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Baseball Owners OK Fox TV Deal

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CHICAGO (AP) — A new TV deal with Fox and a contract with the new umpires union got overwhelming approval from baseball owners.

But a vote on the proposed sale of the Toronto Blue Jays was deferred until some parts of the deal could be reworked, commissioner Bud Selig said.

Selig said Tuesday he sees no problem and expects the sale to move forward. The delay was not related to Toronto signing Carlos Delgado to a $68 million, four-year deal right before the World Series, a spokesman for the commissioner's office said.

``It's an excellent group. I have every confidence we will move expeditiously on this, but there was some material we needed to redo,''' Selig said.

Rogers Communications Inc. agreed Sept. 1 to pay $112 million to buy 80 percent of the Blue Jays from Interbrew SA, which became the team's controlling owner in 1995, when it purchased Labatt Brewing Co.

Interbrew would retain a 20 percent interest. The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, which has owned 10 percent, would sell its shares.

Owners are not scheduled to meet again until January in the Phoenix area, but they could bring up the Blue Jays' sale earlier, either in a telephone vote or at a special session.

Selig spent a good portion of Tuesday's three-hour meeting giving owners a state-of-the-industry talk, covering a range of topics, including possible contraction. But, according to one participant in the meeting, he offered no specifics.

Selig said there was no discussion of the collective bargaining agreement that expires in exactly one year. Failure to reach a new deal could lead to baseball's ninth work stoppage since 1972.

``We have some real problems to solve in the industry, but I have said for many years we had eight work stoppages in my baseball career and we need to find different ways to solve those problems, and I mean that. So we will get to that later,'' Selig said.

Fox, a division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and the majority owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, agreed Sept. 27 to a $2.5 billion, six-year contract that gives it rights to the playoffs, World Series, All-Star game and a game-of-the-week package through 2006.

The deal is about a 50 percent increase from the previous five-year contracts, in which Fox and NBC split television rights. It was approved with one abstention.

Following six months of negotiations, the new umpires union agreed Aug. 31 to a five-year labor contract calling for retroactive raises of 10.2 percent to 14.9 percent this year.

Owners approved that deal unanimously Tuesday.

Selig said more information was also needed to gauge the low TV ratings for the Subway Series. He did not want to blame the 22 percent drop in ratings from 1999 on baseball's deepening disparity between small and large markets.

``There are some people who will tell you that at least from an anecdotal standpoint, that's true. But I can't tell you that today,'' Selig said.

The Series received a 12.4 rating, the lowest ever for baseball's championship, down 12 percent from the previous low, a 14.1 for the Yankees' sweep of San Diego two years ago.

``I was there to see three games myself, and it was a terrific Series from the standpoint competitive games and so forth,'' Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo said.

``There was great excitement in the City of New York. Unfortunately, it appears some of the other parts of the country weren't quite as interested. Chicago and Los Angeles, by way of example. I think that kind of goes with the territory in a Subway Series.''

Colangelo, whose team was sixth in payroll at $81 million, said baseball is well aware of the different levels of spending.

``Disparity exists, and we all understand that and it's something we need to address,'' Colangelo said. ``The fact is, those with high payrolls are those who seem to advance and win. Each year, that kind of points out the need for having to address the economic imbalance.''



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