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Puerto Rico Not Kind to Expos... Expos Edge Pirates in Last San Juan Game... End in Sight for Wandering Expos... San Juan Just No Place for the Expos Experiment; Fails to Create Fans... Selig: Piarates Won't Play in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico Not Kind to Expos
By RICARDO ZUNIGA, AP Writer
July 11, 2004
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Everything went according to plan last year for the Montreal Expos in Puerto Rico.
The team had a 13-9 record in San Juan, Hiram Bithorn Stadium rocked with an average attendance of 14,222, the team stayed in the NL East race until the last month of the season, and Major League Baseball got much needed revenue from a struggling franchise.
Things changed dramatically in 2004.
Montreal traded its two most recognizable Latin stars -- Puerto Rican Javier Vazquez and Dominican Vladimir Guerrero -- and the team sunk in the standings from the start, going 6-14 in its first 20 games, with an average attendance of 10,445.
The Expos finished their Puerto Rican trip Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"The fans here are like the fans everywhere. If the team is winning, they will come," said Expos GM Omar Minaya. "Last year it was also more attractive because of the visiting teams. This year the visitors were different."
In 2004, Puerto Ricans got to cheer local favorites like Juan Gonzalez of the Texas Rangers; Javier Lopez of the Atlanta Braves; Ivan Rodriguez of the Florida Marlins and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs.
This season, visitors like the Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays lacked major Latin stars. The Blue Jays' lone Puerto Rican star, Carlos Delgado, did not play due to injury.
Manager Frank Robinson said the constant travels between Montreal, San Juan and other cities for a second consecutive year puts his team at a disadvantage compared to other clubs.
"This is not a usual schedule for any team," Robinson said. "It's very disruptive. Last year it was new, nobody knew, it was kind of exciting. This year you know the ins and outs, you know the wear and tear, and then you go 'oh boy, here we go again.'"
Robinson said with the Expos' lack of resources, his team has "to play almost perfect baseball" to make up for the extra traveling.
The Hall of Famer acknowledged that the reason Major League Baseball moved the games to Puerto Rico was to generate revenue from a team struggling to stay afloat in Montreal.
Local promoter Antonio Munoz's company, MB Sports, paid $10 million to bring the games this season after paying $6.6 million last year.
The Puerto Rican businessman submitted a formal proposal to relocate the Expos to the island, competing with groups from Washington, D.C.; Virginia; Portland, Ore.; Las Vegas, Nev.; and Monterrey, Mexico.
"It can be done. We just need the support from everyone and a full stadium," said Munoz at the beginning of the last "homestand."
Minaya said he believes the island can host more major league games in the future. Munoz has expressed interest in bringing the Tampa Bay Devil Rays next season if the Expos deal is not reached.
"I'm always willing to recommend Puerto Rico," said Minaya. "I think there's always going to be major league baseball in Puerto Rico."
Expos Edge Pirates in Last San Juan Game
July 11, 2004
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Scott Downs pitched seven sharp innings to give Montreal its first win by a left-handed starter in three years, leading the Expos over the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 Sunday in their final game this season in Puerto Rico.
Montreal took three of four from Pittsburgh and left Hiram Bithorn Stadium with a 7-14 record after going 13-9 in San Juan last year.
Downs (1-3) allowed one unearned run on five hits and two walks while striking out five. He became the first Montreal lefty starter to get a win since Matt Blank on June 21, 2001, against the New York Mets.
Luis Ayala worked a perfect eighth and Chad Cordero pitched the ninth for his seventh save.
End in Sight for Wandering Expos
July 14, 2004
Commissioner Bud Selig said Tuesday that Major League Baseball will not schedule regular-season games in Puerto Rico next season for the Expos, another strong indication that the team will be relocated before next Opening Day.
For the past two seasons, MLB, which owns and operates the Expos, has moved 22 home games per year to Puerto Rico as a means of generating revenue for the franchise.
"We made a deal (with promoters and the players' union) to accommodate this situation," Selig said. "Now we'll let the future take over."
MLB had hoped to have decided the future of the Expos by this week, but officials are now targeting an owners' meeting scheduled for Aug. 18-19 in Philadelphia. Washington and Northern Virginia are considered the favorites to land the franchise.
In addition Las Vegas, Portland, Ore., Norfolk; Monterrey, Mexico, and San Juan, Puerto Rico are in the running for the Expos.
San Juan Just No Place for the Expos Experiment; Fails to Create Fans
By SCOTT TAYLOR
July 18, 2004
When (or if) the Montreal Expos find a new home this summer, one good thing will come from the team's move to a new home.
There will be no more games in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Not only did the San Juan games force the team to endure long, gruelling road trips, but the experiment was also a disaster in terms of selling the game to the Latin American crowd. If you can call the crowds at Estadio y Hiram Bithorn "crowds."
It seems that after the first series back in 2002, the Expos have not been much of a draw.
This season the Expos averaged 10,334 fans over 21 games (with one rainout), down 27.3 per cent from last year's 14,222 average for 22 games.
Last season, all 22 games drew at least 10,000 fans, but this season only eight of 21 drew 10,000. The total of 217,005 fans in '04 compares to 312,882 in '03. And remember, that's "paid" attendance. That includes unused corporate tickets. There were only about two-thirds of that number actually in attendance.
Associated Press suggested the drop in crowds was due to the Expos losing their "two most recognizable Latin stars in RF Vladimir Guererro and P Javier Vazquez," but AP is dreaming in Technicolor.
Other big-league ball clubs have great Latin stars and anyone who believed that the San Juan fans ever thought of the Expos as their own was out of his mind. Not once was this team called the "San Juan" Expos. MLB brought a baseball team to Puerto Rico in hopes of selling the game, but with inflated MLB ticket prices, the owners found out that people wouldn't (or couldn't) pay those prices on a regular basis.
Still, promoter Antonio Munoz, who submitted a proposal to relocate the Expos to San Juan, said of the team moving to San Juan, "It can be done. We just need the support from everyone and a full stadium."
He never got that support. The team will not move to San Juan.
Selig: Piarates Won't Play in Puerto Rico
By SCOTT TAYLOR
July 20, 2004
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates won't be asked to shift any home games to Puerto Rico next season despite the popularity of Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente's former team there, commissioner Bud Selig said Tuesday.
Selig denied that his office would ask the Pirates to play one series in San Juan in 2005 to partly make up for the Montreal Expos' expected absence. The Expos played 22 home games in Puerto Rico each of the last two seasons as they prepare to relocate to a new home.
Any possibility of a Pirates return visit probably ended when the Expos and Pirates drew four-figure crowds for each game of a four-game series July 8-11.
``As far as our experiment with Puerto Rico, it was pretty much done this year, at least for a while,'' Selig said.
The Expos averaged only 10,333 for their 22 games in San Juan this season -- about half what the Pirates draw in Pittsburgh -- compared to the 14,222 they averaged for the same number of games in 2003.
Selig would consider going back to Puerto Rico only if a team asked to play there, and team spokesman Jim Trdinich said the Pirates have made no such request.
The Pirates expect their attendance to jump next season as fans buy season tickets in anticipation of landing seats to the 2006 All-Star game, so they have no plans of asking any home games to be moved.
Despite the attendance falloff this season, Expos general manager Omar Minaya believes Puerto Rico can host more major league games in the future.
The Pirates remain one of Puerto Rico's favorite teams because of Clemente's continued popularity there.
Clemente was a star outfielder for the Pirates from 1955-72 before dying in a plane crash during an earthquake relief mission to Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972.