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All potential 2002 schedules include Rays

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 11, 2001


CHICAGO -- Major League Baseball officials are planning on a team in Tampa Bay next season.

That may not seem like news to most people, but with a steady flow of rumors tying the Rays to contraction and relocation, it could be a significant indication of what may, or may not, happen.

Katy Feeney, MLB vice president of scheduling and club relations, said Monday that all schedules drawn for next season include a team in Tampa Bay.

She also said "the schedules that are out there" have all 30 teams on them. By saying that, she seemed to indicate there may have been schedules drawn up that don't include all current teams. Montreal and Florida are considered by some the most likely to be dropped.

"I'd like to think we'll be prepared for whatever contingency," Feeney said at Wrigley Field.

MLB has sent tentative schedules to teams but asked that they not be released, an unusual request this late in the year. Feeney said, "we may have a little better idea" of when the schedules can be released after a two-day quarterly owners meeting that starts today in Milwaukee.

With baseball's labor contract to expire Oct. 31, this would seem to be a pivotal time for the owners to make decisions on how to proceed with the negotiations as well as decide on contraction or relocation.

Commissioner Bud Selig has declined to specify what will be discussed, saying only that he expects lots of discussion.

The Rays, knowing the uncertainty won't help their efforts to renew season tickets and sponsorship agreements, are most interested in listening.

"We go with an open mind eager to hear what he has to say," managing general partner Vince Naimoli said.

There has been speculation about a potential signing freeze after this season and a spring training lockout, which could disrupt the 2002 season. There have been suggestions that Selig will request a one-year extension of the current agreement.

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