Originally created 09/16/97

Doubts growing on realignment



NEW YORK (AP) - Prospects dimmed for major league realignment at this week's meetings in Atlanta, with some baseball executives predicting Monday there will not be enough support for any plan.

Acting commissioner Bud Selig had hoped to call for a vote on Thursday, the final day of the owners' three-day quarterly meeting. Selig is in favor of radical realignment, in which 15 teams would switch leagues.

Less radical plans have been formulated, with most including the shift of the AL West Coast teams to the NL. But the San Francisco Giants have threatened to sue, arguing they can't be forced to accept the Oakland Athletics in their market.

Ranking officials on two other NL teams, speaking on the condition they not be identified, said they intended to support San Francisco.

"When you buy a team, you by assets, which include exclusive monopoly rights to promoting games within your own league in your area on an exclusive basis," Giants owner Peter Magowan said Monday. "We would be asked to give that up. That's exactly why the Mets and Cubs resisted."

The radical plan that Selig and realignment committee chairman John Harrington have advocated would put all Western teams in the NL and all Eastern teams in the AL. It would put the Mets and Yankees in the same division, pair the Cubs and White Sox, the Dodgers and Angels, and the Giants and A's.

Since no team can be forced to switch leagues or divisions without their approval, the Mets threatened to veto the plan, as did the Pirates, Reds and Braves. Harrington's group then formulated a less radical plan, but it still would have the six Pacific Coast teams in the NL along with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.

"Bud Selig mollified the Mets and Cubs by allowing them to stay in their separate divisions. What is the logic behind not allowing us the same thing?" Magowan said from Atlanta, where the Giants were playing the Braves.

Baseball's lawyers have said the Giants do not have veto power because they are not being asked to change divisions. Some teams have argued that the resolution approved in January, which created the realignment committee, overrides the provision in the NL Constitution that protects a team from having its territory encroached.

If the A's move to the NL, the Giants say they probably would sue.

"The last thing baseball needs is another legal mess," Magowan said.

Selig did not immediately return a telephone call.

Baseball's realignment debate began in January, when the 1998 expansion teams were assigned to leagues - Tampa Bay to the AL and Arizona to the NL.

While Arizona was a natural fit in the NL West, putting Tampa Bay in the AL East required shifting. The original plan was to move Detroit from the East to the Central and Kansas City from the Central to the West, but the Royals balked, claiming they didn't want additional West Coast games that would result in late television times for fans back home.

With no realignment, Tampa Bay would be forced to play in the AL West. Also, January's meeting left each league with 15 teams, necessitating an interleague game nearly every day. Plans to have 16 teams in one league and 14 in the other appear to have gained support since January.