PHILADELPHIA - The man in charge of the search for a new home for the Montreal Expos said yesterday that he remains confident a decision can be reached in time for next season, and that Major League Baseball is still negotiating with all of the original contenders.
Since last month's All-Star Game, published reports have had MLB's relocation committee focusing on Washington and Northern Virginia. But Bob DuPuy, baseball's president and chief operating officer, steadfastly declined to characterize any of the possible locations as leading candidates.
DuPuy, speaking at the owners' quarterly meeting yesterday, said those reports were nothing more than "rumors and innuendo."
Other cities seeking the Expos include Las Vegas; Norfolk, Va.; Portland, Ore.; Monterrey, Mexico; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
DuPuy said the relocation committee met for 90 minutes yesterday to review all of the candidates and then met with MLB commissioner Bud Selig to brief him on the offers. The committee is scheduled to brief all of the owners this morning.
"We intend to continue discussions with more than one of the candidates over the course of the next couple of weeks," DuPuy said.
"I don't think right now that it's necessary to meet with all the groups. We got some stuff in from Portland this morning. We got some stuff in from Hampton Roads, and I believe we got some stuff in from Washington, D.C., itself today or yesterday. We're in the process of trying to get things clarified and trying to ensure that whatever stadium deal is ultimately accepted ensures the ultimate success of the Expos."
DuPuy said it was fair to characterize the discussions the committee was having with the contenders as negotiations.
"Eventually, these discussions are going to evolve to a point to where either we say or the municipality or government entity says we're as far as we can go, this is the deal we have before us.
"There's nothing yet that we can tie a ribbon on and sign."
DuPuy did concede that there is a "practical date" by which baseball needs to make a decision, "but I'm not willing to say what that date is because we may move the envelope.
"You've got the sale of the team, you've got to get whatever facilities you've got ready, there's staffing ... there's an awful lot that has to be done, including scheduling. If you were going to have a team on the West Coast, you've got to worry about travel restrictions."
Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos, entertaining a group of 10 or so reporters at the bar off the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel, joked that he would buy everyone a drink but would not talk about the Expos' relocation issue.
"You're wasting a lot of time," he said. "I'm not going to make any further statements. I really appreciate your interest, but there's nothing I can really tell you that I haven't said already."
Angelos is vehemently opposed to locating a team in Washington or Northern Virginia, saying a franchise in either place would substantially hurt the Orioles' ticket sales, broadcast rights fees and corporate sponsorships - the club's three biggest revenue streams.