Robinson could become manager or GM of Expos

Tuesday, January 15th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Frank Robinson could wind up as manager or general manager of the Montreal Expos as part of baseball's musical chairs of owners.

Teams probably will vote Wednesday to approve the proposed $660 million sale of the Boston Red Sox to a group headed by current Florida Marlins owner John Henry, a high-ranking baseball official said Monday on the condition of anonymity.

At the same time, owners are likely to approve a $150 million sale of the Marlins from Henry to Jeffrey Loria, the current owner of the Expos, the official said.

Loria wants to take current Expos manager Jeff Torborg and his staff with him to Florida, the official said, and the office of commissioner Bud Selig would run the Expos.

Robinson, hired by Cleveland in 1975 as baseball's first black manager, is baseball's vice president in charge of discipline. He could be asked to serve as Montreal's manager or GM, the official said.

``That would be attractive. I would be willing to listen. No one has approached me yet,'' said Robinson, a Hall of Famer and two-time MVP. ``I never turn a deaf ear to anything in baseball.''

In other contraction and labor related news Monday:

_ Selig issued an unprecedented invitation to players' association head Donald Fehr to address the owners' meeting on Thursday.

_ Donald Watkins, who wants to buy the Minnesota Twins, called team president Jerry Bell to start the process of obtaining the Twins' financial records and to set up a meeting with team owner Carl Pohlad.

_ New York lawyer Miles Prentice, who wants to buy the Red Sox, increased his offer to $755, $90 million more than the bid the team accepted from Henry's group. Cablevision Systems Corp. chairman Charles Dolan upped his bid to $750 million, $50 million more than the offered the Red Sox rejected Sunday.

_ Loria wants to move the Marlins' spring training camp from Melbourne, Fla., to Jupiter, Fla., and move the Expos' camp from Jupiter to Melbourne, the baseball official said. Both the Marlins and Expos declined comment.

_ Management lawyer Rob Manfred testified on the 10th day of the hearing on the grievance by the players' association to block contraction. The hearing recessed until Jan. 24 and with Manfred's testimony incomplete, it is increasingly unlikely arbitrator Shyam Das will make a decision until late in spring training.

Selig's plan to eliminate two teams, a move approved by owners on Nov. 6, is at the center of the vast changes he contemplates. While he hasn't identified teams, Montreal and Minnesota are the likely targets.

An injunction issued by a Minnesota judge forces the Twins to honor their lease at the Metrodome this season, an order the team and Selig have appealed.

But most baseball officials now assume no teams will be eliminated this year, which means the Expos will have no owner operating the team if Loria assumes control of the Marlins and Henry takes over the Red Sox.

That is one aspect of the Expos' GM job that appeals to Robinson.

``No owner looking over your should telling you what to do,'' he said.

However, it would place all of the team's trades under scrutiny because the person appointed by the commissioner's office to run the Expos could be in a position to make deals that affect the pennant race.

Selig, whose family has controlled the Milwaukee Brewers since 1970, has been baseball commissioner since 1998. Last week, he was accused of a potential conflict of interest when The Star Tribune of Minneapolis and the St. Paul Pioneer Press revealed he arranged for a three-month loan to the Brewers in 1995 from a company controlled by Pohlad.

Watkins and Twins president Jerry Bell talked about a procedure and a schedule for his pursuit of the team.

``It was a very positive discussion,'' said Watkins, who met with the head of baseball's ownership committee last week. ``They were expecting my call.''

Bell did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Watkins hopes to negotiate a deal and have major league approval within 6-to-8 months. Watkins said a change of ownership would save the team from contraction.

That could case Selig to select Oakland, Tampa Bay, Florida, Anaheim or another team as the possible second club in a contraction plan for 2003, or could cause him to allow a move by the Expos to Washington, D.C., a concept opposed by Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who thinks it would infringe on his market.

Meanwhile, offers kept coming for the Red Sox. Document signed by all bidders say offers can be made until the sale is finalized.

Dolan said his new offer included $490 million for the Jean R. Yawkey Trust, which owns a 53 percent controlling interest in the team, and $260 million for the limited partners. Prentice's offer would pay the trust $5 million more.

Henry's offer would pay $409.2 million to the trust and the rest to the limited partners, according to Samuel Tamposi, one of the limited partners.

Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly has been reviewing whether Selig's office improperly influenced the Red Sox into accepting the bid from Henry group, which includes former San Diego Padres owner Tom Werner, former Padres and Baltimore president Larry Lucchino and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, all friends of Selig.

The purchase price includes Fenway Park and a controlling 80 percent interest in the New England Sports Network.

Werner and Lucchino have been told by Selig they must sell their shares in the Padres, which are each less than 5 percent. Henry still owns a 1 percent share of the Yankees.