Selig: Expos delay `has been helpful'

Commissioner says wait has aided interested cities in financing, stadium sites

Baseball All-Star Game

American League 9, National League 4

July 14, 2004|By Ed Waldman and Joe Christensen | Ed Waldman and Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

HOUSTON - While the nearly three-year search for a new home for the Montreal Expos has been difficult, baseball's commissioner said yesterday there may have been an upside to the process.

"I know the delay has been tough," Bud Selig said at a meeting of the Baseball Writers Association of America before last night's All-Star Game. "But I do think the delay has been helpful to all the interested parties in getting financing done, in siting stadiums.

"Ten years from now, people won't remember that it took three months or six months or nine months longer than it should have."

Echoing Bob DuPuy, Major League Baseball's president and chief operating officer and the man in charge of evaluating the candidates to become the Expos' new permanent home, Selig said he was confident the decision would be made in time for the 2005 season.

"We said we'd find a new permanent home and new ownership [for the Expos] this summer, and we will," Selig said.

DuPuy suggested Monday "a good working goal" for a decision would be the owners' meeting scheduled for Aug. 17-20 in Philadelphia.

The contenders for the Expos include: Washington; Northern Virginia; Las Vegas; Portland, Ore.; Norfolk, Va.; Monterrey, Mexico; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Only Washington, Northern Virginia and Norfolk have had representatives at the All-Star festivities.

In the wide-ranging news conference, Selig also said:

He believes the issue of contraction is "off the table" because the new revenue-sharing system has worked so well.

"Contraction was a bloody process, and the blood was all mine," he said.

In November 2001, baseball's owners voted to disband two franchises to ease the financial strain placed on the industry by a group of struggling small-market teams.

As part of MLB's labor agreement with its players reached in August 2002, clubs share 34 percent of their local revenue - up from 20 percent in the previous labor deal - and pay a progressive luxury tax on payrolls that exceed specified thresholds.

Selig, who has been baseball's commissioner since 1992, hinted he might want stay in office beyond 2006, when his contract expires.

He had repeatedly said he would retire when this term ends, but yesterday said his time in office has "2 1/2 years and maybe more to go."

"As for my own personal situation," Selig added, "that's something that the future will decide."

Selig, who oversaw the expansion of baseball's postseason from four teams to eight teams in 1995, said he no longer hopes to see it expand again.

"A year ago, I would have told you I believe we're going to expand the playoffs," Selig said. "I went in convinced we needed two more teams. I'll tell you what happened: Last year was so good that you started worrying about tampering with something that was so good. We finally decided in January or February that we want to stick to what we've got for a while."

Selig also addressed Mark McGwire's recent comments to ESPN about performance-enhancing drugs. McGwire spoke of his frustrations with people who insinuate his records have been tarnished since baseball recently banned the supplement androstenedione.

McGwire used the supplement in 1998, when he set the all-time record for home runs in a season with 70, which was later broken by Barry Bonds.

"With Mark, I don't think his legacy is muddled at all," Selig said. "People ask me, `Would you put an asterisk next to his record?' I would say, absolutely not."

In his ESPN interview, McGwire went on to say the media have made too much of the steroid issue in baseball. Selig, a strong advocate for stronger drug testing in baseball, respectfully disagreed.

"I have a lot of personal affection for Mark," Selig said. "But I think we have enough medical evidence that the concerns about steroids are valid."

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