Wednesday, July 10
NEW YORK -- As baseball prepared to resume labor negotiations following an All-Star break dominated by talk of strike, steroids and stalemate, commissioner Bud Selig claimed a team may not be able to make payroll Monday.
Selig made the comment during an interview Wednesday in Milwaukee with the Houston Chronicle and other papers, saying during the session that a second team had so much debt that it might not finish the season.
Selig did not identify the teams he was referring to, and there was no way to corroborate his claims.
The Houston Chronicle reported in Thursday's editions that Selig might have arranged to keep the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays alive financially this past winter, according to its industry sources. The commissioner didn't name which teams are in financial trouble, but said one of them "will surprise you," according to the paper.
Reached at his home Wednesday night, Selig refused to discuss the subject.
"I'm done. Major league baseball's credit lines are at the maximum,'' Selig was quoted as saying in the Chronicle. "We've done everything we can to help people by arranging credit lines. Frankly, at this point in time, we don't have that luxury anymore.
"If a club can't make it, I have to let 'em go. I'm a traditionalist, and I hate all that. It pains me to do it. I just don't have any more alternatives.''
The talks are to resume Thursday.
Players and owners have not held a full negotiating session since June 27, and are far apart on all the key issues: increase revenue sharing among teams, the owners' proposal for a luxury tax to slow payroll growth, random testing for steroids and other drugs, extending the amateur draft world wide, and management's attempt to change salary arbitration rules and eligibility.
On Monday, the union's executive board met in a Chicago suburb. While the board did not set a strike date then, it asked players on individual teams to give it authority to set one. If there is no progress in negotiations, the executive board is expected to call for baseball's ninth work stoppage, setting a walkout date for August or September.
Players and owners also await the upcoming ruling from arbitrator Shyam Das, who heard the grievance filed by the union, which claims management's attempt to fold the Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos violated the previous labor contract, which expired Nov. 7.
Das has told the sides he will attempt to have a decision by Monday. Contraction was put off by Selig until after the 2002 season following a string of legal losses by baseball in the Minnesota courts, which ruled the Twins had to honor their 2002 lease in the Metrodome.