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03/26/05 7:22 PM ET
A's sale should be finalized soon
Selig: Local TV deal in the works for Nationals
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The sale of the Oakland A's to Lewis Wolff is expected to be finalized during a conference call among the other 29 owners scheduled for Wednesday, Commissioner Bud Selig said on Saturday. The Commissioner also said that the Washington Nationals will have a local television deal by the start of the season. "They're working on it right now," Selig told a media gathering at Tempe Diablo Stadium. About the sale of the MLB-owned Nationals, Selig said he expected that to be accomplished by the middle of the season. "They are moving ahead. There are nine groups bidding for the Washington team. They're all in the due diligence stage right now," Selig said. "It's a slow process, but we're moving along. That'll be done by mid-summer, hopefully sooner. It's hard to tell. July. June." The sale of the A's will end the nearly decade-long reign of Steve Schott and Ken Hoffman as the team's owners. Hoffman will leave the group, but Schott intends to retain a limited partnership. "The rest is up to Mr. Wolff, then, when he takes over," Selig said. "I've known him a long time and he's a very smart guy." Oakland will be the 10th team to at least change principal owners since Feb. 15 2002, when the Red Sox, Expos and Marlins all were sold on the same day. The Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Brewers also have had ownership changes since early last year. Wolff, the team's current vice president of venue development, exercised a 90-day window in his contract to purchase the team. His top goal will be finding the finances and site for a new stadium, preferably in Oakland. The team has played in what is now called the McAfee Coliseum south of downtown Oakland since it moved west from Kansas City in time for the 1968 season. The primary site is in the stadium's parking lot. "(Wolff) is an expert in real estate so he really understands these things," Selig said. "He may be better at them than other people coming into the sport. Lewis will do very well. He's a very smart guy. He's a fan and very good partner." Last season, the Commissioner traveled to Oakland and at a press conference said that the stadium situation had to be resolved if the team was going to survive in the San Francisco Bay Area. But Selig reiterated on Saturday that the San Francisco Giants own the territorial rights to Santa Clara County, which includes the city of San Jose, and that the A's will not be allowed to infringe on those rights. "We have a sport where you just can't have anarchy," Selig said. "You can't be changing territories. It's a territory that's owned by the San Francisco Giants and that will be respected. You just don't change those things and we won't." As far as the Nationals are concerned, Selig also reiterated that unlike the Giants and Santa Clara County, the Baltimore Orioles don't have any claim on the Nation's Capital as part of their territory. As a good-will gesture, MLB has been negotiating for months with Orioles owner Peter Angelos to guarantee the value of his franchise and reserve a stake in a new regional sports network that will also be partly owned by the Nationals. Those negotiations have yet to reach fruition, but time is running short and some sort of television deal needs to be in place before Washington begins the season at Philadelphia on April 4. The home opener and first regular season baseball game to be played at RFK Stadium since the expansion Senators left after the 1971 season is scheduled for April 14 against the Diamondbacks. "Oh yes, the games will be on television," Selig said. "Absolutely."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.