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Baseball : Ted Turner's Financial Situation Has Other Owners Concerned

December 06, 1987|Ross Newhan

DALLAS — Who owns the Atlanta Braves? Has Captain Outrageous given up the ship?

Not yet, but Ted Turner's tenuous control of Turner Broadcasting System, the parent company of the Braves and the National Basketball Assn.'s Atlanta Hawks, has become a subject of concern and conversation among major league owners

The National League, in fact, has already examined the ramifications of the continuing changes in Turner's empire and voted approval of a minority purchase of the Braves.

The American League will continue its own study at the winter meetings opening here today.

"We don't want to throw a monkey wrench into (the possible change in ownership) but some clubs don't like what it portends," an American League official said.

He alluded to the spreading tentacles of cable television and the possibility of an almost clandestine change in club ownership without baseball's approval.

Turner is no longer sole owner of Turner Broadcast System and could soon lose control of the board of directors.

The situation developed when Turner encountered financial problems after his purchase of the MGM film library in 1986. He was bailed out briefly when Tele-Communications, Inc., of Denver, the nation's largest cable-systems operator, and a group of other cable operators, including Time, Inc., purchased a 37% minority interest for $550 million.

Now Turner is trying to sell another 25% to NBC to finance dividends for the holders of $560 million of preferred stock that was sold to finance the MGM purchase. If Turner fails to meet the June dividend payments, the stockholders--a group of the minority owners--would be able to gain control of Turner's board by electing two new members. As it is, Turner must gain board approval for major decisions.

The National League, for the time being, apparently believes that Turner still runs the ship. The American League isn't sure and doesn't want to have to check CNN or TBS listings for latest details.

Certain to be heard at the winter meetings:

--The Cincinnati Reds are attempting to trade Dave Parker.

They reportedly believe that Parker failed to provide leadership during the second half of last season, are concerned about their salary structure with the possibility of 11 arbitration cases this winter and believe that Tracy Jones and Paul O'Neill are prepared to pick up the offensive slack.

Don't look for a blockbuster. The Reds may be agreeable to taking pitcher Charlie Hudson from the New York Yankees or pitcher Gene Nelson from the Oakland Athletics, though they would prefer A's flame thrower Jose Rijo.

--With the apparent retirement of Reggie Jackson and the possible departure of Mike Davis and Dwayne Murphy as free agents, the A's would be without a left-handed power threat. Thus, the interest in Parker.

Says A's General Manager Sandy Alderson: "Our goal is to come out of the winter meetings as favorite to win the American League West. I don't think we're that far away now."

--The Dodgers' interest in Oakland shortstop Alfredo Griffin is tempered by a thumb injury Griffin suffered when he was hit by a pitch in September. He is trying to play in the Dominican Winter League but continues to be bothered and could face surgery.

It is also tempered by the A's wanting Bob Welch in exchange.

Would they take Mike Marshall?

Alderson reportedly told Bay Area writers that he is skeptical about Marshall, who has a history of injury and illness.

--If it's not Parker, the A's may deal for Mike Young, a left-handed hitting outfielder with the Baltimore Orioles.

They may also choose to re-sign Davis, who hit .292 with 20 homers in the first half of last season and .224 with 2 homers in the second. Davis reportedly wants a 3-year, $3-million contract.

"I don't think he earned that kind of contract from the Oakland A's," Manager Tony LaRussa said.

--The Philadelphia Phillies are prepared to trade outfielder Glenn Wilson and relief pitcher Mike Jackson to the Seattle Mariners for outfielder Phil Bradley.

The deal is reportedly set, pending approval of Mariner owner George Argyros, who will not return from a hunting trip in Mexico until Tuesday.

--Oriole owner Edward Bennett Williams and new general manager Roland Hemond are saying publicly that they have given up trying to satisfy first baseman Eddie Murray's trade desires and are trying to convince him that he can live happily ever after in Baltimore--as if a $2 million a year contract isn't enough.

Privately, however, they would still like to dump the salary by trading Murray to the Dodgers for a package involving Welch or Orel Hershiser.

--Adding to the pitching woes of the once-proud Orioles, they now fear that Don Aase may be finished in the wake of elbow and shoulder operations.

--The Chicago Cubs are attempting to move Jody Davis, Keith Moreland or Leon Durham, all of whom make $1 million or more a year. In the last two years, Durham has hit only .208 in night games, driving in 27 runs.

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