NEW YORK -- Rep. John Conyers Jr. would back off his call for Bud Selig's resignation if the commissioner dropped his threat to eliminate teams this season.
The Minnesota Twins and the Montreal Expos are the likely targets of Selig's contraction plan.
Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday that Selig appeared to violate major league rules in 1995 when he arranged a loan for his Milwaukee Brewers from a company controlled by Twins owner Carl Pohlad. The loan, Conyers said, created an "irreparable conflict of interest."
"As an alternative, let me suggest that you immediately announce that major league baseball will not contract any teams and not place any team ownership in league control prior to the conclusion of the upcoming season," Conyers wrote Selig on Thursday. "This would give us all the time and opportunity necessary to consider the range of issues, including potential conflict of interest problems, that have arisen."
Selig replied to Conyers but did not respond to the congressman's suggestion that contraction be put off.
Meanwhile, the hearing on the grievance by the players' association to block contraction resumed before arbitrator Shyam Das. On the eighth day of the hearing, union head Donald Fehr completed his testimony.
Also, baseball general counsel Tom Ostertag and Atlanta Braves chairman Bill Bartholomay met with Donald Watkins, who says he wants to buy the Twins from Pohlad.
"It was a great day, a very positive and productive meeting," Watkins said. "I finally found the welcome mat in major league baseball. I couldn't have scripted a meeting any better if I had tried to write it as a screenplay."
Twins owner Carl Pohlad, frustrated that Minnesota's government hasn't approved a plan for funding a new ballpark, told Selig he is willing to have his franchise folded as part of Selig's contraction plan.
Watkins would like to save the Twins by purchasing the team. He would be the first black controlling owner in major league history.
"It was a chance for me to go over in great detail matters that were covered in my application form," Watkins said, "particularly personal background matters and financial portfolio matters, and to explain to them the financing model and rationale for wanting to build a privately financed stadium.
Bartholomay was not available for comment.
"We had a very friendly, productive and informative introductory meeting," Ostertag said. "We covered a wide range of topics in a comprehensive manner and will continue to have discussions in the future."
Watkins intends to speak with Twins president Jerry Bell about getting permission to review the team's financial records. Watkins said Bartholomay and Ostertag encouraged him to contact the Twins.
"They suggested that I contact Carl Pohlad directly now and have my first meeting with him," Watkins said. "I will do that when I get back to Birmingham next week."
Owners voted Nov. 6 to eliminate two teams, but did not select which ones. Ten days later, a Minnesota judge issued an injunction that forces the Twins to play next season, an order the team and baseball have asked the Minnesota Court of Appeals to overturn.
"Given the logistical difficulties in contracting at this late juncture, the pending lawsuit in Minnesota, and the players' association's complaint, it would seem that it is impossible to contract at this point without creating even more problems for baseball, its players, and most importantly, its fans," Conyers said.
Conyers' staff and baseball are at odds over disclosure of the sport's financial information. Conyers wants baseball to waive a confidentiality clause that prevents the union from releasing financial information it has obtained from management.
In a Jan. 4 letter to Judiciary Committee chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, baseball lawyer Bob DuPuy said the union could discuss any of the information management released but could not release any figures that were still confidential.
Selig, in his letter to Conyers, claimed baseball and the committee had agreed to a solution, but Conyers' staff disputed that.
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