Twins, Baseball Appeal Contraction

Wednesday, January 23rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ The Twins and major league baseball asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to hold a hearing by Feb. 11 _ just three days before the start of spring training _ on the injunction that forces the team to play this season.

A day after the Court of Appeals voted 3-0 to uphold the injunction that forces the Twins to honor their lease at the Metrodome, the team and baseball filed papers Wednesday with the Supreme Court requesting permission for an expedited appeal.

``The Court of Appeals decision is an unprecedented intrusion into a private business's right to cease operations,'' wrote Roger Magnuson, a lawyer for the Twins and baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

Separately, Twins owner Carl Pohlad met with Alabama businessman Donald Watkins on Wednesday to discuss Watkins' desire to purchase the team.

The appellate court upheld a Nov. 16 decision by a district judge, who said any breach of the Twins' lease wouldn't be satisfied by money alone.

``The critical timing issues presented in this case make expedited determination necessary if meaningful review is to occur,'' Magnuson wrote.

Baseball owners voted Nov. 6 to eliminate two teams before this season. Baseball hasn't selected the teams, but the Twins and Montreal Expos are prime targets because of their low revenue and inability to secure government funding for new ballparks.

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which obtained the injunction as the Twins' landlord, opposes quicker-than-usual consideration, said lawyer Andy Shea.

``The calendar of contraction was established by commissioner Selig,'' Shea said. ``He, obviously, did not allow sufficient time for any orderly legal process.''

Minnesota's Supreme Court, which on Nov. 30 refused to hear a direct appeal of the original ruling, typically takes five to seven months to decide cases after hearing arguments, though it has moved more quickly in some cases where time was an issue. For the high court to take the case, at least three of the seven justices must agree to accept an appeal.

Watkins, who wants to examine the Twins' financial records before making a formal offer, has said he could finance a new stadium without public help if he buys the team. His lawyer, Kenneth Thomas, was also present at the two-hour meeting, along with Twins president Jerry Bell and Pohlad's son, Jim, a minority owner of the team.

Watkins did not immediately return a message left at his office. The Twins said both parties signed confidentiality agreements to keep the discussion process private.