NEW YORK -- Washington's wait is almost over.
Exactly 33 years after the Washington Senators played their
final game, the nation's capital might learn Wednesday that major
league baseball plans to return next season, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reports.
Sources involved in the Montreal Expos discussions said that the District of Columbia is making plans to hold a press conference late Wednesday afternoon or early evening.
This news is viewed as an indication that MLB is close to a deal with Orioles owner Peter Angelos that would result in Angelos dropping his opposition to the move.
However, a Thursday announcement is still possible if there are last-minute snags or if commissioner Bud Selig has any last-minute concerns.
After a meeting of the sport's executive council last Thursday,
a high-ranking baseball official who spoke on the condition of
anonymity said major league baseball would attempt to finalize
negotiations with Washington within a week. It would be the first
franchise relocation in the major leagues since the expansion
Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers after the 1971 season.
The deal to move the Expos to Washington would be subject to
government approval of funding for both a $13 million refurbishment
of RFK Stadium and a new ballpark costing slightly over $400
million, which would be built along the Anacostia River in the
southeast section of the city.
A move also must be approved by three-quarters of major league
owners and survive legal challenges by the Expos' former limited
partners and possibly by Angelos, who objects
to having a team just 40 miles from his. Bob DuPuy, baseball's
chief operating officer, went to Baltimore on Friday to negotiate a
compensation arrangement with Angelos.
The Orioles owner told The (Baltimore) Sun that he could be
persuaded to drop his opposition if he could be assured that his
team and the state of Maryland's investment in Oriole Park at
Camden Yards could be protected.
"If those two goals can be accomplished, and I feel the
franchise would be secure and the revenue stream is protected and
the asset value is secure, it might be possible to make a deal,"
Angelos told The Sun for a story Tuesday.
After an announcement, the process of selling the Expos will
start. A group that includes former Rangers partner Fred Malek has
been seeking a Washington franchise for five years. In addition,
several baseball officials have said in the past week that Stan
Kasten, former president of the Atlanta Braves, Hawks and
Thrashers, might be trying to assemble a group.
Kasten is close to baseball commissioner Bud Selig, which likely
would be an advantage during the bidding process.
"I am studying all the situations in all of the sports right
now," Kasten said Monday. "I haven't committed to any group, any
city or any sport."
Northern Virginia had been one of the contenders to land the Expos.
"At the end of the day, if baseball comes back to the national
capital region, then the whole region benefits," Virginia Gov.
Mark R. Warner said in his monthly radio show on Tuesday.
The original Washington Senators played 4,610 home games before
becoming the Minnesota Twins after the 1960 season, according to
the Elias Sports Bureau. The expansion Senators played 883 home
games before moving to Texas.
In the Senators' last game, on Sept. 30, 1971, they led the Yankees 7-5 with two outs in the ninth inning when fans
seeking souvenirs went on the RFK Stadium field, which could not be
cleared. The Yankees wound up winning the game in a forfeit.
The Rangers retain ownership of the name "Washington
Senators," baseball spokesman Carmine Tiso said after consulting
with Ethan Orlinsky, a lawyer for Major League Baseball Properties,
the sport's licensing division.
Montreal's last home game is scheduled for Wednesday night
against Florida. Monday's series opener drew a crowd of 3,923 to
"Now that it looks like it's going to happen, that this is
going to be the end, it's a little tough for people to get up and
talk about it in the positive way that they should," Expos manager
Frank Robinson said. "And I think that's kind of a pity, really,
because it deserves that people say more about how they feel about
the situation, about the possibility of losing baseball in the
Montreal area. ...
"I think there were a lot more good times possibly than bad
times. This is where an expansion ballclub grew into one of the
best organizations in baseball, at one time, and it's sad the way
it has gone over the last few years and the way it is going out, if
this is the end."
Former Expos star Tim Raines, now a manager in their minor
league system, was saddened by the impending move.
"I feel for the fans, mostly, because it was a new game to
them, starting in '69, and I think they really started to grasp the
game," he said. "And to see it taken away from them, I feel
really bad because to me, this is where I grew up as a major league
player. Regardless if they no longer play here, I still feel like
my heart is here in Montreal."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.