- The Washington Times - Monday, October 21, 2002

ANAHEIM, Calif. Major League Baseball will not come to Washington in 2003.
MLB president Bob DuPuy said an ongoing deliberation of the Montreal Expos' long-term future and a fear of repeating its expansion mistakes of the 1990s will prevent any decision on the Expos' permanent new home before next spring.
In recent months, Washington-area baseball advocates had grown increasingly pessimistic that their three-decade wait for another team would end in time for the 2003 season. DuPuy's comments following Game1 of the World Series Saturday night confirmed those feelings.
"It is extremely unlikely that we will have a permanent solution for the Expos before the spring," DuPuy said. "After everything that's happened with us with new markets in the last decade, why push it? We don't want to end up regretting our move. We're continuing to review our options, and we want to end up with the best possible ownership and stadium situation for the team. But it's really too late now to do a [permanent] move for next year."
DuPuy, who earlier this year said baseball in the Washington area was "inevitable," said late Saturday the local area remains an option for 2004.
The Montreal Expos are owned and operated by MLB owners. The team lost more than $30million this year, and an even greater loss is projected next season. Montreal averaged less than 10,000 fans per home game, again ranking last in baseball, and any hope for a new stadium there was extinguished long ago.
Pressed further on Washington baseball in 2003, DuPuy said it is possible the city could play host to several Expos games as part of a potential barnstorming tour. Baseball executives are considering scheduling some Montreal home games next year in neutral sites such as Portland, Ore., and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Such a plan would help overcome the minuscule fan turnout certain to happen in a lame-duck Expos season.
But DuPuy also acknowledged "there is really no ground swell" within Washington or baseball for the city being a temporary home to the Expos. And the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission executives said early this month they will almost certainly not open up RFK Stadium to the team if it were only on a temporary basis.
San Francisco Giants owner Peter Magowan agreed with DuPuy that a permanent move cannot be done properly in the less than six months before the start of the 2003 season.
"I do think it's too late," he said. "[The owners] want to see a resolution to the [Expos] issue. You can't let this go on forever. But we still have a lot to figure out."
Magowan said he would be willing to fund his share of the Expos' losses in 2003, but only if there is a clearly defined plan for the Expos' long-term future. The owners will meet next month and likely will begin forming that plan while also giving the Expos the green light to stay in Montreal another year so they can begin offseason business. The team finished a surprising 83-79 this season and could contend for the NL East crown next year.
The Expos have a tentative lease deal in place to return to Olympic Stadium next year, which only requires formal approval from commissioner Bud Selig and the owners.
Bid groups in both the District and Northern Virginia expressed disappointment, but not surprise, with baseball's position for 2003.
"Baseball wants to do this right. Ultimately, we think that's the proper approach," said Winston Lord, executive director of the Washington Baseball Club, led by financier Fred Malek. "We are confident that once baseball finishes its due diligence, they will find we're the best ownership group and Washington is the best city for relocation."
Said Mike Scanlon, a member of the Virginia Baseball Club led by telecommunications executive William Collins, "This is not really surprising. But we're not going anywhere. We've been at this eight years, and we'll be at this as long as it takes. This might even work to our advantage. Another year might allow the economy to get in better shape. I am totally confident that the more measured baseball is, the more they'll realize Northern Virginia is the best place for a team."
Washington may still be in baseball's future, and Selig earlier this year called the local area "the prime candidate" for a relocated team. But Magowan said he remains unclear what effect a Washington-area team would have on the Baltimore Orioles. Both the Malek and Collins bid groups have attempted to answer that issue, particularly Collins, who two years ago said following a quantitative study of the Orioles' fan base that less than 10 percent of that base comes from the Washington metro area. Corey Busch, baseball's relocation point person, has also conducted some internal studies on the Orioles and Washington, but the results and methodology of that work have not been publicly disclosed.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos has long been a staunch opponent of a Washington-area team.
"I have not seen it documented with absolute certainty what kind of an effect a Washington team would have on Baltimore," Magowan said. "It doesn't make much sense for the success of one team to come at the expense of another. Whether that would happen, that's a question we have to answer."

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