DuPuy: Eight groups still interested in buying team

8/17/2005 - MLB Montreal Expos

PASADENA, Calif. -- Major-league owners hope to choose a buyer for the Washington Nationals soon and complete the deal shortly thereafter.

"We still have eight groups that are very interested in acquiring the team," Bob Dupuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said Wednesday. "The commissioner remains committed to getting this done in 30 days.

"We really would like to have the ownership in place by the end of the season," he said.

DuPuy spoke following a series of committee meetings held on the first day of the two-day owners' quarterly meeting at a Pasadena hotel about 10 miles from Dodger Stadium.

Baseball's other 29 teams bought the then-Montreal Expos in 2002 for $120 million as part of a complicated transaction that involved new owners for the Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins.

The franchise struggled on and off the field before being moved to Washington D.C. last winter, and that turned out to be a most successful development since the Nationals have fared far better than expected record-wise and attracted a healthy fan following.

The sale price could approach $450 million.

"I'm not going to comment on prices," DuPuy said, adding no figure has been set.

DuPuy also said there would be an announcement Thursday after the meeting ends "regarding a steroids program, a social program."

"We're going to continue to talk about steroids and at least one program we're going to do," he said.

The owners are meeting for the first time since Baltimore's Rafael Palmeiro became the first big star to test positive for steroids and served a 10-day suspension.

Commissioner Bud Selig later reiterated his desire for even more stringent testing and harsher penalties for steroid users, including a 50-game suspension for a first offense, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third.

Management and the union agreed to toughened rules last January that included 10-day suspensions for first-time offenders starting this year.

Selig didn't comment Wednesday but said he'll speak with reporters Thursday.

Among other topics of discussion Wednesday were possible rules changes regarding the free-agent draft and baseball's World Cup-style tournament to be held next March.

"We made a lot of progress with the venues, a lot of progress with the Japanese," DuPuy said. "We are guardedly optimistic and hopeful the Japanese will participate."

The 16-nation, 18-day event called the World Baseball Classic is scheduled to begin March 3.

Major League Baseball has spent more than a decade discussing the tournament and hopes the event will gain in prestige, such as soccer's World Cup. The International Olympic Committee voted last month to eliminate baseball from the Olympics following the 2008 Beijing Games.

"This is an inaugural voyage, a maiden voyage," DuPuy said.

Regarding possible changes to the baseball draft, DuPuy said no vote was taken at an executive council meeting, and he doesn't believe action will be taken on the matter Thursday.

Baseball America reported last week that owners might propose moving the amateur draft from early June to late June and eliminate the Gulf Coast and Arizona leagues.