Archive for Thursday, January 15, 2004

Approval of Dodgers sale on hold

Major League Baseball discusses possible destination for Montreal franchise

January 15, 2004


— It appears the proposed sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers to a Boston real estate developer will come down to the Jan. 31 deadline.

Baseball's ownership committee discussed the $430 million agreement between News Corp. and Frank McCourt Wednesday and will send a delegation to meet with him in Los Angeles next week. The group will include Bill Bartholomay of the Atlanta Braves and Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox.

The committee has been examining the financing for the deal and whether it complies with baseball's rules on the allowable amount of debt, a baseball official said on the condition of anonymity.

McCourt also met with several owners last week, and his agreement calls for the sale to close by the end of January.

It won't be voted on at today's meeting of all owners and Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, wouldn't say whether commissioner Bud Selig would call for a vote later this month by telephone conference call.

"That's all up to the commissioner," DuPuy said. "I know there is a desire by the buyer and seller to conclude by the end of the month, and the commissioner is aware of that."

McCourt's spokesman, Duffy Jennings, declined comment.

DuPuy said another timely topic in baseball was not brought up.

"For the first time in about three weeks, the subject of Pete Rose was not addressed," DuPuy said after the executive council met.

The fate of the Montreal Expos also was up for discussion, with the relocation committee talking about visits earlier this month to Monterrey, Mexico, and Norfolk, Va. Baseball had spoken last year with groups from Northern Virginia; Portland, Ore.; and Washington, D.C.; and DuPuy said Las Vegas and San Juan, Puerto Rico, also were candidates.

The Expos were bought by the other 29 teams before the 2002 season, and are scheduled to play 22 "home" games in San Juan for the second straight year to raise revenue.

"One of our highest priorities in New York is to get it resolved," DuPuy said, adding that Selig would address the topic after today's meeting.

Baseball at first hoped for a decision in time for the 2003 season, then for 2004. Owners want financing in place for a new ballpark before moving the team.

"There's nothing we can do about it this year," DuPuy said. "We have a little breathing space."

The proposed start of a World Cup in March 2005 and plans to start a baseball channel will be discussed today.

In addition, owners will vote on changes to the annual amateur draft and the winter meeting draft of players not protected on 40-man rosters. Currently, teams are ranked from lowest winning percentage to highest in their leagues, and the NL and AL alternate picks. The change would have all teams ranked together from lowest winning percentage to highest.

If adopted, new order would start with the 2004 winter meeting draft in Anaheim, Calif., and the 2005 amateur draft.

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