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Yankee Sponsorship Deal Has Nike Hopping Mad

Associated Press

Saying baseball “screwed up” by allowing the New York Yankees to make their own deal with Adidas, Nike chairman Phil Knight said his company will not rush to sign teams.

The Yankees and Adidas last week agreed to a sponsorship contract worth about $95 million over 10 years. The move came four months after baseball owners rejected 10-year, league-wide agreements with Nike and Reebok.

“Major league baseball screwed up and it’s a real problem for them,” Knight said.

Yankee owner George Steinbrenner has defied baseball’s lawyers by refusing to provide a copy of the Adidas contract. The ruling executive council is expected to vote on whether to impose fines on the Yankees, unless the team provides a copy of the agreement.

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“We were in fairly lengthy negotiations with major league baseball to work out a deal,” Knight said. “It fell through because major league baseball lets their teams go out and do one-offs on their own.”

Reebok is said to be talking about deals with the Boston Red Sox, and possibly the Chicago White Sox. The Florida Marlins are said to be talking with Fruit of the Loom’s Pro Player division.

If large-market teams make their own deals, it will give them more cash when competing for free agents with the small-market clubs.

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Shortstop turned second baseman John Valentin repeated his request to be traded but said he will return to the Boston Red Sox camp--after a symbolic, one-day protest--to begin working at his new position.

“It’s time to come in here and turn the page, and I’m ready to play,” he said.

Valentin, a four-year starter and one of the best-hitting shortstops in baseball, was given a 48-hour furlough on Saturday after Manager Jimy Williams told him he would be moved to second base to make room for prospect Nomar Garciaparra.

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Shortstop Derek Jeter, the American League rookie of the year in 1996, agreed to a one-year contract with the New York Yankees for a reported $525,000. . . . The Oakland Athletics released second baseman Brent Gates, along with pitcher Doug Johns and outfielder Allen Battle. Gates was hitting .143 (3 for 21) with a major-league leading 10 walks. . . . Tests on Pittsburgh Pirate right-hander Jason Schmidt showed no abnormalities with his heart. Schmidt left the Pirates’ spring-training camp Sunday after a routine examination and heart monitor readings revealed an irregular heartbeat. He will undergo more tests today and is expected to return to the team tonight.


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