Despite recent reports that both Major League Baseball and its players association want the Montreal Expos to play all of their home games in one city next season, a split schedule involving Montreal and San Juan, Puerto Rico, still may be in the works.
A San Juan promoter says he has been having discussions with MLB over the past three weeks about playing some or all of the Expos' home games in San Juan next season, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
The promoter, Anthony Munoz Sr., also told the paper that MLB officials said a decision could come as early as the end of this week. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig will be on the island Tuesday, during the Expos' final games there this season.
"I don't know what is the preference right now," Munoz said via telephone. "They have different opinions."
According to the Post, Munoz presented MLB with options to hold the entire 81-game home schedule in San Juan, or to host a 36- to 41-game home schedule. In exchange for the increase in games in Puerto Rico's capital, Munoz said he would invest in improvements to the current locker room facilities at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.
The Major League Baseball Players Association received the initial draft of the 2004 schedule last Friday. That schedule listed all 81 Expos home games in Montreal. Any changes to that schedule must be agreed upon by by both MLB and the players' association. The players' union said in July that it would oppose plans to play another split home season.
Robert DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer, declined to dismiss any of the options, including permanent relocation for 2004, but commented to the Post that a split schedule "is a distinct possibility."
DuPuy would not guarantee a permanent move in 2005 as part of gaining approval for a 2004 schedule change, but told the Post he was "willing to represent to the union that we'll try to get it done for 2005."
On Aug. 26, a lawyer representing 14 former Expos limited partners told ESPN.com that no move or sale of the Expos could take place before the last week of November.
As part of their racketeering lawsuit against former Expos owner Jeffrey Loria and executive vice president David Samson as well as Selig and DuPuy, the limited partners have to be told 90 days in advance of the final transaction date, per an order issued in May by U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro-Benages.
"They have to send us a letter informing us what they are going to do and they haven't done that yet," said Jeffrey Kessler, an attorney with Weil, Gotshal & Manges, who is representing the plaintiffs. "So that means that nothing definite can happen in 90 days or else it comes in contempt of that order."
Selig said on Aug. 14 that baseball was unlikely to repeat the experiment that had the Expos playing home games in both cities. Asked if any plans with multiple Expos homes were still being discussed, Selig said at the time, "Yes, but we're concentrating on the others."
After years of financial struggles, the Expos were bought by the other 29 teams before the 2002 season. They moved 22 of their home games to Puerto Rico this year, a setup that had players complaining about the long road trips and the difficulty of getting settled in either home.
"We understand the union's concerns," Selig said, adding that the Expos weren't discussed during the meetings. "They've got work to do yet -- and lots of it. The priority here is to get it done right, not to get it done fast."