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Friday, September 10
Coleman upset at losing authority news services

NEW YORK -- National League president Leonard Coleman, upset with owners' proposals to strip his job of nearly all authority, will leave his job after the season, a high-placed baseball source told ESPN Friday.

The source said Coleman is departing, in part, because he is frustrated that he will lose supervisory control over NL umpires.

Coleman, 50, who is an African-American, is Major League Baseball's highest-ranking minority. He has been NL president since 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, and has fought with Selig over baseball's failure to hire to more minorities.

In spring training, Major League Baseball made Sandy Alderson, executive vice president of baseball operations, its lead negotiator with umpires, and it has been widely reported that it plans on giving Alderson supervisory power over umpires in both leagues.

When contacted by ESPN, Coleman said: "I have no comment."

The timing of the resignation plan, according to a high-ranking official who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition he not be identified, was precipitated by next week's owners' meeting. Coleman, however, had not intended to make an announcement Friday and was surprised news leaked out to ESPN, another baseball employee told AP.

Coleman had been resisting the efforts of commissioner Bud Selig to switch control of umpires from the league presidents to Alderson, and has fought with Selig over baseball's failure to hire to more minorities.

Under a plan baseball owners may vote on when they meet Wednesday and Thursday in Cooperstown, N.Y., the job of league president would become a figurehead. If approved, the distinctions between the American and National leagues would decrease, following the pattern under Selig, who led the push for interleague play and advocates radical realignment.

Under the plan, player discipline and the making of the schedule would be shifted from the leagues to the commissioner's office, subject to the approval of the players' association. Without these, the job of league president becomes merely ceremonial.

"It would seem ludicrous to have somebody there just to sign the baseballs. If that's all you have to do, I'll apply," said umpires' union head Richie Phillips, who has fought the plan to switch control of his members to Alderson.

While many baseball votes are conducted among each league separately, under the restructuring league meetings would disappear and decisions would make made by all owners of both leagues meeting together.

Coleman, whose annual salary is thought to be in the $600,000 range, had been negotiating settlement of his contract with Selig's staff for some time but had largely kept his plans private until this week.

"That's a complete shock to me," Atlanta Braves president Stan Kasten said.

Coleman declined comment, as did Selig's spokesman, Rich Levin.

AL president Gene Budig has been much more amenable to Alderson's increasing role. Coleman has fought with Alderson and others in the commissioner's office, refusing to issue directives to umpires they had drafted in his name.

"Coleman has too much pride to allow himself to continue to be used. They stamp his name to stuff he refuses to sign," Phillips said. "I believe that Gene Budig's exit will be close on the heels of Coleman's, and I don't believe it will be by resignation. Gene's job will be not only diminished, but extinguished."

Gene Orza, the No. 2 official of the players' association, said there would have to be negotiations before the union approves any changes in player discipline.

"To the extent that they want to come down harder on umpires, there might be a psychological impulse to come down harder on players when they have confrontations with umpires," Orza said. "We're going to want some assurances that is not the case."

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 1998.

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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