- The Washington Times - Friday, May 7, 2004

One question hung over Thursday’s meeting between District officials and members of Major League Baseball’s relocation committee: Will the presence of a member of the owners’ fraternity 35 miles or so up the road in Baltimore stop baseball from relocating the Montreal Expos to Washington?

If we are to believe baseball, the answer is no. According to city councilman Jack Evans, District officials were told that Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos “should not be a factor” in the decision to relocate the Expos.

While relocation committee members were being told Angelos should not be a factor, it is rumored that lie detectors within a 35-mile radius of the city started madly scribbling on their own.

That might seem like an exaggeration, but it is not an unusual phenomenon when it comes to assurances about the prospects of baseball in Washington.

Mayor Anthony Williams’ fully funded ballpark proposal appears to have given the District a much-needed shot of momentum in the tea leaves reading that tries to figure out what baseball will do with the Expos.

Reports that Washington is the front-runner among the field of prospective locations is speculation, nothing more. The one true fact in all of this is that nobody really knows what is going to happen to the Expos, perhaps save for baseball commissioner Cadillac Bud Selig; his buddy, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf; and baseball CEO Bob DuPuy.

And they ultimately might not really be in control of what will happen either, because for once this may be a vote among owners that Cadillac Bud might not be able to steer, despite his claims otherwise at a news conference in Oakland yesterday, where he added to the Washington momentum with his comments.

“Peter Angelos has been unfairly chastised,” Cadillac Bud told reporters. “He articulated a view that anybody who owned the Baltimore Orioles would articulate. But he won’t [block a move to D.C.], nor has he ever threatened to. The rest is up to the relocation committee and ultimately to me.”

Another key question is whether the owners will vote on one recommended jurisdiction or a short list presented by the relocation committee. That has never been made clear. If options are presented to the owners, that would be bad for the District. It’s doubtful that baseball would outright reject the District in a vote, so if it does come down to one recommended city and it is Washington, that would seem to be one of Cadillac Bud’s preordained votes, and it would also indicate that some sort of accommodation has been reached with Angelos — the much discussed payoff.

But if the full ownership chooses from a field of, let’s say, three locations, it means the issue will be open to debate among owners, and that is when it could get hairy. If it comes to that, we can expect that Angelos will vote against Washington and/or Northern Virginia, if both are finalists. He will need seven other owners to vote with him to block a move to Washington. So let’s examine who would possibly side with Angelos, purely for their own reasons.

Both New York owners, the Yankees’ George Steinbrenner and the Mets’ Fred Wilpon, will likely vote with Angelos for fear that a team in Washington could set a precedent for baseball to put a franchise in Northern New Jersey. The Giants’ Peter McGowan will probably join that group for a similar fear — the A’s moving into San Jose.

And you probably can count on the Phillies siding with Angelos, because right now they are the only National League franchise between New York and Atlanta. If you live in the Washington area and you want to see National League baseball, you make the trip to Philadelphia.

Who knows how the Marlins’ Jeffrey Loria will vote, but you can be sure it will be motivated by his desire to keep his market of interest open to hang on to the threat of relocating the Marlins, and it is conceivable that market is Washington.

That would mean Angelos would have to convince two other owners to side with him. His recent election to Cadillac Bud’s inner circle — the owners Executive Council — would indicate he now has enough clout to do that.

Then again we need to remember that Angelos “should not be a factor” in baseball coming to Washington. So there is nothing to worry about.

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