`Fun' Expos enticing Robinson to stay put

Managing 2nd year deemed `possibility'

April 30, 2002|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

MONTREAL - Hall of Famer Frank Robinson insisted in February that he agreed to manage the Montreal Expos for only one season.

No more. No less.

Now, he seems not so sure he'll give up the reins of the surprising team he has guided into first place in the National League East. He said over the weekend that he's having the time of his life and would consider managing the Expos next year if the franchise avoids contraction.

"It's a possibility," he said, "but only under the right circumstances, and if I felt at that time that I wanted to do it again."

A lot depends on where the team ends up and who owns it. The Expos are operated by Major League Baseball. Commissioner Bud Selig asked Robinson to step out of his job as baseball's vice president of on-field operations to act as caretaker manager while MLB decides whether to contract the franchise or move it to a new market.

Though contraction remains a possibility - the issue is tied up in arbitration at the moment - the Expos appear more likely to move to the Washington area next year or in 2004.

Robinson said he would like to go with them, though he indicated in spring training he would only be interested in joining a Washington franchise in a significant front office job with an ownership interest. In the wake of the Expos' surprising success in April, he has become more open to managing the club for another season or two under certain well-defined conditions.

"One year, two at the outside," Robinson said, "and I could pick my successor and move into a significant job."

The two potential ownership groups that are trying to lure the franchise to Washington have indicated Robinson would be a welcome addition, though it's too early to consider just what kind of front office role he might play. Managing the team through its honeymoon period in the area might be a nice way to get established in a new organization.

It had been more than 10 years since Robinson last managed a team, so he didn't really know what to expect. What he got was a pleasant surprise of a team that apparently has rekindled his love of being in uniform.

"It's more fun this time around," Robinson said. "The attitude of the players and their approach to the game has a lot to do with it."

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