Phillies Owner Bill Giles, a member of MLB's expansion
committee, said that MLB owners are expected to award two
expansion franchises by February to begin play in '97 (Bill
Chastain, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/16). But a report in the ST.
PETERSBURG TIMES notes that Red Sox CEO John Harrington outlined
a timetable that calls for the committee to make a recommendation
and owners to vote on it in late January or early February. Then
if expansion is approved, the committee will take an additional
4-6 weeks for a second round of interviews with the prospective
cities. That would put an expansion announcement in March (ST.
PETERSBURG TIMES, 12/16). The fee has not been set, but one
expansion applicant estimated it would be about $125M per team.
Several ownership sources say the vote "almost certainly will be
to add teams." During the labor negotiations, both sides have
offered proposals that involved sharing money gained from
expansion (Bill Chastain, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/16).
PADRES SALE: MLB owners "gave the go-ahead" for TV producer
Tom Werner to sell the Padres to TX software millionaire John
Moores. Former Orioles President Larry Lucchino, who would run
the team, said the sale is expected to be completed in a few
weeks (AP/BOSTON GLOBE, 12/16).
Meeting in Chicago, MLB owners agreed to extend negotiations
with the players' union for seven more days rather than
immediately implement their economic system. The owners voted to
give MLB's Executive Council the authority to implement a cap
next Thursday if an agreement between with the union is not
reached. The vote was 25-3, with the Orioles, Blue Jays and Mets
opposing. This "fueled speculation that the previous week of
negotiations brought the two sides closer," but Red Sox CEO John
Harrington said "that wasn't necessarily true" (Jeffrey Flanagan,
K.C. STAR, 12/16). In L.A., Ross Newhan writes, "It is difficult
to say whether [the vote] is merely the latest chapter in what
some believe has been a shameful attempt by both sides to
establish evidence of good-faith bargaining if that becomes an
issue" before the NLRB (L.A. TIMES, 12/16).
FROM THE UNION: With the 7-day reprieve, the union agreed
to postpone basic agreement deadlines: arbitration offers have
been delayed to December 23 and the December 20 deadline for
tendering '95 contracts was put off.
WHY THE DELAY? It was learned that the owners approved a
delayed implementation, "despite a warning" by an attorney for
Mets co-owner Fred Wilpon that the owners cannot withstand a
union challenge before the NLRB (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 12/16).
"Maybe the owners are getting soft. Maybe they aren't all in
agreement. Whatever, it was their move, and they blinked" (Tom
Knott, WASHINGTON TIMES, 12/16). Not everyone on the owners'
side "was pleased with the delay." Reds Owner Marge Schott
"seemed agitated as she left, amid speculation she wanted to get
on with the implementation" (Mike Shalin, BOSTON HERALD, 12/16).
ESPN's Peter Gammons, asked if the delay was to fix the problem
in Toronto where Ontario law prevents use of replacement players:
"No, that's something that they will deal with in January and
February" ("SportsCenter," 12/15). The owners' negotiating
committee of Harrington, Braves President Stan Kasten and Rockies
Owner Jerry McMorris was credited with the idea of a delay.
Negotiations are expected to resume Monday in Washington, with
William Usery presiding.
OTHER NEWS: Union officials protested information published
by the ASSCOCIATED PRESS on Monday that put union reserve fund
assets from licensing revnues well over $100M. MLBPA Licensing
Chief Judy Heeter called the figures "misleading and inaccurate"
and denied that the information was leaked to the AP or any other
news organization by the union (Bob Brill, THE BRILL REPORT,
With 373 games remaining in the regular season, the CBA is
on track to break last year's attendance record of 1.8M. This
year's numbers are 8,118 ahead of last season's average of 3,895
per game, and the final count is expected to exceed 2 million.
CBA Commissioner Tom Valdiserri: "I believe that this is a credit
to our clubs, and the fact that our level of quality players is
at an all-time high." Much success can be attributed to the
league's move into five new larger markets, with three of those
new teams increasing gate totals by 10%. The Mexico Aztecas
report a 71.9% jump over '93-94 when the team was in Fargo, ND
The "secret subcommittees" in the NHL labor dispute met
yesterday for the second day in a row. One union exec: "Real
cloak-and-dagger stuff." The representatives met at a secret
location, and while the delegations were in contact with NHL
Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow, the
two principals were not involved. The NHL delegation was
believed to include NHL Senior VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash and
Maple Leafs President Cliff Fletcher, while the NHLPA sent
attorneys John McCambridge and Bob Riley. "Some of the best-
informed executives and agents were not briefed about the talks,
suggesting an air of sensitivity and gravity to the issues being
discussed" (Joe Lapointe, N.Y. TIMES, 12/16). There were no
official plans to resume full negotiations, although the CANADIAN
PRESS is reporting that talks are planned for the weekend.
Fletcher: "There will be more meetings" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE,
SMALL GROUPS, BIG TALKS: In Toronto, Bob McKenzie writes,
"If the two sides weren't making some progress on the sticky
systemic issues -- everything from rookie salary caps to salary
arbitration to free agency to the mother of them all, the payroll
tax -- they wouldn't be getting back together. ... The
lieutenants on both sides are skilled professionals and creative
problem solvers. The urgency of the situation, along with the
absence of two hard-line leaders, may be just what's needed to
breathe some life into the talks" (TORONTO STAR, 12/16). One
source told the CANADIAN PRESS: "If this thing is going to get
done and the season is going to be saved, these small groups will
have played a big part of the process" (VANCOUVER SUN, 12/16).
DEAL IN THE WORKS? Several owners told THE SPORTING NEWS
"that reintroducing the tax was a 'face-saving tactic to show
small-market teams the league had not sold them out. But the
charade was part of a natural process.' That's why the tax will
disappear this week and the Edmontons and Winnipegs of the NHL
will have to make it on their own. Seventy-five percent of the
owners will not vote to cancel the season" (THE SPORTING
NEWS/L.A. TIMES, 12/16).
IF YOU'VE GOT THE YEN, THEY'VE GOT THE TIME: The TORONTO
SUN reports that if the season is canceled, the next stop for
Wayne Gretzky and his all-stars would be Japan. "The precise
format has yet to be determined, but the financial backing has
already been arranged -- and it is substantial," reports Al
Strachan. Since the level of competition would not be the same
as in Europe, the NHLPA would have to send two teams (TORONTO
THE "I" WATCHES AND WAITS: IHL Commissioner Bob Ufer said
he is "unsure" whether he will extend his ban of IHL teams
signing locked-out NHL players before it expires today. Ufer
will make his decision after talking with Professional Hockey
Players Association Exec Dir Larry Landon. Ufer: "It's a very
sensitive issue because of the potential loss of jobs" (Kevin
Allen, USA TODAY, 12/16).