NEW YORK -- A day after legislation was introduced in Congress to allow lawsuits against baseball when teams fold or relocate, Minnesota officials went to court seeking to prevent the Twins from being eliminated.
A hearing was scheduled for Thursday in Minneapolis before Hennepin County District Court Judge Harry Crump on a lawsuit filed against the Twins by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.
Judge Diana Eagon last week issued a temporary restraining order barring the Twins from being eliminated. The commission is seeking a permanent injunction to force the Twins to play in the Metrodome through the end of their lease in 2002.
In other litigation, lawyers for players and owners agreed Wednesday the union's grievance to save two teams will be heard next month.
Lawyers for the players association and the owners spoke with arbitrator Shyam Das, who will hear the grievance filed by the union, which claims last week's decision by owners to eliminate two teams violated its labor contract, which expired last week.
"We have a series on dates beginning in early December," union lawyer Michael Weiner said. "We will confer and get back to him shortly."
In Washington, Sen. Paul Wellstone, a Minnesota Democrat, and Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the Fairness in Antitrust in National Sports Act, which would limit baseball's exemption from antitrust laws, created by a 1922 U.S. Supreme Court decision.
"Our country has tremendously urgent priorities -- we have the war in Afghanistan, the war against terrorism, and our urgent need for economic stimulus legislation to keep our nation from plummeting even further into recession," Wellstone said.
"Unfortunately, however, major league baseball owners did not give us a choice on timing. They have picked a particularly inauspicious time to announce their unilateral, shortsighted and self-serving decision, so we must respond."
Montreal and Minnesota appear to be the most likely candidates.
Wellstone and Conyers, who is from Michigan, attended a news conference Wednesday along with several House members from Minnesota, hope to exert pressure on baseball owners to reverse their decision.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said last week his sport no longer can support financially struggling teams. Wellstone called baseball's decision to fold two teams "a way for owners to divvy up profits."
"If GM, Ford and Chrysler tried that in Detroit, we would have a lot of people outraged," Conyers said.
The bill would allow an "injured" party to sue for antitrust violations -- ranging from a government entity to a stadium authority to a baseball player. Other parts of baseball's antitrust exemption -- such as minor league baseball, marketing, sales and intellectual property rights -- would remain intact.
"The Minnesota Twins on the northern prairie aren't just a baseball team. They're really a way of life, said Rep. Earl Pomeroy, a North Dakota Democrat. "It's what you listen to when you plant the crop in the spring. It's what kids talk about when they go to their sandlot ball."
Congress has traditionally been reluctant to tamper with baseball's antitrust exemption. In 1998, a law was passed eliminating the exemption only for labor relations involving the major leagues.
"It's a steep mountain to climb, but we absolutely have to make the effort," Wellstone said.
Union head Donald Fehr immediately backed the legislation.
"It is unfortunate that the owners' recent actions make consideration of this legislation necessary, but it is important to make certain that the antitrust laws apply to baseball owners in order to protect the interests of baseball fans, ballpark employees, cities and, frankly, the game itself," he said.
HEAD:Twins' employees unsure about their future
BYLINE1:By DAVE CAMPBELL
BYLINE2:AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- The hardest part is the waiting.
If things were normal right now at 34 Kirby Puckett Place, employees of the Minnesota Twins would likely be busy discussing the young team's chances of contending in 2002. Instead, most of the words being muttered around the Metrodome these days are "if," "why," "don't" and "know."
With the Twins in danger of being eliminated, it's clear that on- and off-the-field employees are remaining loyal to the end -- if it is indeed the end. No one can be sure.
"I don't think anybody knows what's going on," said general manager Terry Ryan. "I'd just be guessing."
Ryan, whose search to replace retired manager Tom Kelly was interrupted last week when commissioner Bud Selig announced baseball's intent to fold two of its teams, isn't going anywhere.
The Toronto Blue Jays contacted him last week about their open GM job.
"I'm going to pass on that," Ryan said. "I'd just as soon see this through here and hope the organization is allowed to play in 2002. I'm flattered at Toronto's interest, but it's something that I didn't feel right about. It's nice to know people have interest in me, but it didn't seem right to entertain those thoughts until we get things settled here."
The Twins -- despite eight straight losing seasons from 1993-2000 -- have long been seen as a friendly, family-like organization. That's becoming more evident this fall.
Director of communications Brad Ruiter, who left the University of Minnesota's sports information department last spring to join the Twins, doesn't have any regrets.
"I'd do it all over again," he said. "This is a great opportunity for me."
Denise Johnson, who was recently named manager of special projects, is supposed to be starting an alumni association of former Twins players this offseason. She can't help but be disappointed that her promotion may be short-lived.
"I try not to think about it," she said with a nervous laugh. "I still have the title and the job and the responsibilities."
Budget discussions and planning meetings have gone on and season summaries have been sent to the media as scheduled. But marketing campaigns and special events for the upcoming season can't be finalized until the team's fate for next year is decided.
"You can take things to a certain point," Ruiter said. "But you've got to be smart and stop. The season ticket brochures and the schedules, you can get them ready, but if you go spend the printing costs, it's silly. You have to be smart about spending your money."
Owner Carl Pohlad, his son, Jim, and team president Jerry Bell presented a plan at a meeting with employess last week that would offer them three months' salary in addition to severance packages if the Twins are contracted.
Still, uncertainty lingers.
"I don't think everyone left the meeting feeling a whole lot better," Ruiter said. "We're still talking about the possibility of losing our jobs and losing the franchise. I'd be lying if I said everything is just like it normally is. It's weighing on a lot of people's minds."
It's on the players' minds, too. But their chances of having a job in baseball next season are a lot better than those in the front office.
"For the owners to want to contract us, that would be a shame," left fielder Jacque Jones said from his home in San Diego. "But baseball's a business, and this year I really began to understand that. My hope would be to come back to Fort Myers for spring training, but that's not up to me."
Sheldon, who was recently married, faces the prospect of having to move again. His wife is still searching for a job.
"Limbo is kind of the word right now for our family," Sheldon said. "When my wife goes to an interview, can she really give someone a full-fledged commitment if her husband is going to be leaving town?"
Most people are wondering why there can even be talk of eliminating the Twins after such a successful season.
"It seems so surreal," Johnson said. "Nothing really makes sense."
Dave Campbell can be reached at dcampbell(at)ap.org
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.