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Wednesday, August 7
Accountant said 28 of 30 teams projected net losses

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The 30 major league teams began the year projecting an operating loss of $220 million in 2002, down $12 million from last year, according to minutes of an owners' meeting.

The projection was given to owners at a Jan. 16 owners meeting by accountant Robert Starkey, a consultant to the commissioner's office. A portion of the minutes were attached as an exhibit to court papers filed Wednesday by Fred Wilpon against his New York Mets co-owner, Nelson Doubleday.

Starkey told the owners that 28 of the 30 teams projected a net loss for this year. The teams were not identified.

Also attached were a portion of minutes of the Nov. 27 owners' meeting in Chicago, the first meeting after owners voted Nov. 6 to eliminate two teams for the 2002 season. The minutes show commissioner Bud Selig never intended to call for a contraction vote until after the World Series, even before terrorist attacks caused the cancellation of a Sept. 11-12 owners' meeting in Milwaukee.

"The commissioner began the discussion of contraction by stating that he had decided not to cause widespread discussion of contraction during the postseason, even before the events of Sept. 11,'' the minutes said.

Management labor lawyers later told the players' association that the teams targeted for elimination were Minnesota and Montreal. The plan to fold franchises were blocked when Minnesota courts issued an injunction that forced the Twins to honor their 2002 lease at the Metrodome.

At the time of the Nov. 27 meeting, a trial court had issued an injunction. Baseball hoped to persuade higher courts to lift the injunction, but those efforts failed.

Selig told owners "he would not have done anything differently,'' according to the minutes, "and that every problem that has occurred was anticipated.''

Also attached to the legal papers was a March 6 letter from Selig to Wilpon that outlined threatened penalties against teams that were not in compliance with baseball's rules on debt regulations. The penalties included the loss of draft picks, withholding a team's share of national broadcasting and licensing contracts, withholding a team's share of postseason ticket money and suspension of owners.

Selig also threatened the possible appointment of a custodian to run a team.

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