Contraction plan dealt another blow from courts

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- In a decision that could block baseball's plan to eliminate teams this season, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld an injunction Tuesday that requires the Twins to play in the Metrodome in 2002.

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel will be appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, according to lawyers for major league baseball and the Twins. But with less than a month until the start of spring training in mid-February, it appears unlikely baseball owners will be able to fold Minnesota and Montreal Expos -- their two likely contraction targets -- before this season.

Twins outfielder Torii Hunter took the ruling as another sign that the team would play this year.

"It's getting close," he said. "All you can do is get ready, and prepare like you're going to have a season."

The appellate court said a Hennepin County judge did not abuse his discretion when he ruled in November that the Twins cannot simply buy out the final year of their lease but must field a team for the season's 81 scheduled home games.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said last week that he still would try to eliminate teams this year and wouldn't set a deadline for calling off contraction. Selig did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

"While we disappointed with the decision of the appeals court, we are not surprised," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief legal officer.

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