New owners could replace skipper

WASHINGTON -- Frank Robinson has agreed to a one-year contract to return as manager of the Expos, although whether he actually manages the team next year will hinge on the pace of the team's sale and the whim of the new owners.

Thursday's announcement had been expected. General manager Jim Bowden had said he planned to keep Robinson, and the two have been working together to formulate the team's offseason strategy regarding possible trades and free-agent signings.

Robinson has managed the Expos since the team was purchased by the 29 other major-league teams in 2002. Despite a severely limited player payroll, the club went 83-79 in each of his first two seasons before slipping to 67-95 in 2004.

Baseball has announced plans to move the Expos from Montreal to Washington, with the move contingent upon approval of the owners and the passage of a stadium financing package by the District of Columbia Council. The owners postponed a planned vote Thursday, although commissioner Bud Selig said he expects the move to be approved by Dec. 6. The D.C. Council has scheduled its first vote on the stadium package on Nov. 30.

Baseball has also put the team up for sale, although the process is expected to take several months. Bowden has also said he considers his job to be an interim position until new owners take over. Robinson could meet a similar fate, although it would be more
difficult to replace him if the sale is completed after the start of the season.

Robinson's 913 victories rank seventh among active managers. He became baseball's first black manager in 1974 and has also managed in Cleveland, San Francisco and Baltimore.