Owners far from realignment plan None of '20 or 30' proposals has yet been examined closely for implementation


ATLANTA -- Interim baseball commissioner Bud Selig left open little hope yesterday that baseball owners would reach a consensus on realignment before their three-day quarterly meeting concludes today.

"If I had to say whether there would be a vote tomorrow," Selig said, "my guess would be no."

The owners concluded a long day of meetings at Atlanta's Ritz Carlton Hotel without closely examining any of the possible realignment scenarios that might be implemented for the 1998 season. Realignment architects John Harrington and David Montgomery fielded questions for several hours at a joint meeting of both leagues yesterday afternoon, but adjourned without any tangible progress toward an agreement.

"I don't think there is any question that the clubs have a better understanding of why we need to do something," Selig said. "That's progress in itself."

That may be, but Selig originally hoped to come out of this quarterly meeting with a new format, and time is running short. The owners will meet in joint session today -- presumably to look at the most likely schematics -- but probably will have to convene a special meeting in the next few weeks to try to finalize something.

There even is the possibility that the issue will hold up release of the master schedule until November, which happened last year when the owners could not finalize the plan for interleague play until they ratified the new labor agreement.

"There's no question there's more work to be done," Selig said, "but I believe that the more we talk, the better it will be."

San Francisco Giants owner Peter Magowan remains the most vocal critic of the ambitious regionalization that has been championed by Selig and Harrington and has vowed to resist any attempt to institute a plan that would put the Oakland Athletics and Giants in the same division.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos had voiced some concern earlier this week about the possibility of regionalization leading to the placement of a team in Northern Virginia, but expressed support for the concept of geographic realignment after the meeting.

"I don't think this discussion has anything to do with expansion," he said. "That merely clouds the issue. I don't think that [expansion into Northern Virginia] is going to happen, notwithstanding the efforts that some people in that area are making to acquire a team. The Orioles are a team that serves both areas very well and it is because of both areas that we have been so successful."

Angelos said that the meeting was largely informational and dismissed the notion that Selig and Harrington were trying to force their vision of the future of Major League Baseball on the other owners.

"That's not the atmosphere at all," he said. "Bud and Harrington and Montgomery are not trying to drive this thing through. I think they are trying to secure a consensus. I think we recognize that there are some changes that are advantageous and necessary for the long-term good of the game."

Of Selig, Angelos said: "His challenge is to get all of the owners to understand the need and the methodology he proposes. Once he does that, he'll get some changes effected that will be beneficial."

The plan that appears to have the most support would include a 16-14 format, with the 16 teams in the National League split into four divisions. The American League would continue to have two five-team divisions and one four-team division. That would eliminate the need for a wild card in the National League but retain a three-tiered playoff format.

Harrington said that the realignment committee has prioritized the long list of possible scenarios, but said that none of the "20 or 30" plans taken under consideration has been eliminated.

Pub Date: 9/18/97

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