Baseball's winter meetings opened today with a report that the New York Yankees are about to name Gene Michael their manager and with Commissioner Bowie Kuhn saying that major league baseball clubs suffered net losses of $25 million in 1980 and will face greater financial woes in the immediate future.
Kuhn, delivering his annual state of baseball address, said that only nine clubs showed profits for the 1980 season and that the 17 other teams suffered losses totaling $40 million. Still, he said, he was optimistic about baseball's future because of increasing attendance, greater television exposure and improvements in promotion and licensing.
Kuhn said that losses in the strike-marred 1981 season may be even worse and that considerable losses would continue through 1984.
"An analysis of the 1980 financial status of baseball . . . reveals some disturbing figures," said Kuhn. "Keep in mind that the necessary delay in gathering financial reports from 26 clubs means that this data is always one year behind the current year. Based on information presently available, it appears that only nine major-league clubs earned a profit in 1980 as compared with 11 teams that operated in the black in 1979.
"On the other side of the ledger, it appears that the remaining 17 clubs all lost money in 1980 and considerable sums at that. The combined losses of the 17 clubs reached approximately $40 million. This is an average loss of over $2 million per club for the 17 clubs.
"These figures translate into a net loss in 1980 for baseball of about $25 million. This loss figure literally dwarfs any loss sustained by the industry in recent history, and as 1981 is obviously going to be another loss year, it would appear that we are well on our way toward the very considerable losses over the five-year period 1980-1984, which I predicted last year."
The Associated Press reported that the Yankees will name Michael their manager before the end of the week.
Thus the man that George Steinbrenner groomed for executive stardom would return to the position he held for the most part of the 1981 season after succeeding Dick Howser.
Michael, under contract with the Yankees through 1982, is attending the meetings. He paid his own way here. He has made no comment on the report. However, sources close to the Yankee front office insist that the move is imminent. The Yankee owner was not available for comment.
Michael was replaced the day before Labor Day by Bob Lemon, veteran skipper who previously had replaced Billy Martin. Steinbrenner had been upset with Michael's public criticism of the Yankee owner.
While the Yankees may be gaining a new manager, they also seem on the verge of losing free-agent pitcher Ron Guidry. His agent, John Schneider, said Guidry had eliminated Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Texas from his list and that he hoped to narrow that further by Friday.
Schneider said Guidry was asking for a guaranteed five-year, $7.5 million contract from the Yankees, although he would settle for less from other teams. "I hope to talk to George (Steinbrenner) tonight," Schneider said. "Each day that passes, the stranglehold the Yankees have on Ron's emotions lessens. The other clubs want us badly." Schneider has scheduled further talks this week with Baltimore, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Oakland and Toronto.
Much of the talk today continued to center around possible trades. The St. Louis Cardinals and Orioles were still trying to work out a package deal that would send shortstop Garry Templeton to Baltimore and involve one of the Orioles' front-line pitchers. The Chicago Cubs traded left-hander Doug Capilla to San Francisco for right-hander Allen Ripley.
In other developments, eight teams selected a total of 10 players off minor league rosters at a cost of $25,000 each in the annual winter draft.
First baseman Rich Murray -- brother of Baltimore Oriole first baseman Eddie Murray, who played briefly with the San Francisco Giants in 1980 -- was drafted by the Cleveland Indians.