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Selig tune is music to Rays' ears

Naimoli supports commissioner's stance on realignment, including any plan that would put Tampa Bay in NL.

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 7, 1999


ST. PETERSBURG -- Attending the Devil Rays spring home opener Saturday, baseball commissioner Bud Selig continued to push for realignment. He won't have to push the Rays too hard.

Speaking moments after Selig, managing general partner Vince Naimoli said he believes the Devil Rays will be involved in realignment, possibly moving to the National League.

"We're definitely going to be involved in it," Naimoli said. "Just from the simple fact we're one of the two teams that can be moved."

In the last round of realignment after the 1997 season, the expansion Devil Rays and Diamondbacks agreed to waive any rights to block a move to another league after 1999. Every other team would have veto power over such a move.

Selig said he was aware that Naimoli would welcome a change of leagues but said Arizona managing general partner Jerry Colangelo is opposed to the idea. Moving the Diamondbacks to the AL West would allow baseball to move the Texas Rangers to a more geographically logical division.

A realignment that would create four geographically-driven divisions in each league would make it easier to go to an unbalanced schedule many teams favor. The Devil Rays could end up in an NL East with the Braves, Marlins and possibly a relocated Expos team in northern Virginia or Charlotte.

"I know Vince has that view and Mr. Colangelo has the antithesis of that view. It's just something that's we're going to have to work out," Selig said. "There's no question there is some flexibility there."

Selig touched on other topics during his visit to St. Petersburg:

He suggested baseball may see its first franchise relocation in more than a quarter-century. Montreal has not found local buyers or come up with funds for a new stadium and the team may now be sold to out-of-town investors. "I don't believe I have either the legal or moral authority to consign a team to bankruptcy," Selig said, by way of explaining his reluctance to block an Expos move.

Selig acknowledged that the format for interleague play may change in the next two years. Instead of playing only teams from the corresponding division, Selig said baseball could go to a rotating schedule of interleague games.

He offered the possibility that the two leagues could adopt one plan for the designated hitter during discussions for realignment. "The only thing that's going to change it is a cataclysmic event of some type, and that's realignment," Selig said.

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