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Owners wait to rule on Mariners


Baseball's ownership committee said yesterday that a Japanese-led proposal to buy the Seattle Mariners won't be taken under consideration unless the group reaches a tentative deal with owner Jeff Smulyan.

The group headed by Hiroshi Yamauchi, president of Nintendo Co. Ltd., on Thursday offered to buy the financially troubled team for $100 million, with the Japanese interests controlling 60 percent of the club.

The owners might have put off action merely to buy time and consult their lawyers. They had good reason: Washington state Attorney General Ken Eikenberry yesterday as much as threatened a lawsuit against baseball if the new consortium's offer is rejected.

A rejection of the Nintendo group's offer, followed by a vote to move the team to Florida, would suggest a conspiracy to rob the state of an important economic asset, said Brian Dew, a Washington assistant attorney general.

Dew said the state could sue baseball on grounds ranging from civil liberties violations to violation of antitrust laws.

Commissioner Fay Vincent initially said it was "unlikely" that a deal transferring control to foreign ownership would be approved.

But yesterday he said: "I think we ought to view this as a great compliment to baseball. And we are in fact flattered by their attention and their willingness to invest. I think we have, however, a strong preference in favor of local ownership and our owners will have to confront this issue with some care."

* MARLINS: Club president Carl Barger was discharged from Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh one day after he was hospitalized for dizziness apparently caused by medication.

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