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Sources: MLB narrows decision down to two bids

NEW YORK -- Major league executives planning the move of the
Montreal Expos have spent most of the past two months concentrating
on the bids of Northern Virginia and downtown Washington, a top
baseball official said Friday.

Baseball met again Thursday with the Northern Virginia group,
according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The other areas that have submitted bids -- Las Vegas; Monterrey,
Mexico; Norfolk, Va.; Portland, Ore., and San Juan, Puerto Rico --
have not officially been eliminated, but baseball has not devoted
as much effort in recent weeks to examining their proposals, the
official said.

Two high-ranking team executives, also speaking on the condition
of anonymity, said this week that the choice pretty much had been
narrowed to Northern Virginia and downtown Washington.

Commissioner Bud Selig repeatedly has said he does not want to
harm the Baltimore Orioles, who play about 40 miles from the
capital, and the team executives said those statement have put
renewed focus for some owners on the bid by Northern Virginia,
which has proposed building a stadium in Loudoun County near Dulles
International Airport, about 60 miles from the Orioles' Camden
Yards ballpark.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos has opposed moving the Expos to
either area, saying in June that "another major league baseball
franchise in close proximity would result in two mediocre
franchises from a competitive standpoint."

The executives said it remains unclear which bid has the most
support. The move will not be put to a vote when owners meet in
Philadelphia on Aug. 18-19, and Selig has not set any timetable for
a decision other than to say he hopes the team can move for the
2005 season.

Brian Hannigan, a spokesman for the Northern Virginia group,
declined comment on Thursday's meeting.

If either Northern Virginia or Washington is chosen, plans call
for the Expos to at first move to downtown RFK Stadium, former home
of the expansion Washington Senators. A new ballpark wouldn't open
until 2007 or 2008.

But if Northern Virginia's bid wins, a lease would have to be
negotiated for RFK with the D.C. Sports and Entertainment
Commission, which controls and operates the ballpark. That could
become a sticking point.

"I've told major league baseball that the sports commission
will not foreclose the possibility and will, if asked, discuss the
matter with the Loudan County folks," sports commission chairman
Mark Tuohey said. "But it must be understood that the issue of RFK
would have pretty stringent financial and nonfinancial terms that
would have to accommodate D.C. United, which would be our primary
tenant.

"If a Washington franchise is awarded, we would use off of our
resources, and we will have the full cooperation of Major League
Soccer to make two Washington franchises work smoothly. With
another team from another area, those considerations would be
different."

William Collins, who wants to buy the Expos if Northern
Virginia's bid wins, didn't think an RFK lease would be an
obstacle.

"We've already negotiated two leases with the stadium over the
years," he said. "The leases were very fair, almost to the point
of being very favorable."

Once the location for the Expos is chosen, baseball will push
forward on soliciting bids to purchase the franchise, which was
bought by the other 29 teams from Jeffrey Loria before the 2002
season. Collins and Fred Malek, who has pushed for Washington's
proposal, could find themselves competing against other groups -- or
each other.

"I don't think any of my partners would make that investment
downtown," Collins said.