Teams would include league's big stars

NEW YORK -- Another World Cup may be in the offing, this one
for pitchers and batters.

Looking at soccer's success at creating the world's most-watched
tournament, major league baseball could give the go-ahead by the
end of January to start a World Cup in March 2005.

Many issues are unsettled, but both the commissioner's office
and players' association would like to have at least one year of
lead time to prepare.

The U.S. team might have a difficult time winning. Stars such as
Pedro Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero could play for the Dominican
Republic, and the Japanese team could include Ichiro Suzuki and
Hideki Matsui.

"We're very optimistic that we can get it all accomplished and
start a World Cup in the spring of 2005," Bob DuPuy, baseball's
chief operating officer, said Monday. "That's our current
objective. It's our goal to sort it out in the next 60 days."

The tournament would include 8-to-16 national teams and be
played in 4-to-8 U.S. ballparks, according to DuPuy and
union head Donald Fehr. Talks with the union already have begun.

"That's a goal we share, and with a reasonable amount of luck,
I think we will get there," Fehr said.

While the United States was eliminated from Olympic qualifying
on Friday, that roster was stocked mostly with minor leaguers.
Management and the union envision the World Cup teams having top

The Olympic qualifying loss shocked many major league baseball
officials, who repeatedly have said they cannot stop the regular
season to allow major leaguers to participate in the Olympics.
Canada and Cuba will represent the Americas in Athens next year.

"I'm sure that's going to get people's attention and could lead
to further discussion on a World Cup and the Olympics, as well,"
said Paul Archey, senior vice president of Major League Baseball

The commissioner's office and the union are working on several
international events for the 2004 season. Talks are under way to
start next season in Japan -- last season's opener between Oakland
and Seattle in Tokyo was scrapped because of travel concerns prior
to the U.S. war in Iraq.

While talks for next year's Japan games originally envisioned
having the Athletics and Mariners participate, the teams could be
changed, several baseball officials said.

The union is awaiting a management response to its latest proposal to move 22 Expos' games from Montreal to San Juan, Puerto
Rico, or Monterrey, Mexico.

Spring training games will be played once again in Mexico City,
and if the Expos don't play in Monterrey, that city could wind up
with either exhibition or regular-season games involving other

In July 2005, baseball hopes to play a regular-season series in
Europe, according to Archey, possibly in Rome's Olympic Stadium.