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The Globe and Mail
Play In Puerto Rico Feasible, Expos Say
October 8, 2002
MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. -- The Montreal Expos may not know their fate until mid-November, according to their vice-president of business operations, Claude Delorme, and the scheduling of at least some games for San Juan next season could be part of that fate.
"I'd say every option is out there right now, from playing all 81 games at Olympic Stadium again, to playing in several sites, to playing in a temporary location," said Delorme, who added that cities such as Washington, New Orleans, La., Portland, Ore., and Norfolk, Va., are also on baseball's list of potential sites.
"To say it isn't possible to play major-league baseball in that facility [the 20,000-seat Hiram Birthorn Stadium in San Juan] would be lying," said Delorme, who returned last weekend from three days of meetings with government officials in San Juan.
"The question is: Does it make sense financially? They played a major-league game there in 2001, when the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers opened the season there, so clearly it meets major-league standards.
"Besides, it's been my experience that you can make any option work if you want it to."
The Expos are owned by a limited partnership of the 29 other major-league franchises, and many club owners are upset that baseball commissioner Bud Selig all but consigned them to another year of lame-duck ownership by agreeing he would not contract any teams for the life of the new four-year collective labour agreement that he signed with the Major League Baseball Players Association.
The Expos' losses have been pegged at $15-million (U.S.), and there is a mood among ownership that baseball should do whatever it can to maximize revenues and minimize losses if it has to run the team again. Since the exchange rate is a major factor, it's thought that playing even in front of reduced crowds and bringing in U.S. dollars would be preferable. The U.S. dollar is Puerto Rico's currency.
Last month, it was reported that an Atlanta-based tax and financial consultant, Charles Vaughan, was acting as the front man for a group of Puerto Rican businessmen who want to buy the Expos and move them permanently to San Juan.
Greg Bouris, a spokesman for the players' association, said yesterday that executive director Donald Fehr did not want to comment on the matter until he had had options put in front of him.
But Robert DuPuy, the president of Major League Baseball and Selig's right-hand man, is on record as saying the association would be consulted before any scenario that saw the Expos playing home games in varying locations.
Frank Robinson, who stepped down from his position as a vice-president with baseball to manage the Expos, said he would not likely return if the team were treated like a barnstorming club.
Meanwhile, Omar Minaya, who received widespread kudos for his work as the Expos general manager, has been cleared to be interviewed for the Boston Red Sox GM job.
Originally, it was thought DuPuy would present Expos president Tony Tavares with some type of guidance by the end of next week. But Delorme said yesterday: "My understanding is they will wait until after the World Series to focus on this. We should get a clearer picture soon after that."
Waiting until mid-November would mean a decision wouldn't come down until after a pretrial hearing on a lawsuit filed by the Expos' former limited partners against Selig and others, including former Expos and current Florida Marlins managing general partner Jeffrey Loria. The hearing is scheduled for Nov. 8 in Miami.
It would also give a high-powered group of investors trying to bring baseball back to Washington more time to make a presentation to baseball focusing on five possible sites for a new ballpark.
Delorme has not yet officially signed a new lease for 2003 at Olympic Stadium, but the details have been hammered out and all he needs is a thumbs up from baseball.