Baseball Commissioner Says Teams Going Broke

On the eve of resumption of baseball's labor talks, commissioner Bud Selig said a major league team might not be able to meet its next payroll. 

Selig did not identify the team, whose payroll is Monday. In an interview Wednesday in Milwaukee with the Houston Chronicle and other papers, Selig also said a second unidentified team had so much debt it might not finish the season. 

There was no way to corroborate his remarks. Reached at his home Wednesday night, Selig refused to discuss the subject. 

"I'm done. Major league baseball's credit lines are at the maximum," Selig said in the Chronicle on Thursday. "We've done everything we can to help people by arranging credit lines. Frankly, at this point in time, we don't have that luxury anymore. 

"If a club can't make it, I have to let 'em go. I'm a traditionalist, and I hate all that. It pains me to do it. I just don't have any more alternatives." 

The talks are to resume Thursday. 

Players and owners have not held a full negotiating session since June 27, and are far apart on all the key issues: increase revenue sharing among teams, the owners' proposal for a luxury tax to slow payroll growth, random testing for steroids and other drugs, extending the amateur draft worldwide, and management's attempt to change salary arbitration rules and eligibility. 

On Monday, the union's executive board met outside Chicago. While the board did not set a strike date then, it asked players on individual teams to give it authority to set one. If there is no progress in negotiations, the executive board is expected to call for baseball's ninth work stoppage, setting a walkout date for August or September. 

Players and owners also await the upcoming ruling from arbitrator Shyam Das, who heard the grievance filed by the union, which claims management's attempt to fold the Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos violated the previous labor contract, which expired Nov. 7. 

Das has told the sides he will attempt to have a decision by Monday. Contraction was put off by Selig until after the 2002 season following a string of legal losses by baseball in the Minnesota courts, which ruled the Twins had to honor their 2002 lease in the Metrodome. 

Meanwhile, several congressmen sent a letter to players and owners urging them to adopt a drug-testing policy, The Herald of New Britain, Conn., reported. 

"Instituting mandatory, random drug testing is the only way to signal that our nation's pastime is serious about banning steroids," the letter said.