Sports

As Selig Sentiment Grows, Search Brings Out Skeptics

The cancellation of the quarterly owners’ meeting next week left some teams speculating on whether it means Bud Selig is moving closer to becoming the full-time commissioner.

Some owners already were questioning how extensive the search is. Colorado Rockies chairman Jerry McMorris, the only person other than Selig to know all the people under consideration, insists the search is real.

However, even McMorris admits that some teams want to draft Selig.

Selig says he doesn’t want the job, doesn’t intend to take it, wants nothing to do with it. However, he has repeatedly refused to say unconditionally that he would never take it.

One National League owner, speaking on the condition he not be identified, said Friday there still is opposition to Selig within the N.L. But even that owner admitted Selig is the best vote-counter in baseball and surely wouldn’t allow a draft movement to call for a vote until he was sure he could gain approval.

Baseball executives have speculated that N.L. president Len Coleman is one of the candidates under consideration. The identities of others are unknown. By refusing to include others in the search, Selig and McMorris have prevented leaks but also left some teams wondering if the search isn’t a hoax.

While McMorris said last week he hopes a new commissioner can be elected at the meeting scheduled for March 17-19 in St. Petersburg, Fla., that would be a shock. Selig always moves cautiously, and most baseball officials still think he will remain in power.

Smokin’

Vince Naimoli and the others who invested in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays might see their team go up in smoke this season.

Tampa Bay and the J.C. Newman Cigar Company plan to open a cigar bar in Tropicana Field this season.

“We are setting a precedent, creating an atmosphere where fans can enjoy baseball and cigars together,” said Naimoli, the team’s controlling owner.

The Cuesta-Ray Cigar Bar will sell the Cuesta-Ray Devil Ray cigar, which won’t be available outside the ballpark.

“It’s only natural that Tropicana Field should have a cigar bar. For over 100 years, cigars have been part of Tampa’s heritage,” said Eric Newman, president of J.C. Newman Cigar Company.

Free-agent focus

While Bernie Williams and the New York Yankees have had very public disagreements about a long-term contract, Mike Piazza - also eligible for free agency after the season - has been quietly disagreeing with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The 29-year-old catcher, in the second season of a $15 million, two-year contract, skipped the team’s first voluntary winter workout at Dodger Stadium last week.

“I know he’s been traveling,” said Dodgers general manager Fred Claire. “I imagine we’ll see him before the end of winter workouts.”

Piazza hit .362 last season, with 40 homers and 120 RBIs. His agent, Dan Lozano, has said Piazza will become a free agent after the season if he doesn’t get an extension by Feb. 15.

Still out there

With little more than a month remaining until spring training starts Feb. 14, teams still have a chance to add players from the free-agent market. Among those still available:

Geronimo Berroa, who hit .283 for Baltimore last season with 26 homers and 90 RBIs.

Jose Canseco, who batted .235 for Oakland with 23 homers and 74 RBIs in 388 at-bats.

Andy Benes, 10-7 with a 3.10 ERA (his $30 million, five-year contract with St. Louis was voided by management’s Player Relations Committee).

Rod Beck, 7-4 with 37 saves and a 3.47 ERA for San Francisco.



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