MINNEAPOLIS -- A judge delayed his decision Thursday on whether to extend a court order that prevents the Minnesota Twins from being eliminated.
In a lawsuit that could block the decision by baseball owners to get rid of two teams before next season, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission obtained a temporary restraining order last week against the team and major league baseball requiring the Twins to play at the Metrodome in 2002, the final year of their lease.
Hennepin County District Judge Harry Crump held a hearing Thursday on whether to issue a temporary injunction against the Twins and baseball pending a trial. After 90 minutes of oral arguments from lawyers, Crump said he is likely to rule within a couple of days.
Baseball owners voted 28-2 last week to eliminate two teams but did not identify them. Montreal and Minnesota are the leading candidates, with Florida, Oakland and Tampa Bay also possibilities.
The team's lease requires it to play in the Metrodome through 2002. In determining whether to issue the injunction, the judge must consider whether the Facilities Commission is likely to win a trial, whether it would sustain irreparable harm if the injunction isn't issued, whether the Twins and baseball would be damaged, and whether the public interest is served.
"All of a sudden, what was a private enterprise is now a public trust," said Roger Magnuson, the lawyer who represented the Twins and commissioner Bud Selig.
"The government does not have the right to mandate the continued operation of a business, even if the public likes the services offered by that enterprise," Magnuson wrote in papers submitted to the court.
The Facilities Commission says its lease with the team requires specific performance. The Twins began playing in the Metrodome in 1982, but haven't been required to pay rent for the regular season in more than a decade.
"If the team ceases to play major league professional baseball games for any reason, the team shall have breached this agreement," the lease says, "and will be liable for such remedies as may be available to the commission at law ... including, but not limited to, injunctive relief."
If Crump issues the injunction, it may be impossible to eliminate the Twins for next year, since it's unclear when a trial would take place.