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BASEBALL EXTRA | AROUND THE AL

By George, Yankees Close to Settlement

September 28, 1997|ROSS NEWHAN

Lawyers for major league baseball and the New York Yankees are close to a negotiated settlement of George Steinbrenner's potentially explosive suit against baseball, a lawyer familiar with the situation said Saturday.

The Steinbrenner suit, which carried serious antitrust consequences for baseball, accused the industry of interfering with the $90-million marketing and licensing agreement he had reached with Adidas. Baseball argued that Major League Baseball Properties is the sole marketing and licensing arm for the sport, but told the Yankees that the Adidas deal would be approved if the Yankees and Adidas agreed to get baseball's approval before embarking on certain of their plans.

Steinbrenner refused and sued, which resulted in his expulsion from the ruling executive council under a provision of the Major League Agreement that prohibits clubs, owners and club executives from suing the industry.

Under terms of the proposed settlement, the lawyer said, Adidas will remain a Yankee sponsor but will also sponsor several other clubs.

In addition, other companies, such as Nike and Reebok, perhaps, will join in the venture as a joint national and international marketing agreement covering all 30 clubs.

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In a disappointing season for the Chicago White Sox, Frank Thomas will salvage a measure of pride by winning his first American League batting title and the first for the White Sox since Luke Appling in 1943.

Can White Sox manager Terry Bevington survive? Unlikely. Beyond the team's inept performance, batting coach Bill Buckner quit earlier in the season over differences with Bevington, and third-base coach Doug Rader and third baseman Robin Ventura had shouting matches with the manager in the last two weeks.

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The Cleveland Indians are considered the favorite, but the Dodgers and Yankees also might be in the running if the Minnesota Twins satisfy second baseman Chuck Knoblauch's desire to be traded to a contender, which is what they have indicated.

Said Knoblauch, "I know the big question is going to be, 'You just signed a five-year deal [for $30 million] last year--what could change so much in one year?' Well, last year we went into September fighting for a wild-card spot. We did that without Kirby Puckett. There was a great deal of hope here last year, but losing 90 games this year, that's not by accident, is it?

"I mean, why would somebody want to stay here to play? There's nothing fun about losing 90 games."

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A clip-and-save October preview:

It is impossible to wager against the depth of the Atlanta Braves' rotation. The Braves should avenge their 1996 World Series defeat by the Yankees by first beating the Houston Astros and then the Florida Marlins, who should advance to the NL championship series by eliminating the San Francisco Giants in their division series.

Tab the wild-card Yankees to defeat the Cleveland Indians in their division series, then win a bell ringer of an AL championship series from the Seattle Mariners, who will have advanced by defeating the Orioles in their division series.

Greg Maddux will be the Series MVP.

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