|Thursday, November 14
Approval near for Expos 'home' games in San Juan
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Baseball owners are close to approving a plan to have the Montreal Expos play 20 home games in Puerto Rico next year.
"I'm optimistic the deal will work," commissioner Bud Selig said Thursday after addressing the annual meeting of major league general managers. "I'm hopeful. I'm reluctant to say anything until the deal is done."
Selig also said he expects Hall of Famer Frank Robinson to return as Montreal's manager.
The most likely plan for the Expos would have them playing two 10-game homestands at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, where Texas and Toronto opened the 2001 season.
The plan could come to a vote Wednesday, when owners meet at Irving, Texas.
John McHale Jr., executive vice president for administration in the commissioner's office, has taken the lead in the Expos' negotiations and could take a supervisory role over the team next season. He is expected to travel to Puerto Rico soon with other baseball officials to negotiate with the Puerto Ricans who would promote the games.
"We're working on it. We hope it's going to happen," McHale said in New York. "We just have to keep talking about the format of the games that might work for them and or us and consult with the Players' Association and make sure it's acceptable."
The Expos were sold earlier this year to the other 29 teams by Jeffrey Loria, who bought the Florida Marlins, and Montreal is run by the commissioner's office. The Expos drew only 812,000 fans at Olympic Stadium, and owners want to reduce the losses.
Puerto Rican promoters had discussed having Montreal play three six-game homestands in San Juan, but the union preferred two trips.
Selig would like to establish a 2003 budget for the Expos within the next week or so. The commissioner's office determines the team's budget after the other 29 clubs bought the Expos from Jeffrey Loria in February.
Montreal's offseason plans are on hold until general manager Omar Minaya knows if his payroll -- $38 million this year -- will rise, fall or remain the same.