Selig might portray move as temporary

Originally Published: September 23, 2004
ESPN.com news services

According to two baseball officials involved in the discussions, the most likely resolution of the Expos' situation would have Bud Selig announcing that the team will move to Washington next year, pending the approval of funds to renovate RFK Stadium, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark has learned.

However, Selig may portray the decision as a temporary solution, which would be dependent on Washington finalizing plans to build a new ballpark. By describing the decision as temporary, the sources said, Selig would have more time to make some sort of deal with Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

Baseball had hoped it could satisfy Angelos by giving the Orioles a portion of the purchase price when the Expos are finally sold, and by helping to create a second regional sports network that would allow the Orioles to continue to televise their games in Washington and Virginia.

However, one baseball official says Angelos continues to adamantly oppose any and all solutions that have been tossed his way.

"Bud hasn't come close to finding a way to satisfy him," the official said. "I'm not saying he won't find a way. But if he does, it won't be with money. He's saying there's no number in the world that would be acceptable. You wouldn't believe the (dollars) that have been thrown around, as recently as this week. And he's had absolutely no interest."

A high-ranking baseball official told The Associated Press that Major League Baseball will attempt to finalize negotiations within a week to move the Expos to Washington next year.

The league's relocation committee, of which Angelos is a member, met Thursday for three hours in Milwaukee, but made no formal recommendation on whether the Expos should move to Washington next season.

Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said the meeting at commissioner Bud Selig's office was amicable.

"Mr. Angelos expressed his views," DuPuy told the AP. "Mr. Angelos' concerns, which are shared by the commissioner and have been all along, have always been a serious issue."

Angelos was not available for comment following the meeting. DuPuy hopes to have a decision by the end of the regular season on Oct. 3.

"I think we're all running out of time," he told the AP.

Washington's bid group met for 11½ hours last week with members of baseball's relocation committee and went over intricate details of what a move would entail.

Northern Virginia officials also met last week with baseball, but their meeting was much briefer. Northern Virginia has proposed building a stadium in Loudoun County near Dulles International Airport, about 60 miles from Camden Yards.

"I was not expecting a final decision today, and thus am not disappointed by the outcome,'' said Bill Hall, chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission's baseball committee. "I'm encouraged by the statement that the decision will be made by the end of next week, and hope that will be sooner, and remain optimistic that it will be Washington D.C."

Mark Tuohey, the sports commission chairman, said legislation must be introduced by Oct. 1 for the proposed $13 million renovation of RFK Stadium in order for funding to become law by Dec. 31, when the terms expire for several City Council members who support a Washington baseball team. The legislation would include financing for a ballpark costing slightly more than $400 million, he said.

Under Washington's plan, the Expos would play in RFK Stadium for three seasons before moving to a new ballpark.

DuPuy said negotiations on a move have taken longer than anticipated because everybody on the council wants to explore all the ramifications of a move. Baseball at first hoped to have a decision by mid-2002, then pushed it back a year, then delayed it another year.

"Commissioner Selig likes to develop consensus and we were not satisfied with where we were a year ago," DuPuy said. "We're much more satisfied with where we're heading, but nothing ever goes as quickly as you like."

He expected Selig to contact all the council members in the next few days to get their views. Once Selig makes a decision, it must be approved by all owners and financing for a new ballpark must be finalized. In addition, the Expos' former limited partners say they will attempt to block a move in federal court, and Angelos could attempt legal action.

Virginia's bid has stumbled in recent weeks, partly because Gov. Mark R. Warner will not support a plan to build a ballpark using bonds backed by the "moral obligation" of the state. Warner's spokeswoman, Ellen Qualls, said Thursday that the governor's own concerns about the use of moral obligation bonds, as well as opposition from key legislators, forced him to look for other alternatives.

"He's pushing for a different financing mechanism," Qualls said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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