Baseball's deputy commissioner said Tuesday the Seattle Mariners probably won't be sold by Opening Day and threats to the game's antitrust exemption were "the wrong approach."
"We're trying to ensure that whomever is operating on Opening Day of 1992, and I suspect it will be Jeff Smulyan, we're trying to ensure that the operator has the adequate support of the community to make baseball successful in Seattle," deputy commissioner Stephen Greenberg said.
A group 60-percent financed by a Japanese businessman has offered to purchase the team from Smulyan for $100-million. Baseball's ownership committee is reviewing the offer, with no date set for a decision. Tampa Bay officials are hoping that the team will relocate if there is no deal.
Smulyan said it was premature to speculate what might happen if the team is not sold by March 27, the end of a required 120-day period to make the team available for purchase only by buyers who will keep it in Seattle.
Sen. Slate Gorton, R-Wash., said that if owners do not approve the deal, he would support a lawsuit against baseball on antitrust grounds.
"This will only take place if the American League has moved the team out of Seattle," Gorton said. "If they move a team out of Seattle for a second time, it's impractical to think they'd move one back in."
However, if the antitrust exemption were revoked, teams would be able to move without approval.
"Whatever group of senators would back the concept of revoking the antitrust exemption will be those who will be responsible for the willy-nilly movement of franchises, possibly out of their own communities," Greenberg said. "I think it's the wrong approach. I think those who are beating the litigation drums have lost sight of the objective here, which is to make major-league baseball succeed in Seattle."
Greenberg went on to criticize Gorton, who as Washington state attorney general led the lawsuit that followed the 1970 move of the Pilots to Milwaukee. That suit led to the creation of the Mariners in 1977.
"I think he knows what the realities are, but unfortunately we still have to deal with his words," Greenberg said.
Dykstra DUI case settled: Philadelphia outfielder Lenny Dykstra received a one-year probation and lost his driver's license for 90 days after being convicted in a May 1991 car crash.
Arbitration: The owners stretched their winning streak to five when Pittsburgh shortstop Jay Bell lost. Bell will receive $875,000 instead of his requested $1.45-million.
San Diego pitcher Greg Harris signed a two-year, $3-million contract avoiding abritration.
Houston third baseman Ken Caminiti avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $1.5-million contract.
Reyes suspension: The Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance to overturn the suspension of Montreal Expos catcher Gil Reyes.
Reyes was suspended for 60 days last Friday for violating baseball's drug policy and his own aftercare program.
ESPN: The cable network will broadcast one game on Monday nights and cut its early game on Tuesdays. The late Tuesday night game will still be shown.
_ Baseball transactions, 8C