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Major League Baseball’s plan to cut two teams is running into opposition in Congress. A measure introduced Wednesday by Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., would allow lawsuits against baseball to prevent a team from moving or folding. To win, the suit would have to prove that baseball was violating antitrust laws by limiting competition. Because of baseball’s antitrust exemption, which dates to a 1922 U.S. Supreme Court decision, the major leagues have been immune from such lawsuits. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has said he wants to complete “contraction” by Dec. 15, though he has not yet said which teams would be trimmed and faces strong opposition from the players’ union. Among the likely candidates for elimination are the cash-strapped Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos. Wellstone called baseball’s decision “a way for owners to divvy up profits.” Added Conyers, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee: “If GM, Ford and Chrysler tried that in Detroit, we would have a lot of people outraged.” The bill allows an injured party — a government entity, a stadium authority, a baseball player — to sue for antitrust violations. Other parts of baseball’s antitrust exemption would remain intact, such as minor league baseball, marketing, sales and intellectual property rights. Officials with Major League Baseball did not return phone messages Wednesday. Last week, Wellstone and Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., wrote to President Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers, asking him to support the legislation. Bush has not yet responded. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., this week asked Selig to delay any decision on folding teams for at least a year. Lawyers for baseball players planned to speak by telephone Wednesday with Shyam Das, baseball’s arbitrator, to set a date for their grievance hearing aimed at stopping the eliminations. The players’ union contends the move would violate its labor contract. Copyright 2001 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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