Thursday, October 28, 2004

ST. LOUIS — Bob Watson does not want to be the Washington baseball team’s interim general manager, despite the efforts of Major League Baseball officials to convince him to take the job.

“I am not your interim GM,” Watson said before Game4 of the World Series last night at Busch Stadium.

When he was asked whether he was going to be the Washington general manager, Watson replied, “No. That’s the bottom line.”

Watson’s assertion comes one day after Bob DuPuy, MLB’s president and chief operating officer, confirmed a report in The Washington Times that Watson was the leading candidate for the general manager’s position in Washington.

“We have had discussions, but nothing has been offered or finalized,” DuPuy said Tuesday of their talks with Watson. “We have talked about him taking a leave from his responsibilities and doing that.”

DuPuy said there have been discussions with other candidates. “We have talked to people who would be interested in it,” he said. But MLB sources say Watson, who is vice president for on-field operations for MLB, has been the preferred choice.

When told last night of Watson’s refusal to take the job, DuPuy said, “I have no comment.”

Now the future of the relocated Expos franchise faces even more uncertainty. Club president Tony Tavares has said he hopes to have a GM hired by the end of the World Series, since a number of roster moves have to be made throughout November and December. The job has been vacant since the end of the season when former Expos GM Omar Minaya resigned to run the New York Mets’ baseball operation.

Watson’s decision also puts Pat Gillick’s name back in the forefront. The former Baltimore Orioles general manager told The Washington Times several weeks ago that he was interested in the position, even with the uncertainty about the new owners of the franchise.

“Any way I could help, I probably would,” Gillick told The Times on Oct.2. “I’ve been around this game for a long time. If somebody asked me to do it and put things together and get things on an even keel for a while, I probably would. I’m still working for Seattle [as a consultant], but I am always interested in a challenge.”

DuPuy said Tuesday the league has not spoken to Gillick.

Watson was the first black to become a general manager when he was hired to run the Houston Astros’ front office in October 1993. He was hired in 1995 to replace Gene Michael as general manager of the New York Yankees, and presided over the 1996 Yankees championship team, the first in a series of postseason appearances in this current Yankees run. Watson was fired in February 1998 and replaced by current Yankees GM Brian Cashman. In February 2002, Watson was named vice president of on-field operations for baseball, replacing Frank Robinson, who left to take the Expos’ managing job.

The relocated Expos currently are owned by the existing 29 major league owners, who purchased the franchise three years ago for $120million from Jeffrey Loria, who in turn bought the Florida Marlins for $158million, which allowed Marlins owner John Henry to join a group that acquired the Boston Red Sox for $700million. Major League Baseball is believed to be hoping to get in the neighborhood of $400million for the Washington franchise, which was worth an estimated $108million in Montreal.

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