MLB announced yesterday that Thursday's expansion committee
meeting scheduled for Chicago has been relocated to Washington to
accommodate Red Sox CEO John Harrington and Braves President Stan
Kasten, both members of the expansion committee. The committee
is expected to recommend a price for the first two new
franchises, but they will not release a preference order of the
four finalists: Phoenix, Orlando, Tampa Bay and No. VA (Bill
Chastain, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 1/31).
TAMPA BAY -- WHAT'S IN A NAME? If Tampa Bay is approved as
an expansion city, the team probably won't be called the Thunder,
Tarpons or Thunderbolts -- the three top names suggested the last
time Tampa made an expansion bid. Two entrepreneurs, Teresa
deArrigoitia and Tony Karcher, have registered those names with
the FL Secretary of the State for $87.50 per name. If expansion
is approved next month, the bidding groups will have to decide on
a name and logo by the March 8 owners' meeting. Tampa Bay
expansion head Vince Naimoli has said he would avoid trademarked
names in selecting the team's name (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 1/31).
NORTHERN VA: U.S. Rep. Tom Davis has asked the leaders of
the two "increasingly combative groups seeking" an expansion team
to meet with one another, perhaps this week. Davis and the
leaders of the two No. VA groups, telecom exec Bill Collins and
attorney Bart Fisher, declined to discuss the purpose of the
meeting, "but it appears some local government officials would
like the two groups to combine" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST,
ORLANDO: Last week, developer Norton Herrick released the
list of minority investors helping to bring a franchise to the
Orlando area. In addition to Herrick, Rockies General Counsel
Paul Jacobs and Denver financial adviser Steve Kurtz are general
partners. Local minority partners: businesspersons David
Siegel, Joanne McLendon, Paul Mears; physicians Tom Winers,
Pevecca Moroose and Roy Ambinder; and attorney Ruion Munns.
Also: The Sports Authority Chair Jack Smith, real estate
investors Robert Harmon and Ken Raznick, Herrick family members,
Rosalind Robbins and William Richards, as well as Marc Sinensky,
Exec VP of Herrick's Boca Raton company (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/27).
Members of the MLBPA and the owners' negotiating committee
are all headed back to Washington. Separate meetings with
Special Mediator Bill Usery are scheduled for today, while face-
to-face talks begin tomorrow. President Clinton has set a
February 6 deadline for a settlement, or something close to it.
If not, then he will ask Usery to recommend a solution. The
MLBPA will also hold an executive board meeting where they "could
vote to lift the month-old freeze on signing contracts." There
is the possibility that an extended freeze on signings "could
disadvantage players by creating an instant talent glut when it
is lifted" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 1/31). Meanwhile, the
owners are expected to draw up a new proposal for the Wednesday
talks. Brewers VP/General Counsel Wendy Selig-Prieb: "I'm not
going to speculate on what we may or may not do. We've had some
general discussions, but we'll use the best part of (Tuesday) to
work that out" (MILWAUKEE SENTINEL, 1/31).
REFINED OFFER: In Denver, Tracy Ringolsby speculates that
the owners are expected to extend unrestricted free agency to any
players with five years of service, but eliminate arbitration by
creating right-of-first-refusal free agency for players with more
than four years of service but less than five (ROCKY MOUNTAIN
DON'T RUMINATE, LEGISLATE! Rep. John LaFalce (D-NY),
introduced a measure that would establish a national commission
with the authority to settle the strike and regulate baseball.
It would be called the National Commission on Professional
Baseball (Mult., 1/31). NY Assemblyman Richard Brodsky will
introduce a bill today to prevent the Mets and Yankees from
playing games with replacement players in Shea and Yankee
Stadiums, bar the teams from advertising replacement games as
"major league," and require cable companies to refund money for
replacements games televised (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 1/31).
ECONOMIC IMPACT: CNN's "Moneyline" profiled the economic
impact of replacement players on Florida spring training cities.
CNN's Lou Dobbs said both FL and AZ stand to lose $300M if the
regular players don't take the field. One example: Yankee ticket
sales for spring training in Ft. Lauderdale are down 80% from one
year ago. Fort Myers Mayor Wilbur Smith on the estimated $30M
his city will lose with replacement baseball: "It's something
that Florida's very dependent on at the tail end of the tourist
season, so even if they open with replacement players, it's going
to take a big bite out of the economy" ("MoneyLine," CNN, 1/30).
John Walker, a former researcher for the NFLPA, was arrested
by the FBI on a charge of embezzling more than $50,000 of the
union's funds. Walker was arrested around kickoff time on Super
Bowl Sunday, although FBI Special Agent Daniel Bradley said the
timing was "coincidental." The funds in question "came from fees
for processing applications from sports agents seeking to be
accredited by the [NFLPA] or have their accreditation renewed."
NFLPA Asst Exec Dir Doug Allen confirmed last week that Walker
was fired, but would not say why (AP/N.Y. TIMES, 1/31).
MLS Chair Alan Rothenberg is reportedly interested in
expanding into Toronto with a franchise that would play at the
SkyDome. Rothenberg has sent representatives to Toronto to speak
with Richard Peddie, former President of the SkyDome, who is
helping put together Sports Co., a corporation "that eventually
will run the Blue Jays, Argonauts, the SkyDome and possibly
Toronto's soccer franchise in MLS." Peddie "has made it clear"
to MLS that Sports Co. "would be interested only in a Canadian
team and claims he has the moral support of the Canadian Soccer
Association" (George Gross, TORONTO STAR, 1/27).
In Toronto, Alan Adams writes that International Ice Hockey
Federation (IIHF) President Rene Fasel "admits his error" by not
receiving "the blessing" of NHLPA Dir Bob Goodenow before
negotiating a contract between the IIHF and the NHL, providing
NHL participation in the '98 Winter Games. Fasel: "I thought if
I signed an agreement with the NHL, it was quite clear, but we
forgot how strong the NHLPA is. That was a mistake but I accept
it." Fasel met with Goodenow this past weekend and will continue
discussions at the joint NHL-IIHF working committee meeting
tomorrow in Naples, FL (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/31).
PENSIONS: A court approved increased monthly payments to
former NHL players already receiving pension checks, as part of
the "complex legal process" to distribute millions in
"misappropriated league pension funds." Players will receive a
60% increase of an approximate final sum yet to be "legally
finalized" (Mary Ormsby, TORONTO STAR, 1/31).
CORRECTION: A report from Canada's FINANCIAL POST carried
in THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY last week incorrectly reported the
NHL's expenditures on its "Game On" media campaign. The league
says that it is spending around $1 million on the "Game On"