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Reinsdorf may back off if public battle continues Add to ...

jblair@globeandmail.com

Jerry Reinsdorf is not just another major-league owner.

As one of the point men in Major League Baseball's relocation committee and commissioner Bud Selig's point man on ownership matters, it's safe to say few owners in any professional league know the ins and outs of ownership transfer - or where the bodies are buried.

And baseball people who know Reinsdorf say that regardless of his financial stake or ultimate intentions in a purported bid to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, the owner of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls has no stomach for a protracted public battle over the Coyotes.

The deeper the matter sinks into a legal morass, the greater likelihood he extricates himself completely from the affair. That's apparently one reason the NHL has gone to such great lengths to keep Reinsdorf's so-called "letter of intent" private.

Theoretically, a baseball owner does not have to notify the commissioner's office if the owner is pursuing a franchise in another sport - unless there are plans for cross-collateralization or using the baseball team to finance the purchase. But sources say Reinsdorf has kept Selig informed of his involvement in the Coyotes every step of the way.

Reinsdorf, who is the longest-tenured owner in baseball, maintains a residence in Paradise Valley, Ariz.

The White Sox were successful getting a new spring training site (shared with the Los Angeles Dodgers) built in the Coyotes' hometown of Glendale, and Reinsdorf is a major contributor - along with former Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns chief executive officer Jerry Colangelo and Steve Ellman, the Phoenix real estate developer who created the Coyotes mess - to a political action committee with Democratic leanings called Moving Phoenix Forward.

Reinsdorf hasn't commented since the Coyotes story broke. But The Globe and Mail reported Saturday that he was the front man for Hollywood producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Harry Sloan and that the group would ultimately move the team to Las Vegas. Bruckheimer has, according to sources, expressed varying degrees of interest in buying into a major-league team, and also has interest in buying the NBA's Sacramento Kings.

Reinsdorf is seething at the way this has turned into a public spectacle.

Serves him right for getting involved with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who wants to preserve the Southern Ontario market for the Toronto Maple Leafs or as an expansion cash cow more than he wants the Coyotes to have a long-term future in the desert, according to legal filings claiming Bettman was ready to return the Coyotes to Winnipeg.

GARBAGE TIME

Enough already. I'm tired of seeing Trent Edwards and Lee Evans. It's to the point where I half expect the Buffaronto Bills quarterback and wide receiver to be working behind the counter at my local Fortinos. Still, at least they're staying out of trouble. A fourth member of the NFL team was arrested this off-season, when fullback Corey McIntyre was nabbed last week in Port St. Lucie, Fla., for allegedly fondling himself in front of a 59-year-old women's window. Last Friday, former Bills star and Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith was nailed for driving under the influence for the third time. Good guys. ... Speaking of fourth, Carolina Hurricanes netminder Cam Ward is, what, Door No. 4 when it comes to picking the goaltender for Canada's 2010 Olympic hockey team? That, plus the fact their scrubs beat our scrubs at the worlds, makes me think the Russians are gold-medal favourites going into Vancouver. ... The more I watch the Washington Nationals flounder, the more I realize how senseless it is that major-league teams are not allowed to trade draft picks. The Nationals are god-awful and consensus No. 1 pick, pitcher Stephen Strasburg, is ready to be this year's David Price. My guess is the Nationals could parlay this pick into multiple major-league-ready talent. ... Hockey Canada honcho Bob Nicholson is doing some kind of "review" of the Canadian women's hockey program after it lost its second consecutive world title to the only other country that takes women's hockey half-seriously, the United States. Let's see: All 12 world women's finals have been between the U.S. and Canada; 11 of the games have been decided by two goals or less, while seven have been one-goal games and there have been four overtime games, two of which have gone to shootouts. Everybody's in favour of equality, but we're taking this a little too seriously, no? ... Baseball iron man Cal Ripken Jr. told a sports banquet this weekend that he wants to know why New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez used steroids and "I'm going to make it my business to find out." The more I see the treatment A-Rod's receiving, the more I think Manny Ramirez is going to be okay when he comes back to the Dodgers after his 50-game suspension. He's the first star who can use the "did the crime, done the time" defence. Closure makes forgiveness come easier.

****

MONDAY 2 MONDAY

Toronto Blue Jays rookie Travis Snider's playing time will be reduced this week, as Adam Lind gets some action in left field, with an eye toward playing next weekend in a three-game designated hitter-free interleague series in Atlanta against the Braves.

But even though Snider's power has fallen off and his strikeouts have increased - no home runs in 24 games, one double in his last 16, and half as many strikeouts in five games as the 16 he had in his first 24 - the Blue Jays are prepared to show more patience with him than they showed in the past with Lind.

"He'll pinch-hit and play defence," manager Cito Gaston said of Snider.

General manager J.P. Ricciardi dismissed the idea that the three interleague games provide an excuse to let Snider play every day in the minor leagues. "Not yet," he replied, when asked if Snider might be minors-bound.

Snider hasn't been a piker, with three multihit games in his past six, but at the same time, Gaston's no longer had to answer questions about why he's batting Snider ninth.

The Blue Jays' record through 40 games is 26-14, matching the best start in club history. And while it's only mid-May, their 40-game record compares favourably with teams that have emerged this decade from the American League East and gone to the postseason.

Since 2002, the team that has been in first place after 40 games has gone on to win the East three times and claimed the AL wild-card spot in another season. Since 2000, the best 40-game record by any AL East team was the 2002 Boston Red Sox's 29-11 record - and that team is one of just three this decade with a better 40-game record than the current edition of the Blue Jays.

 

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