- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 25, 2004

This is a remarkable process, these final stages of relocating the Montreal Expos. It is a level of business so brilliant it is far beyond the grasp of most. The hope is generations of young business leaders will learn from this blueprint, so they too can adopt its almost kung fu-like approach, where nothing is as it seems.

Remember, it was Bob DuPuy, baseball’s chief operating officer, who once talked about the moon, the stars, the sun and other Zen-like words in describing the relocation process of the Expos.

This would explain what happened at Thursday’s Major League Baseball executive council meeting in Milwaukee to hear the recommendation of the owners’ relocation committee and then take action.

There was no recommendation. There was no action.

That means the Expos coming to the District is a done deal.

“The phoenix has not come. The River has no patterns. This is the end for me.”

Confucius

Who can argue with that?

We are in a mystical mode now in the final days of the effort to bring baseball back to Washington after a 33-year absence. Everything is beautiful, baby. Silence is golden.

Except the one thing that didn’t come out of the executive council meeting has its own noise level, one pounding on the senses of Cadillac Bud Selig: a vote by the council.

Eight busy and important businessmen didn’t fly from all parts of the country — John Ellis from Seattle and Fred Wilpon from New York, for instance — to Milwaukee just for a briefing. They were there to take action.

But when it became clear to Cadillac Bud the action they might take could be the action he was looking for, no action was taken. Sources close to several owners said Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos — a member of the council — came into the meeting with three other fellow owners willing to support him in his effort to protect his franchise from a newcomer to the territory he claims.

At the very least, a 4-4 tie would have resulted, so no vote was even taken. Instead, council members sat there and listened, and then Cadillac Bud said he would take it from there.

“Unrestrained and not honest, ignorant and not conscientious, deficient and not trustworthy: I do not know about this!”

More Confucius

That’s what I’m talking about.

The owners willing to back Angelos were the New York Mets’ Wilpon and San Francisco’s Peter McGowan. It’s not clear who the third owner was, but speculation is it was Seattle’s Ellis or Houston’s Drayton McLane — or possibly both.

Wilpon, McGowan and Ellis (if he indeed was in the Angelos camp) were all protecting their own interests, viewing the move of the Expos to Washington as a precedent setter. Wilpon fears, rightfully so, there is a growing movement within baseball to place a team in Northern New Jersey, while McGowan is worried about the Oakland Athletics moving to the San Jose area. Ellis is believed to have similar concerns about Portland, Ore., being groomed as a future relocation site. McLane is a long-time ally of Virginia Baseball chairman Bill Collins; he actually sold the Astros to Collins back in 1995 before MLB stopped the deal.

So now Cadillac Bud is taking action, working the phones to try to get as much of a consensus as he can before he makes his recommendation and puts it before the full ownership — which needs to happen by the end of the season because of the political pressures created by the recent District primary elections.

The executive council non-vote still may not endanger a full vote for a move to the District because those owners, along with the New York Yankees’ George Steinbrenner, may be the full extent of the support Angelos will receive. It is not enough to block the move, but the inaction in Milwaukee certainly illustrates Angelos is going to fight.

If Angelos can’t be appeased with a lucrative television deal over the next several days, Cadillac Bud has to decide what pressure is greater — the fear of a battle with Angelos or the possibility of blowing an attractive District bid to fully fund a ballpark on the Anacostia waterfront.

But that is beyond the District’s control. It has done all it can, including the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission meeting last night to approve the memorandum of understanding for a deal to move the Expos to the District. “This completes our work,” said Mark Tuohey, chairman of the sports commission.

Now it is up to Cadillac Bud to make a deal with Angelos, or, if that fails, to move ahead with the plan to come to Washington and take on the Baltimore lawyer.

“With wisdom, there is no delusion, with benevolence, there is no worry, with courage, there is no fear.”

Even more Confucius

I feel better already.

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