Teams would include league's big stars

Updated: November 10, 2003, 11:24 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Another World Cup may be in the offing, this one for pitchers and batters.

Looking at soccer's success at creating the world's most-watched tournament, major league baseball could give the go-ahead by the end of January to start a World Cup in March 2005.

Many issues are unsettled, but both the commissioner's office and players' association would like to have at least one year of lead time to prepare.

The U.S. team might have a difficult time winning. Stars such as Pedro Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero could play for the Dominican Republic, and the Japanese team could include Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui.

"We're very optimistic that we can get it all accomplished and start a World Cup in the spring of 2005," Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said Monday. "That's our current objective. It's our goal to sort it out in the next 60 days."

The tournament would include 8-to-16 national teams and be played in 4-to-8 U.S. ballparks, according to DuPuy and union head Donald Fehr. Talks with the union already have begun.

"That's a goal we share, and with a reasonable amount of luck, I think we will get there," Fehr said.

While the United States was eliminated from Olympic qualifying on Friday, that roster was stocked mostly with minor leaguers. Management and the union envision the World Cup teams having top stars.

The Olympic qualifying loss shocked many major league baseball officials, who repeatedly have said they cannot stop the regular season to allow major leaguers to participate in the Olympics. Canada and Cuba will represent the Americas in Athens next year.

"I'm sure that's going to get people's attention and could lead to further discussion on a World Cup and the Olympics, as well," said Paul Archey, senior vice president of Major League Baseball International.

The commissioner's office and the union are working on several international events for the 2004 season. Talks are under way to start next season in Japan -- last season's opener between Oakland and Seattle in Tokyo was scrapped because of travel concerns prior to the U.S. war in Iraq.

While talks for next year's Japan games originally envisioned having the Athletics and Mariners participate, the teams could be changed, several baseball officials said.

The union is awaiting a management response to its latest proposal to move 22 Expos' games from Montreal to San Juan, Puerto Rico, or Monterrey, Mexico.

Spring training games will be played once again in Mexico City, and if the Expos don't play in Monterrey, that city could wind up with either exhibition or regular-season games involving other teams.

In July 2005, baseball hopes to play a regular-season series in Europe, according to Archey, possibly in Rome's Olympic Stadium.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press