By Blair Lovern
November 7, 2001
Despite Major League Baseball owners voting Tuesday to proceed with contraction for 2002, minor league clubs are quickly spreading the word that no minor league city will be affected for at least two years.
Mike Moore, president of Minor League Baseball, told Baseball America Wednesday that commissioner Bud Selig would honor the document–the Professional Baseball Agreement–binding the major leagues and 160 minor league affiliated teams until the end of the 2003 season. The current PBA expires in 2007, but in the final four years the major leagues can opt out of the agreement with a year’s advance notice.
“Commissioner Selig has indicated to me that following any definitive decisions on contraction, we will work closely in formulating solutions pertaining to the minor leagues,” said Moore, who spoke to Selig on the telephone Tuesday night. “The commissioner has been a strong supporter and ally of minor league baseball and we will continue to work together toward our common goals.”
International League president Randy Mobley and Ottawa Lynx owner Ray Pecor reiterated this point in a conference call Wednesday. Ottawa is the Triple-A affiliate of the Expos, a team much discussed as being one of the two clubs targeted for contraction. Major league owners voted 28-2 in favor of contraction but have not decided which two franchises will be eliminated.
Even if Montreal has no team in 2002, the Lynx, and every other affiliated minor league team, will take the field.
“Everything that’s happened in the last 24 hours has not changed (our position) one little bit,” Mobley said. “The Ottawa club continues to be in good standing in this league and no one is going to kick them out of the league any more than we would kick out Syracuse, Richmond or Columbus. So again, you need to dismiss any idea that Ottawa is going to be eliminated from the league.”
Eastern League president Bill Troubh said in a news release that there has been no discussion of changes in the EL or any other affiliated league.
Both the Twins, another team often discussed as one of the two that will die, and the Expos have their Double-A affiliates in the Eastern League (New Britain and Harrisburg).
“There is no intention to have any Eastern League team not continue to operate,” Troubh said. “To think otherwise is incorrect.”
Pecor, a businessman who lives in Vermont, said he was caught off guard with the contraction vote. He said he has not talked to Expos owner Jeffrey Loria since major league owners voted.
“I had some discussions with (Loria) this summer during the baseball season and this never, never came up,” Pecor said. “I had not foreseen this.”
Mobley said that if the majors contract in 2002, some minor league clubs could field co-op teams, with players supplied by more than one major league affiliate. Neither Major League Baseball nor Minor League Baseball has plans to buy out a minor league club, Mobley said.
“If we had an owner who was looking to get out, or was not as solid in his commitment, then I think (a buyout) becomes a real possibility,” Mobley said. “But as far as the league forcing a team to take a buyout–until the Ottawa club would do something that would put them in less than good graces, we will not treat them any different than the other 13 (teams).”
If the major leagues contract, Mobley said Triple-A baseball would only follow suit “by its own choosing.” He said contraction would happen only if owners wanted out–leaders would not force a team out if it would like to stay.
“If we get hard and fast information from Major League Baseball confirming that the Montreal Expos will not take the field in 2002,” Mobley said, “then in my mind the executives at the Triple-A level need to immediately take a look to see if there are there other franchises, other owners, that will be bought out. Because if that’s the case, we need to deal with that and remove questions sooner rather than later.”
Pecor did not address what would happen in 2004, instead emphasizing his commitment for the next two years.
“I want to play there next year and the year after and I can’t wait for the season to start,” he said. “I am just as much enthused today as when I first bought the club. I’m just as enthused about Ottawa as when I just bought the club.”