Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Baseball considered folding Angels

By Ronald Blum
The Associated Press

NEW YORK - The World Series championship flag would never have made it to Anaheim this year if baseball had gone through with a plan to fold the Angels.

Arizona, Florida, Kansas City, Minnesota, Montreal, Oakland, San Diego and Tampa Bay were all initially examined for consideration as possible contraction targets, according to a Dec. 11, 2000, memorandum by baseball lawyers Tom Ostertag and Ed Whang that was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.

In addition, an undated list of "Contraction Issues" prepared by the commissioner's office added Anaheim, stating "Angels want to `sell;' Athletics want to move." The issues list said Anaheim's situation was "complicated by public ownership of the Angels," who are a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Co.

Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said Tuesday the Angels were put on the possible contraction list early in the process and were never seriously a target.

Former Angels president Tony Tavares said baseball examined two plans involving Anaheim, one which would have led to the dispersal of the Angels' roster after the 2001 season.

"There was a concept that Oakland would have gotten contracted and the ownership of Oakland would have taken over the ownership of the Angels and remained in Anaheim," Tavares said. "There was another concept that the players on the Angels would have been disbanded, and the players on Oakland would have moved on to Anaheim.

"I would say it was not that serious. The principals never spoke," Tavares said, referring to the Oakland owners and his-then bosses at Disney.

The commissioner's office began examining reaction to contraction months before the November 2001 vote, according to a Feb. 28, 2001, memorandum by Mary Braza, a lawyer with Foley & Lardner, which often represents major league baseball.

Braza was asked to review newspaper articles about contraction and assemble a list of "pros and cons" for baseball officials.

The plan to eliminate the Expos and the Twins was stopped when the Twins' landlord obtained an injunction that forced the Twins to play their 2002 home games at the Metrodome.

Contraction was then put off, with baseball owners agreeing in their labor contract last August not to eliminate teams through at least the 2006 season.

"We looked internally at dozens and dozens of options," DuPuy said. "This one was one of the options discussed based on the ownership situations at the time. It was never given serious consideration."

In an effort to gauge reaction to contraction, the commissioner's office examined articles by newspaper reporters and rated the writers on a 1-to-10 scale for their support of contraction, according to another document obtained by the AP.

Anaheim, of course, survived and went on to win its first World Series last October, beating the San Francisco Giants in seven games. To get to the Series, the Angels upset the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs, then beat the Twins.

"I knew we were one of the teams they were talking about," Angels shortstop David Eckstein said. "I thought a lot about it that offseason. It just shows that you can't predict what would happen. We were one of the teams and the Twins were another and we both went out there and competed and played in the playoffs.

"I'm glad all that talk is over. Contraction means people lose jobs and you hate to see people lose jobs. Hopefully, baseball will keep growing and that will never be a discussion again."

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