- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 10, 2001

NEW YORK Lawyers will meet Monday to discuss the legal fight by baseball players against eliminating teams, and a top union official called the owners' stance "preposterous."
In Chicago, a management labor lawyer told general managers that contraction would take place by Dec. 15, according to a high-ranking club official who spoke on the condition he not be identified.
The lawyer, Frank Coonelly, said clubs would draft players from the eliminated franchises in the reverse order of their 2001 won-lost records and that management did not intend to honor no-trade clauses, the team official said.
"To the extent that anything like that is out there, that would be a contemplated proposal," said Rob Manfred, the owners' top labor lawyer.
Owners voted Tuesday exactly 100 days before the start of spring training to eliminate two teams before next season. While no teams were chosen, Montreal and Minnesota are the leading candidates, with Florida, Oakland and Tampa Bay also possibilities.
If the Expos and Twins are eliminated, Montreal outfielder Vladimir Guerrero would be the likely first pick, going either to Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay, which both went 62-100. Twins shortstop Cristian Guzman and pitchers Eric Milton and Brad Radke would be other top picks, along with Montreal pitcher Javier Vazquez.
Coonelly did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Gene Orza, the union's No. 2 official, said yesterday that management negotiators previously informed the players' association that it was too late in the year to eliminate teams.
"What we were told in late September was that it was not possible to do it in 2002," Orza said. "Our basic argument is that the basic agreement and its related agreements read as a whole and cannot possibly be read to mean that on Nov. 7 you can announce that two teams aren't going to be playing anymore on Feb. 15. That's an inherently preposterous proposition."
The union filed a grievance Wednesday arguing the move violated its labor contract, and it appears likely arbitrator Shyam Das will have to decide. Owners claim they have the unilateral right to fold franchises but admit they must bargain over the aftereffects, such as dispersing players.
"We're going to meet on Monday to discuss the processing of the grievance," Orza said. "Hopefully, we can get this on the fast track."
The sides met Thursday, a day after the expiration of the labor contract signed in March 1997, and management lawyers outlined their ideas without going into specifics.
"We have to get a proposal on the effects," Orza said. "Our effects bargaining is going to go on simultaneously with the processing of the grievance."
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig says he intends to pick the two candidates for contraction by the end of this month. It's still unclear how long negotiations will take.
"You can't negotiate the number of hours in a day," Orza said.
In Washington, Rep. John Conyers Jr. again criticized baseball owners. Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Paul Wellstone, a Minnesota Democrat, intend to introduce legislation next week to strip baseball of its antitrust exemption.
"I was shocked and amazed to learn that less than 48 hours after one of the greatest World Series in history, the owners decided to cut the heart out of the baseball fans of America by agreeing to the first franchise elimination in more than 100 years," Conyers said.


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