|Tuesday, August 13
Updated: August 15, 5:56 PM ET
Baseball could fine Steinbrenner for recent comments
By Darren Rovell
New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner could be fined for questioning the motivation behind a proposed increase in the league's revenue-sharing plan and for criticizing small-market owners for failing to invest in their teams, according to a high-ranking baseball official.
Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has spoken with Steinbrenner several times since the New York Yankees owner was quoted extensively in an article in Sunday's New York Times, and "the league is considering the appropriate action to take," said the baseball official, who spoke under the condition of anonymity.
Steinbrenner was not available for comment. "Mr. Steinbrenner isn't going to make any comment at all on this," said Howard Rubenstein, Steinbrenner's publicist. Yankees officials also declined to comment.
Earlier this summer, Selig had lifted a $1 million gag order on team owners that barred them from discussing situations that could affect the labor negotiations. After a series of comments were made public, including some made by Cleveland Indians owner Larry Dolan aimed at Steinbrenner's free-spending habits, Selig reinstituted the ban in mid-July.
In The New York Times article, Steinbrenner said the idea of revenue sharing is "quite a concern, because I see it hurting the union and the players, and I see it hurting us and other big-market clubs. You know, you don't buy a big-market team thinking it's a small market. That's elementary."
Steinbrenner, long among baseball's most influential team owners, also questioned whether he still had the ear of the league's commissioner.
"I'm not sure how much I'm in touch anymore," Steinbrenner told The Times. "Bud Selig and I have been friends for a long time. I'm not sure how much he relies on me anymore; I don't know. He kind of has his allies, and most of them are the small-market guys."
Steinbrenner last made headlines on July 31, a day after the Montreal Expos traded Cliff Floyd to the Boston Red Sox, when he expressed his displeasure over the alleged inner workings behind the deal.
"If Major League Baseball owns Montreal and they get (Floyd) and (three) weeks later they trade him to our biggest competitor, that's hard to believe," Steinbrenner told The New York Post. "What's that say?"
Expos president Tony Tavares and general manager Omar Minaya demanded an apology the following day. In The Times article, Steinbrenner apologized to the city of Montreal, but did not go back on his comments about the team's motivation for the trade.
Kansas City Royals owner David Glass took umbrage with Steinbrenner's comments in The Times.
"His idea of teams making some kind of a profit is some kind of pipe dream for small-market teams," Glass told the Kansas City Star. "This year, I'll make you a little wager that there isn't a single small-market team in baseball that doesn't lose a lot of money."
"I don't blame (Steinbrenner) for trying to protect what he has," Glass added. "If the rest of us had as much revenue as he has, we might take that kind of selfish approach as well."
Baseball officials are also looking into whether New York Mets co-owner Nelson Doubleday violated the gag rule when he accused baseball of fixing the team's franchise valuation process in an attempt to leverage labor negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association, the baseball official said.
Doubleday made his comments in court documents filed last week in support of his lawsuit against his Mets partner Fred Wilpon.
On Tuesday, MLB announced that the deal between Doubleday and Wilpon would be finalized in the next 30 days without going through the legal system.
"I did not in any way mean to impugn the integrity of the Commissioner, who has been a long-time friend and will continue to remain one, or anyone from his office," Doubleday said in a release. "Nor did I intend the counterclaim to get in the way of the ongoing collective bargaining process. That was not my intent or goal. If it did, I apologize to the Commissioner and to (players' union leader) Don Fehr if it in any way had a negative effect on bargaining."
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.email@example.com