Expos' relocation road might have new detour

ON BASEBALL

October 13, 2002|By Peter Schmuck

The Montreal Expos might be going places next year, but they apparently are not coming to the Washington area before the 2004 season.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig remains tight-lipped on the fate of the Expos, who cannot survive long-term in Montreal, but he apparently is in no rush to move the team into RFK Stadium for next season.

Instead, there has been strong speculation that the club will remain based in Montreal for one more year but play a portion of its home schedule at selected alternate sites. In theory, the Expos could generate a lot more revenue by playing a homestand in San Juan, Puerto Rico, than they normally do at Olympic Stadium.

During a visit to Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Thursday night, Selig denied a rumor that baseball might be planning to barnstorm with the Expos for the entire 2003 season - a possibility that would never pass muster with the Major League Baseball Players Association.

"If we did that," he quipped, "we'd have to rename them the Washington Generals."

The possibility of a few extra revenue-producing road stops, however, might make more sense than allowing the Expos to languish in Montreal while the other 29 clubs spend millions to keep them afloat.

The fact that Major League Baseball is considering such possibilities is an indication of just how conflicted Selig remains about baseball in Washington or Northern Virginia.

He already has identified the area as a prime candidate for relocation, but he also has said publicly that he remains very protective of the Orioles franchise, which would be negatively impacted by a new team in the region.

It is no secret that Orioles owner Peter Angelos fiercely opposes the arrival of a team in the nation's capital. His fellow owners may be much more sympathetic toward him in light of the role he played in the successful labor negotiations, but it seems likely that Major League Baseball will have to relent and give Washington a team eventually.

Don't hold your breath. Anyone waiting for Selig to make a quick decision after the World Series - as he did with the controversial contraction announcement last November - likely will be disappointed. Baseball officials are hinting that there will be no news on the future of the Expos for several months.

The uncertainty surrounding the Expos also has sparked rumors that Angelos might sell the Orioles before a move to Washington is announced next year, which might explain why Selig is slow-playing the situation, but there is no evidence that he harbors any intention of relinquishing ownership of the franchise.

Baker's free agency

It can't be bad to be San Francisco Giants manager Dusty Baker, who will be one of the most popular commodities on the free-agent market after his contract expires at the end of the postseason.

Baker is rumored to be the top candidate to replace Bobby Valentine as manager of the New York Mets. Baker's name has come up in Chicago and probably every other city where there is a managerial opening. He'll probably be able to name his price if he decides to leave the Giants.

His stock has only gone up over the past couple of months. The Giants entered the weekend with 30 victories in their past 40 games, dating to Aug. 25 when they were 11 1/2 games off the National League West lead and no lock to reach the postseason.

If he reaches the World Series - and the Giants are positioned pretty well to win the National League Championship Series - he could command a multi-year contract worth nearly $5 million per year.

Why would he leave San Francisco, where he has established himself as one of the game's top managers? Because there never should have been any question about where he might manage next year. The organization's seeming ambivalence toward his performance the past 10 years has to rankle him.

The Giants potentially could lose their manager and general manager. GM Brian Sabean also could walk when his contract expires at the end of this month, but he seems much more likely to remain in place.

In demand

Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi just signed a new five-year contract with the club that is believed to be worth $4 million.

Not bad for a guy who was a relative unknown until rumors began flying that the Boston Red Sox were interested in luring him away from the Blue Jays.

It's nice to be wanted.

Purpose pitch debate

Somebody get Kenny Lofton a Valium. The high fastball that sparked his tantrum in Game 1 of the NLCS was only a few inches off home plate, but Lofton thought that Cardinals reliever Mike Crudale was headhunting and blew his cool.

Oh, how times have changed.

Baseball disciplinarian Bob Watson levied a $500 fine on each manager after the bench-clearing, non-violent altercation, but he probably had to bite his tongue while explaining his decision to Baker and Tony La Russa.

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