National League president Len Coleman, at odds with the commissioner's office over control of umpires and player discipline, plans to resign later this year, a high-ranking baseball official said today.
Coleman, baseball's highest-ranking black official, has headed the NL since March 1994. He had been resisting the efforts of commissioner Bud Selig to switch control of umpires from the league presidents to Sandy Alderson, hired last year as Selig's executive vice president of baseball operations.
The timing of the resignation plan, according to a high-ranking official who spoke on the condition he not be identified, was precipitated by next week's owners' meeting. Coleman, however, had not intended to make an announcement today and was surprised news leaked out, another baseball employee said.
Officials in the commissioner's office intend to propose a restructuring that will reduce the job of league president to a ceremonial one, the high-ranking official said.
If owners approve the restructuring, player discipline would be shifted from the leagues to the commissioner's office, subject to the approval of the players' association.
In addition, league meetings would disappear and decisions would make made by all owners of both the American and National leagues meeting together.
Coleman could not immediately be reached and Selig's spokesman, Rich Levin, said baseball had no immediate comment.
AL president Gene Budig has been much more amenable to Alderson's increasing role.
Still, Coleman had kept his plans private until this week.
"That's a complete shock to me," Atlanta Braves president Stan Kasten said.
Baseball's restructuring began shortly after Selig, who had been acting commissioner since September 1992, was voted to a full five-year term in July 1999.
Last September, he hired three executive vice presidents who report to Paul Beeston, baseball's chief operating officer.
Alderson, the former president and general manager of the Oakland Athletics, was put in charge of operational matters. Bob DuPuy, Selig's longtime lawyer, was made baseball's chief legal officer and put in charge all of administrative matters. Rob Manfred, a labor lawyer whose firm had represented baseball for more than a decade, was put in charge of labor and human resources.
Beeston, DuPuy, Alderson and Manfred had directed the owners' strategy in dealing with the umpires' threat to resign in en masse.
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