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Tuesday, January 22
Updated: January 23, 5:11 PM ET
Contraction plan takes major hit as injunction upheld

Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Twins and major league baseball asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to hold a hearing by Feb. 11 -- just three days before spring training starts -- on the injunction that forces the team to play this season.

A day after the Court of Appeals voted 3-0 to uphold the injunction that compels the Twins to honor their lease at the Metrodome, the team and baseball filed papers Wednesday asking the Supreme Court to review the case and to set an expedited schedule for an appeal to the high court.

"The critical timing issues present in this case make expedited determination necessary if meaningful review is to occur," wrote Roger Magnuson, a lawyer for the Twins and baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

Separately, Twins owner Carl Pohlad met with Alabama businessman Donald Watkins to discuss Watkins' desire to purchase the team.

The appellate court upheld a Nov. 16 decision by a district judge, who said any breach of the Twins' lease wouldn't be satisfied by money alone.

Baseball's lawyers argue the injunction runs contrary to 80 years of Minnesota law and represents an "articulation of a peculiar and anomalous legal principle" that demands review by the Supreme Court.

"The Court of Appeals decision is an unprecedented intrusion into a private business' right to cease operations," Magnuson wrote.

Baseball owners voted Nov. 6 to eliminate two teams before this season. Baseball hasn't officially selected the teams, but the Twins and Montreal Expos are the likely targets because of their low revenue and inability to secure government funding for new ballparks.

Magnuson asked for the speedy review because the Twins are due to start spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 17, three days after teams are allowed to start workouts.

"Baseball must know if it can proceed with contraction so that players can be reallocated among the remaining teams, and schedules and rosters can be finalized," he wrote.

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which obtained the injunction as the Twins' landlord, opposes quicker-than-usual consideration, lawyer Andy Shea said.

"The calendar of contraction was established by commissioner Selig," Shea said. "He, obviously, did not allow sufficient time for any orderly legal process."

Minnesota's Supreme Court, which on Nov. 30 refused to hear a direct appeal of the original ruling, typically takes five to seven months to decide cases after hearing arguments, though it has moved more quickly in some cases where time was an issue. For the high court to take the case, at least three of the seven justices must agree to accept an appeal.

Watkins, who wants to examine the Twins' financial records before making a formal offer, has said he could finance a new stadium without public help if he buys the team. His lawyer, Kenneth Thomas, was also present at the two-hour meeting, along with Twins president Jerry Bell and Pohlad's son, Jim, a minority owner of the team.

Watkins did not immediately return a message left at his office. The Twins said both parties signed confidentiality agreements to keep the discussion process private.

Meanwhile, the grievance by the players' association to block contraction resumes Thursday in New York with the 11th day of testimony before arbitrator Shyam Das. Delegations from management and the union, including Yankees reliever Mike Stanton, met for about three hours Wednesday at the commissioner's office, discussing mostly procedural issues and scheduling.

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