Wednesday, September 29, 2004

MONTREAL — Montreal Expos manager Frank Robinson said yesterday he is interested in being part of an ownership group and management team that would bid for the relocated Expos when they move, as anticipated, to the District.

Robinson — a Hall of Fame player and baseball’s first black manager who has managed the Expos during their three-year tenure under Major League Baseball ownership — said he has not been approached by any prospective ownership groups. He said he hopes to have discussions once the deal to move the Expos to Washington is completed.

“I am very much interested in being part of an ownership group that would buy the team,” said Robinson, who expressed similar interest in the past. “That is the one thing I would like to do before I am through with baseball. I would like to be part of an ownership group so I could have a hand in shaping the future of the franchise, and hopefully it would be a winning and successful franchise.

“I know a lot about the personnel in this organization. They have some good, young personnel, but there is a lot of work to do to be able to get the franchise ready to compete on a yearly basis. I feel like I could help them become a solid organization.”

When asked if he would consider continuing as manager, Robinson said, “If the new ownership would prefer for me to manage the team, I would be willing to do it for a period of time. This is not something I want to do for the next 10 years. But I would do it for a few years if I could then move up to the front office to a position of authority.”

Robinson is the second former Baltimore Orioles great to express interest in being part of major league baseball in Washington. At the Orioles celebration honoring their 50 favorite players Sunday, Cal Ripken told The Washington Times he would be interested in being part of a baseball operation for a team in the District.

“A club that is close to the Washington vicinity would be close to where I live, so that would make it more appealing than, say Portland,” Ripken said. “When the time is right, if there is an opportunity, I will be open to listen to what that is.”

Ripken and Robinson are two of the greatest and most revered players in Orioles history, and it would create a difficult public relations situation for owner Peter Angelos. The Orioles owner is in talks with baseball about a compensation package to offset any financial damages his franchise may suffer from the Expos’ move to the District. But it would be a big blow to Angelos and the Orioles if either of these revered players — or both — worked for the team he fought so hard to keep out of Washington.

Robinson has front office experience, having served as assistant general manager for the Orioles from 1991 through 1995. He was also vice president of on-field operations for MLB from 1999 until commissioner Bud Selig asked him to manage the Expos after the existing 29 major league owners purchased the club from Jeffrey Loria. That set in motion the deal that allowed Loria to buy the Florida Marlins and freed Marlins owner John Henry to lead an ownership group to purchase the Boston Red Sox.

Robinson, 69, overcame major obstacles managing the Expos to a 83-79 record in both 2002 and 2003. The manager achieved that record despite roster restrictions by MLB that limited the team’s budget and ability to add players and the split schedule that saw 22 home games played in San Juan, Puerto Rico, last year. However, the loss of superstar Vladimir Guerrero to free agency and a series of injuries this year, combined with a second stint in Puerto Rico, resulted in a 65-93 record that leaves them at the bottom of the National League East.

Tonight’s final home game at Olympic Stadium against the Florida Marlins will feature a tribute to the 1994 team that led the National League East before the August strike and included Moises Alou, Larry Walker and Ken Hill. A crowd of more than 25,000 — more than three times the club’s average daily home attendance — is expected. Club officials said extra security will be on hand.

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