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Small-Market Owner Faction Tries Squeeze Play

September 16, 1993|ROSS NEWHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In what is seen as a leverage play to underscore their desire for revenue sharing with the big-market teams, more than 15 of baseball's smaller-revenue teams are threatening to prevent all non-network telecasts from their stadiums next year.

That means that some teams may not be able to televise road games back to their local markets. The threat is aimed primarily at the superstations--WGN, TBS, WPIX and WWOR, but it would also imperil road telecasts of the Dodgers and Angels on Channel 5 because they are non-network.

The only games guaranteed to be televised, according to sources Wednesday, would be the 12 national telecasts by ABC and NBC, along with the 75 or so on ESPN.

However, if two small-market teams were playing, the sources added, they would apparently be free to work out a TV agreement for individual games.

The Angels are party to the small-market agreement, but Vice President Jackie Autry would not comment. Dodger President Peter O'Malley is in Asia until Monday and could not be reached.

Local and cable telecasts are governed by separate agreements in each league. Those agreements automatically renew each year unless five teams in a respective league vote to cancel.

The small-market threat to scrub the agreements is clouded by legal ramifications. The last American League renewal, for instance, is believed to extend through 1994.

It is not certain that a TV boycott could be arbitrarily implemented, even though there are more than five votes in each league to veto the agreements.

Interim commissioner Bud Selig was reluctant to discuss the situation--no surprise since his small-market Milwaukee Brewers support the coalition, although he is required to appear impartial.

"I wouldn't make too much of this," he said of the threat. "I don't think it's an issue of leverage as much as the clubs taking a new look at decades-old agreements."

Another small-market owner suggested it is more than that.

"I don't know how far we'll go with this, but we need to have the attention of the big-market clubs," he said.

"They need to know we're serious about a revenue-sharing agreement that will give us some significant help."

It was not clear how many clubs have joined the small-market coalition, but the breakdown is believed to be similar to one during a recent meeting in Kohler, Wis., when 10 of the larger-revenue clubs separated from the 18 others and blocked a revenue agreement.

Those 10 were the Dodgers, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Florida Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers.

It was learned Wednesday that the Marlins and Cardinals have joined the small-market coalition on the TV issue.

In the Kohler aftermath, a committee of eight was appointed to hammer out a revenue-sharing formula that would then require the approval of 21 teams and be the foundation for a salary-cap proposal to the players' union.

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