PHILADELPHIA -- One of these days real, real soon, the Montreal Expos are going to have a new home. Bud Selig promises. His trusty COO, Bob DuPuy, seconds the promise.
Just don't ask when. Or where. Or any of those other sticky questions that make these guys real uncomfortable.
It's an excellent bet that the Expos will not be moving to Boise, Idaho, or Bismarck, N.D., or -- barring a very unlikely turn of events -- any other location that doesn't suspiciously resemble the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. That part hasn't changed.
Nevertheless, an owners meeting that once looked like a momentous event in the life of the Expos franchise arrived Wednesday. Yet there was DuPuy, still standing in front of the cameras, giving a very familiar little speech.
"No decisions have been made, and no cities have been eliminated," he said, repeating a chorus he has now delivered more times than Springsteen has sung "Thunder Road."
"But," he went on, "I'm very confident that a decision will be made in time for a move."
"In time for a move." That's how he phrased it.
Technically, that narrows down the time frame for this decision to somewhere between now and a half-hour before Opening Day 2005. But practically, these folks would seem to have no choice but to figure it all out a whole lot quicker.
Asked Wednesday if baseball had a tentative practical deadline in mind, DuPuy conceded there was -- "but I'm not willing to say what that date is, because we might move the envelope."
As you may have noticed, that envelope has stayed in almost constant motion for nearly two years now. So there's no reason to think it won't move some more over these next few weeks. But it can't move for too much longer, because the clock is ticking.
For one thing, in order to play, the Expos would need a schedule. And the schedule for next year is already overdue.
It was supposed to be delivered to the teams and to the players in July. But the union gave MLB an extension until Sept. 1.
There could be another extension, of course. There could be a thousand extensions. But tickets need to be sold. Schedule magnets need to be handed out. Travel needs to be worked out. That can't be done if they wait until next February.
But that isn't even the most pressing issue. If you're going to hold major-league games, you can't hold them in the carpool lanes of I-495. This team will need a stadium to play in next spring. And MLB has been told that RFK Stadium would, ideally, require six months of work to become an acceptable big-league facility.
That means a decision would, realistically, need to be made by mid-September to give the chosen metropolis enough time to finish off the governmental red tape and set the stadium plans in motion.
So behind the scenes, MLB has been telling the delegations from Washington, Northern Virginia, Las Vegas and the Norfolk area to get their details all figured out -- because decision time is near. Finally.
But no community seems to have more of its details figured out than Washington. And, as the Washington Post put it in a dramatically forthright editorial Wednesday, "none of the other contending cities is even close, in terms of population, income or interest in the game."
Nevertheless, Selig still hasn't established what it would take to get Orioles owner Peter Angelos to sign off on that move. And Angelos said Wednesday that nothing about his position had changed.
Angelos has argued that a team in Washington would have a $40-million impact on his team. And, when asked how he came to that figure, he replied: "We're prepared to substantiate that if we have to."
But legally, Angelos has no power to stop Selig from putting this team in Washington, Northern Virginia or any other location not named Baltimore. And the Orioles owner admits that.
"If I had veto power," he chuckled, "there wouldn't be any discussion at all."
Instead, the discussion will continue over the next several days and weeks to come. And, as endless as this process may seem, Bob DuPuy promised again Wednesday: "We're going to get it done."
And this time, from every indication, they actually will. Really. Truly ... Uh, OK, probably.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.