Originally created 09/15/99

Owners discuss international play



NEW YORK -- Baseball officials will examine the idea of a World Cup more closely in the next two months before deciding whether to go ahead with a tournament.

"We'll know more in about six weeks," union head Donald Fehr said Tuesday after the annual meeting of the international committee established by players and owners in their 1996 labor agreement.

Baseball officials have talked for a decade about a World Cup, a tournament with major leaguers who would play for national teams from the United States, Japan and other countries. Fehr said discussions had not yet progressed to the point where the sides had even begun to think about when to start the event or even a format.

Baseball plans to increase its international presence by starting the 2000 season in Tokyo with two games between the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets on March 29-30. They would be the first regular-season games played outside North America.

After having the Baltimore Orioles play an exhibition game in Cuba in March, the first by a major league team in 40 years, baseball opened outside the United States and Canada for the first time when San Diego played Colorado in April at Monterrey, Mexico. The Padres and Mets played a three-game series in Monterrey in 1997.

Baseball officials are discussing a more widespread program of exhibition games in the Caribbean next spring, but it's too early to determine if there will be a return trip to Cuba, according to one official familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition he not be identified.

Later in the day, management officials headed to Cooperstown, N.Y., for two days of owners' meetings that will be dominated by franchise sales and a restructuring plan.

The $67 million sale of a controlling interest in the Cincinnati Reds from Marge Schott to three of the team's limited partners will be approved, one high-ranking baseball official said Tuesday on the condition of anonymity.

Carl Lindner, who owns the Great American Insurance Co., will take over as the controlling owner from Schott, who repeatedly has infuriated baseball with inflammatory statements about minorities and women. The deal, in which 36.7 percent of the Reds' shares would be sold, values the franchise at $181.8 million.

George Strike and William Reik, two of the Reds' current limited partners, are helping fund Lindner's bid.

Owners will not vote on the proposed sale of the Montreal Expos from a group headed by Claude Brochu to one headed by New York art dealer Jeffrey Loria, the official said.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has said the Expos need a new ballpark to survive, and stadium financing is not fully in place.

While a group in northern Virginia has been interested in buying the Expos, Selig has said his first choice is to keep the team in Montreal. Loria has been negotiating with team chairman Jacques Menard and president Claude Brochu since early this year.

It was unclear whether owners would vote on the proposed sales of the Oakland Athletics or Kansas City Royals, which are on the agenda for discussion.

Andy Dolich, a former Athletics executive, heads a group that agreed in May to buy the team from Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann for $122.4 million. Save Mart Foods chairman Bob Piccinini is the lead investor, providing the group's $12 million deposit.

Dolich's group, which includes Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, must close on the deal by Sept. 21 or it expires. Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown has lobbied Selig and even considered going to Cooperstown but decided against it, Brown spokeswoman Stacey Wells said.

New York investor Miles Prentice agreed last Nov. 13 to buy the Royals for $75 million from a trust that acquired the franchise following the death of founder Ewing Kauffman in 1993. But some baseball officials are concerned Prentice's group doesn't have enough money to operate the team successfully and some are worried his group, which has more 40 investors, is too large.

Owners are expected to vote on a restructuring plan that would reduce the American and National league presidents to figureheads by shifting control of umpires, player discipline and scheduling to the commissioner's office.

NL president Len Coleman, angry with the change, intends to resign after the World Series, several high-ranking baseball officials said last week and an announcement could be made at the meetings.

The intentions of AL president Gene Budig, who has been a less forceful presence than Coleman, are not known.