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Owners Approve Sale Of Royals

Baseball owners voted unanimously Monday to approve the $96 million sale of the Kansas City Royals to team chairman David Glass.

Glass took over as Royals chairman in September 1993, shortly after the death of founding owner Ewing Kauffman.

Under Kauffman's succession plan, the team was offered for sale to Kansas City-area individuals and companies, with the money earmarked for charity.

"It's been a long time coming," Glass said. "I've already raised the cash. Thank goodness I didn't have it in the Nasdaq."

While deferring a decision on realignment until they meet again in June, and approving a plan on how to handle disasters such as a team plane crash, the main business was approving Glass, and that took just 40 seconds.

The Royals' board agreed in November 1998 to accept a $75 million offer from lawyer Miles Prentice, but commissioner Bud Selig convinced owners not to approve that deal when it came up for a vote last September. Glass, who had withdrawn from the lengthy bidding process when he feared the Kansas City area didn't support him, then made his offer.

"I know that Ewing Kauffman wanted me to wind up owning the team. He said that to me more than once," said Glass, who in January retired as chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

To buy the Royals, Glass sold about 2 million shares of Wal-Mart last month, raising nearly $111 million, according to papers filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He wants his 41-year-old son, David, to help run the team.

"Hopefully, long after I'm no longer around, our family will still be involved with the Royals," Glass said.

His purchase is set to close April 28 or May 1. He wants the Royals front office to know there won't be major changes in the way the team is run.

"For the first time in several years, they can stop worrying if new ownership will come in and change things," he said.

Glass sounded like a man who intends to offer the Royals' top young players multiyear contracts. He thinks the team, which last won the World Series in 1985, can get back to the postseason soon.

"I think it can be done fairly rapidly," he said.

Before discussing realignment and the Royals, owners had a bigger concern Monday Friday's steep stock selloff.

"What's the market doing?" more than one asked in the hallway.

It immediately became clear there would be no vote on realignment until June at the earliest.

Selig has floated a plan that would shift Arizona from the NL West to the AL West and move Tampa Bay from the AL East to the National League, which would then reform into four four-team divisions with no wild card.

Some have criticized the elimination of the wild card, which has allowed more teams to be competitive until late in the sason.

"I'm very flattered because I remembered the abuse I took seven years ago," said Selig, who proposed the wild card in 1993.

The biggest controversy is among AL teams. There would be four teams in the East and West, but six in the Central.

"It makes no sense," said Royals president Mike Herman, whose team would be in that division. "If everybody else has four, why shouldn't I have four? Just use your common sense. That doesn't always work in baseball."

Selig's goal is to have more teams grouped geographically, so travel and late television starts can be cut down. He remembered the September 1993 meeting in Boston, when he told the Texas owners the Rangers would move from the West.

"I promised, now Gov. George W. Bush, they would eventually come to the AL Central," Selig said. "I have a moral obligation to do that, It's bothered me ever since."

Moving to the Central would allow interleague games against the Houston Astros, currently in the NL Central.

"The Astros and Rangers are the only in-state rivals that haven't played a regular-season game," Houston owner Drayton McLane said.

Owners do seem intent on rotating the interleague play format. Until now, the AL East has played the NL East, the AL Central has met the NL Central and the AL West has gone against the NL West. While the matchups would rotate, natural rivalries - Mets-Yankees, Cubs-White Sox, etc. - would be maintained.

To allow more intradivision games, there would have to be an even number of teams in each division. Some AL teams would prefer than current 5-5-4 alignment.

"It's very, very destructive to the rest of the schedule," Selig said.

Herman is in favor of radical realignment that would do away with most traditional distinctions between the AL and NL. In that plan, the New York Mets and Yankees would be in the same division, as would the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics, and the Los Angeles Dodgers and Anaheim Angels.

"The players are moving around so fast, you don't know what team they're playing on," Herman said. "Now, there's not as much sensitivity to it as in the '50s and '60s. Fans eventually get used to whatever ivision you're in."

When radical realignment was suggested by Selig and Glass three years ago, it ran into opposition from some two-team markets. The only move then was Selig's Milwaukee Brewers, who shifted to the NL.

Boston chief executive officer John Harrington said it's still possible that only one team would shift, creating two 15-team leagues. If that happens, there would have to be at least one interleague game nearly every day.

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