Mazzilli's D.C. idea is to put O's in NL

Manager says Expos in AL is `simple solution' as Angelos fights second team in area

`Some good rivalries' in NL East

Facing deadline, D.C. officials seek MLB verdict this week

September 27, 2004|By Roch Kubatko and Ed Waldman | Roch Kubatko and Ed Waldman,SUN STAFF

Peter Angelos still wants to fight, but if he loses, Lee Mazzilli says he'd like to switch.

While the Orioles owner remains dead set against what appears to be the looming move of the Montreal Expos to Washington, his manager said yesterday that if it happens, he has a "very simple solution." Mazzilli would like the Orioles to move to the National League East and have the Washington team take the Orioles' place in the American League East.

"Think about it," Mazzilli said before yesterday's game. "You'd have a big rivalry with the Phillies, you'd see the Padres, the Giants. You'd have a rivalry with Pittsburgh. It's something to think about. Milwaukee did it, right?

"You'd have some good rivalries. You'd play interleague play against the Yankees and Red Sox. It's something to think about. I don't know where they're going to go with this. I don't think anybody knows what the final decision is going to be.

"I don't know if that's the answer. It could be. It would be very intriguing. I think it could be good baseball. It's just another way to look at it that might work. Is a city locked into being where they are all the time, or is change good for a city? I don't know. It would be some different baseball."

The Brewers, owned by the family of commissioner Bud Selig, did switch leagues in 1998, when Major League Baseball went from 28 to 30 teams with the addition of the Arizona Diamondbacks to the National League and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to the AL. In order to keep an even number of teams in both leagues, Milwaukee, which had been home to the Braves for 13 years before the team fled to Atlanta after the 1965 season, moved to the NL.

The Orioles have been in the American League since the franchise moved from St. Louis in 1954.

Angelos, reached at home yesterday afternoon, declined to comment.

Mazzilli wasn't the only Orioles figure to weigh in on relocation yesterday.

Brooks Robinson, honored as one of the fans' all-time favorite 50 players, said he he thinks the Washington area deserves a team.

"I think they've waited long enough," he said. "They're talking about Northern Virginia, the Washington area. They have the people there to support a baseball team. It will be interesting to see, but I still think the big key here is to win games, and people are going to come out.

"The Orioles just have to put a winning product on the field and they're going to draw a lot of people."

Another fan favorite, Cal Ripken, said he's following the situation "just like any other baseball fan."

"I know and understand Mr. Angelos' position, and I believe that Major League Baseball is trying to work with him to make sure the Orioles are whole. I really don't know enough of the specifics to understand the impact it would have on the Orioles."

On Friday, Major League Baseball president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy came to Angelos' downtown law offices to talk about ways to protect the Orioles from the potential economic consequences of moving another team within 40 miles of Camden Yards.

But Angelos rebuffed DuPuy, the point man for the nearly three-year effort to find a new home for the Expos.

Sources have said baseball executives have talked about a cash payment to Angelos - perhaps as much as $100 million, as well as a mechanism for guaranteeing the Orioles' future resale value. There has even been talk of creating a regional television network that would be structured in a way to be beneficial to the Orioles.

A move to the National League would get the Orioles away from their big-spending AL East opponents, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, who have the two highest payrolls in baseball. However, the NL East does contain the fourth- and fifth-highest-paid teams, the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies.

Baseball officials have insisted no decision on the Expos' new home has been made, but their clear preference seems to be a new stadium to be built on the Anacostia waterfront in southeast Washington.

DuPuy, who did not respond to an e-mail request seeking comment yesterday, said last week at an owners' meeting in Milwaukee he knew time was running out and he hoped for a decision by the end of the regular season, which is Sunday.

On Friday, the Washington Sports & Entertainment Commission's board approved a 32-page memorandum of understanding that lays out details of the 41,000-seat stadium and its financing mechanism. The agreement, which was hashed out between negotiators for the commission and MLB, still must be approved by Selig.

District officials believe they need to hear a final verdict by tomorrow or Wednesday so stadium financing legislation can be prepared and introduced by Friday.

Washington's timetable is tight for two reasons: First, three D.C. Council members who support a new stadium were defeated in a recent primary by candidates opposed to public financing for a stadium. New council members take office in January. In order to go through the legislative process before then, the bills must be introduced by Friday.

Second, renovations must begin soon on RFK Stadium, where the Expos would play for three years while the new stadium is built.

The new stadium would be financed with bonds paid for from a gross receipts tax on major businesses, as well as by annual rent from the team of about $5.5 million and a tax on stadium tickets, merchandise, concessions and parking.

Sun staff writer Jeff Barker contributed to this article.

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