- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 22, 2005

CHICAGO — Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, one of Major League Baseball’s chief negotiators in lease talks for a new ballpark for the Washington Nationals, said yesterday the onus on those stalled talks is on the city, and that his team’s presence in the postseason has not slowed the negotiations.

Reinsdorf said the White Sox’s World Series appearance has not taken his attention away from the lease negotiations, though he speculated early in the playoffs that it would.

“The Nationals have nothing to do with the World Series,” Reinsdorf said while his team practiced at U.S. Cellular Field to prepare for tonight’s Game 1 against the Houston Astros. “The White Sox being in the postseason is absolutely not slowing it down. That’s not true. We continue to have meetings. We continue to have phone conversations.

“There are some things that the city has to do before we can conclude the final lease,” he said, though he did not cite specifically what those things are. “The ball is totally in the city’s court. It can move as fast as the city wants it to move.”

The lease for the $535 million ballpark is tied to the selection of an owner for the Nationals, owned by Major League Baseball since it purchased the former Montreal franchise for $120 million in 2002. Baseball officials insist a new owner cannot be named until a lease is signed.

“As soon as we can conclude the final lease, then the commissioner will select an owner,” Reinsdorf said.

He would not commit to when that might happen.

“Everybody who has given a timetable so far on this has been wrong,” he said.

Earlier this week, baseball commissioner Bud Selig said he expected a vote on the new owner for the Nationals at the next scheduled owners meeting in three weeks, but it is not certain the lease will be signed by then.

In early September, Mark Tuohey, chairman of the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission, said it was “not unreasonable” to expect the lease to be finalized and approved by the end of September.

Note — Nationals reliever Luis Ayala will undergo surgery Friday to have a bone spur removed from his pitching elbow. Ayala, who missed most of September with the ailment, is expected to be fully healed in time for spring training.

The right-hander was one of the Nationals’ top set-up men during the season, posting a 2.66 ERA in 68 appearances. All the work caught up to him late in the year, though, and the club shut him down in September.

Surgery will be performed in Los Angeles by orthopedic specialist Lewis Yocum.

Staff writer Mark Zuckerman contributed to this article.

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