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Latest word on realignment is that only 1 team may switch

Remember the radical realignment plan, in which 15 teams would switch leagues?

Remember the modified plan in which seven teams would switch?Forget about 'em.

Baseball owners are prepared to vote Wednesday on a plan in which only one team will switch: probably Kansas City but possibly Milwaukee or Minnesota.

Owners are faced with a Wednesday deadline to make a decision and will hold a telephone conference call to either vote on one-team realignment or push back the deadline until after the World Series.

"There's been no decision on either one of those fronts," acting commissioner Bud Selig said Monday. "We're not close to any type of decision. We're still studying a myriad of options."

Kansas City switching is is the most likely outcome, one owner and one management official said Monday, speaking on the condition they not be identified.

If either Kansas City, Milwaukee or Minnesota switches to the NL, Detroit most likely would move from the AL East to the AL Central, creating an opening for Tampa Bay in the AL East.

The NL would either put the new team in the Central or switch to four divisions with four teams in each.

Selig originally backed a complete geographic realignment, in which 15 teams would have switched leagues, and following an owners meeting last month said he expected more than five teams to switch for 1998.

A seven-team switch in which Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle would move to the NL has gotten bogged down because of opposition by the San Francisco Giants and the players association.

Management labor negotiator Randy Levine criticized union head Donald Fehr on Monday for threatening to attempt to block the seven-team plan.

Owners say they don't need the union's approval for realignment. Fehr disputes that and says players effectively have power to block the realignment because their approval is needed to extend interleague play beyond 1998.

"The Basic Agreement, which was carefully worded, makes it a management prerogative," Levine said. "We have had strong consultations with them since day one. We've taken their plans and incorporated them into the discussions. They have been a part of it, and we told them we would come and talk to them when we had a plan.

"The talk of leveraging interleague play, which has been a huge success, I think really troubles fans."

If realignment results in only one team switching, the biggest loser would be Texas, which has been trying to escape the AL West, claiming too many of its road games on the West Coast have late television starts back home.

"There is overwhelming support for this. There are probably 24 or 25 teams that would vote for realignment," Rangers president Tom Schieffer said. "The problem is because of the veto rule, getting the 24 or 25 to carry the day."

No team can be forced to switch leagues or divisions against its will. In addition, the Giants maintain the NL constitution gives them exclusive NL rights to the Bay area market and they can't be forced to accept the Oakland Athletics.

In the event of one-team realignment, owners probably would present it as an interim step, saying they would consider additional switches for 1999 and beyond.

Also, Schieffer said Texas would force the leagues to stay with a balanced schedule next season if there's only one-team realignment. Most other teams want an unbalanced schedule in which they play more games against teams in their own division, but the Rangers don't want additional West Coast road games.