MLB zeros in on four bidding for team

PHILADELPHIA -- Trying to get the best possible ballpark deal for the Montreal Expos, Major League Baseball instructed its lawyers to press ahead with negotiations involving four of the areas bidding for the team.

Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said Wednesday
that the meetings will take place within 10 days but didn't specify
any communities. A baseball official, speaking on the condition of
anonymity, said the meeting will be set up with Northern Virginia;
Washington, D.C; Las Vegas; and Norfolk, Va.

The relocation meeting highlighted the opening day of the
two-day session, which ends Thursday, when owners are expected to
approve a three-year contract extension through 2009 for
commissioner Bud Selig.

For the Expos, Washington and Northern Virginia remain the focus
of most baseball owners, several of them have said in recent weeks.
No consensus between the two has emerged, and baseball wants the
communities to pay most of the costs of a new ballpark for the
team, which was bought by the other 29 clubs before the 2002

"There is nothing yet we can tie a ribbon on and sign," DuPuy
said after a meeting of the relocation committee that lasted about
90 minutes. "We're continuing the process of trying to get things
clarified and trying to ensure that whatever offer, whatever
stadium deal is ultimately accepted, ensures the ultimate success
of the Expos."

Stadium sites, land acquisition, government funding and
legislation, and road construction are among the items being talked

"Eventually, these discussions are going to have to evolve to a
point where either we say or the municipality or governmental
entity says, 'We're as far as we can go. This is the deal that
we've got before us,' " DuPuy said.

While DuPuy spoke in the hotel lobby, Baltimore Orioles owner
Peter Angelos sat in the cafe, about 40 feet away. Angelos is
against moving the Expos to either Washington, which is about 40 miles
from Camden Yards, or Northern Virginia's site in Loudoun County,
near Dulles International Airport, about 60 miles from Baltimore.

Angelos says a team that close to the Orioles would severely cut
into his franchise's revenue. He does not object to moving the
Expos to Norfolk.

"I've made my statement," Angelos said. "Presumably, my
colleagues are aware of it and, hopefully, they concur in my

Selig, who will make the decision based on the
consensus of owners, has said he doesn't want to hurt any
franchise. There has not been agreement among owners over whether a
team in Washington or Northern Virginia would cut into the Orioles'
ticket and broadcast revenue.

"There are varying studies that have been done," DuPuy said.
"Some of it is qualitative, some of it is quantitative, and everyone has their own view on that subject."

While Monterrey, Mexico, and Portland, Ore., have not officially
been eliminated, they currently are not the focus of the relocation committee.

"I don't think right now it's necessary that we meet with all
six groups," DuPuy said.

The bid by San Juan is not under active consideration. Baseball
moved 22 Expos home games from Montreal to Puerto Rico in both
2003 and 2004 in an effort to increase revenue.

At Thursday's meeting, owners are expected to approve the
extension for Selig, who has been in charge of baseball since
September 1992. He was acting commissioner for six years, then was
given a five-year term in July 1998. In 2001, owners extended his
term through 2006.

Also up for approval are a baseball World Cup and a baseball
television network. The World Cup, which also must be approved by
the players' association and the International Baseball Federation,
is not likely to start before 2006.