if the NHL leaves smaller Canadian cities, "the kids in those areas would lose interest, and the NHL will eventually run short of players" (William Symonds, BUSINESS WEEK, 10/31 issue). FROM THE SIDELINES: If the season is canceled, the city of Detroit will lose more than $1.5M in ticket surcharge and parking revenues generated by Red Wings games (CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS, 10/17-24 issue). SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's Michael Farber suggests the players agree to a rookie cap and give up on salary arbitration, and the owners concede to a larger non-compensation free agent pool. According to a "high-placed" NHL exec, such a deal "would go a long way to getting owners to open the doors" (Gare Joyce, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/24). In Vancouver, Mike Beamish nominates Harvard Law Professor Paul Weiler as a potential mediator. Weiler: "A mediator isn't any good unless both sides want one. My worry is they're waiting to see what goes on in baseball first" (VANCOUVER SUN, 10/22). San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer and mayors from 16 other NHL cities called on both sides to end the lockout. San Jose faces the potential loss of the All-Star Game (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/22).
Charlie Stillitanom, who was venue director for the World Cup games at Giants Stadium, has been in negotiations with a Major League Soccer potential owner in the NY area, according to a report in Sunday's Newark STAR-LEDGER. "Although he wouldn't say who it is, he did admit that it isn't Time Warner Inc., the corporation that still owns the Cosmos' rights." It seems Time Warner is not interested in owning a MLS franchise, but they are interested in being involved in a marketing contract similar to the World Cup. the STAR-LEDGER's Ike Kuhns notes that "time is becoming critical" for MLS if it is to be "marketed properly" for an April '95 startup. Kuhns adds to expect announcements in early November (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 10/23).
"The salary-cap proposal that triggered the strike that killed the World Series is about to become even less appealing to the players," according to a weekend report in the N.Y. TIMES. According to a memo sent from MLB's Player Relations committee to the clubs last week, the owners plan to withdraw the $1B in guaranteed total payrolls they offered players in their original proposal. The guarantee was a "significant element of the plan in which the owners would give the players" 50% of their revenue for salaries and other players costs. The $1B figure was based on the projected players' share of the owners' estimated $1.78B revenue this year. The elimination of the $1B guarantee "comes as no surprise. The guarantee was offered on the contingency that revenues in future years would not fall below this year's total" of $1.78B (N.Y. TIMES, 10/23). ESPN's Gary Miller: "Basically [the owners' plan] has been redesigned so owners can unilaterally implement it, which they are expected to do, next month" (ESPN, 10/22). OTHER MEMO ELEMENTS: The memo also attaches figures to the part of the owners' proposal that deals with "escalating minimum salaries in their first four years. First year players would receive $115,000; 2nd 175,000; 3rd $500,000; 4th $750,000. The union has proposed raising the league minimum to at least $175,000, with nothing set beyond that level (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 10/23). Mediator Bill Usery will not convene a joint bargaining session until he understands each side's position (USA TODAY, 10/24). GOOD NEWS? In Boston, Peter Gammons reports that a group of nine "powerful agents" met with MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr in New York on Thursday, and left "feeling good" about a December 1 settlement and being able to start signing free agents next week. One player rep said Friday "that the union office was optimistic about spring training, and indications are strong that several big-market owners are increasingly restless about the strike being prolonged by small-market self-interests" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/23).
Steelers President Dan Rooney has come up with his "fourth, and final" realignment plan to be voted on by owners when they have their fall meeting in Chicago on November 1-2. Rooney's latest plan has the Seahawks (NFC West) and Buccaneers (AFC East) switching conferences and the Falcons (NFC East), Cardinals (NFC West), Colts (AFC Central) and Oilers (AFC West) switching divisions. That would put the Panthers in the AFC Central and the Jaguars in the NFC Central (Timothy Smith, N.Y. TIMES, 10/23). UPSHAW IN DENVER: NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw stopped in Denver as part of his tour of NFL cities explaining the salary cap system to the rank-and-file. Upshaw: "It's a performance- based system. If you do well, you'll get paid. If they don't want to pay you, you can go somewhere else and play" (Rick Morrisey, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 10/23). JONES VS. THE LEAGUE: In Boston, Will McDonough reports that Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones "has been calling up some of the newer owners in the league" -- such as the Patriots' Robert Kraft and the Eagles' Jeffrey Lurie -- "trying to enlist their aid" in Jones' push to change the rules on the division of profits from NFL Properties. Jones wants to divide the money in proportion to sales per team (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/23). Speaking at the Smithsonian Associates series on the NFL's 75th Anniversary last week, former Cowboys GM Tex Schramm took exception to Jones' plan: "The League has been built down through the years by people who put the League first and their own franchise second. ... You are getting different people in the League today. Now, I don't know what's going to happen, but I know what I would do if I were Wellington Mara or Chicago, let's say. I would tell Jerry, 'You know, you got a darn good idea. You keep the Properties' money, but we'll keep New York's share of the television money'" (THE DAILY).