- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2002

From combined dispatches
The failed attempt to eliminate the Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos this season could wind up costing baseball owners money.
The players' association is pressing ahead with its grievance that claims owners violated their labor agreement when they voted in November to fold two teams, and the union said yesterday it intends to seek damages.
"That's one of the issues in the case," said Gene Orza, the union's No.2 official. "Obviously, there is a liability phase."
Agents claim it has been harder to find jobs for their players during this offseason than in the past, and cite the uncertainty caused by contraction and a possible dispersal draft.
"I believe that it affected every single free agent this year," said Tommy Tanzer, whose clients include John Burkett and Sterling Hitchcock. "What they attempted to do was glut the market with players."
Owners claim they can eliminate teams but must bargain only on effects, such as a draft. Rob Manfred, the owners' chief labor lawyer, dismissed talk of damage to the market.
"I haven't seen anything that would indicate that," he said. "Players have signed this winter just as they have every other winter."
In the mid-1980s, players filed three grievances that claimed owners violated their labor contract by colluding not to sign free agents. Arbitrators agreed and owners gave the union $280million in 1991 to settle the cases.
If arbitrator Shyam Das agrees with the union's contention that owners violated the labor contract and with the claim management damaged the free-agent market, the grievance would move on to how much money players lost.
"We have some familiarity when it comes to determining what are the damages," said Orza, who participated in the collusion cases.
Lawyers for both sides met with Das yesterday, and the union asked owners to speed up their production of documents the players have asked for. The sides agreed to recess the case until Feb.26 and set a schedule of 10 hearing dates through April10.
Manfred pointed out that the damage claim has been part of the case all along, but the overriding issue was the future of the Twins and Expos.
Faced with an injunction that forced Minnesota to honor its lease at the Metrodome this year, baseball commissioner Bud Selig gave up Tuesday on eliminating teams this season but said he will push forward with contraction for 2003. Das, who already has heard 12 days of testimony, will determine whether owners can eliminate teams without the union's permission.
Paul Beeston, baseball's chief operating officer, had been the next scheduled witness in the case but the sides decided not to have any testimony yesterday. Beeston has told baseball officials in recent weeks that he intends to leave the commissioner's office, perhaps as soon as April or May.
At their meeting, the sides also decided not to resume bargaining for a new labor contract until next week at the earliest.
Meanwhile, lawyers continued to negotiate on the proposed $158.5million sale of the Florida Marlins from John Henry to Jeffrey Loria, who intends to sell the Montreal Expos to the other 29 teams for $120million. Henry, who heads the group that has been given approval to buy the Boston Red Sox for $660million, still doesn't have a signed deal with Loria.
Spring training starts Feb.14 and Loria intends to bring much of his Expos' staff to Florida, including manager Jeff Torborg, interim general manager Larry Beinfest and executive vice president David Samson.
Selig spoke with other owners yesterday about structuring a management for the Expos. Former Anaheim Angels president Tony Tavares is the top contender to become chief executive officer.
Frank Robinson, a vice president in the commissioner's office, is likely to become manager. Former Toronto general manager Gord Ash, former Texas general manager Doug Melvin and New York Mets senior assistant general manager Omar Minaya are the candidates to become GM.
UMPIRES: Baseball owners have asked a federal judge in Philadelphia to stay his decision ordering them to rehire nine of the 22 umpires who lost their jobs following a failed mass resignation two years ago.
U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III issued his ruling Dec.14, upholding a decision made last May11 by arbitrator Alan Symonette. Both sides then asked the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month to review the decision.
Owners don't want to rehire any of the 22 and the Major League Umpires Association wants all of them taken back.
DIAMONDBACKS: Arizona and outfielder David Dellucci agreed to a one-year, $775,000 contract.
The deal leaves catcher Damian Miller as the only player facing arbitration on the World Series champions' roster.
Miller was the only Arizona player to go to arbitration last year, too. He won his case and earned $1.25million last season.
ASTROS: Houston agreed to a one-year contract with reliever Chuck McElroy, who will come to spring training as a non-roster invitee.
McElroy, 34, has pitched for nine major league teams, including Baltimore and San Diego last season. He also has played for Philadelphia, both Chicago teams, Cincinnati, Anaheim, Colorado and the New York Mets.
McElroy has a 38-30 record and a 3.68 ERA in 654 appearances.

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