Baseball owners delay vote on Expos' move

Thursday, November 18th 2004, 7:27 pm

By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Baseball wasn't exactly quick to find the Montreal Expos a new home, and that's not about to change now.

Expected to rubber-stamp the Expos' proposed move to Washington, Major League Baseball owners instead made the surprise decision Thursday to table the vote. Commissioner Bud Selig blamed internal ``housekeeping'' issues, and said the move will still take place, with a vote by owners coming before Dec. 6.

``We will get this done,'' Selig said. ``We just weren't quite ready with a lot of details. We like to have all the details done before we vote. Nothing more than that.''

Good thing, because the Expos' movers are already unpacking in Washington. Season tickets went on sale Thursday morning, and the team announced that manager Frank Robinson agreed to a one-year contract extension through next season.

Baseball officials also said they plan to announce by Friday when the franchise will be renamed.

``We didn't consider any contingencies, we didn't consider any other options,'' said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer. ``We fully expect to play in RFK next year, and we're planning on it.''

The Expos' agreement with Washington calls for funding for the new stadium to be in place by Dec. 31. The District of Columbia government has delayed approval of funding for a new stadium, but Selig and DuPuy said that wasn't the reason for the delay Thursday.

``The mayor believes he has the votes to pass, and we expect that to happen,'' DuPuy said.

Plans are to build the ballpark along the Anacostia River, about a dozen blocks south of the U.S. Capitol, and begin play there in 2008. The agreement estimates the cost of refurbishing RFK Stadium, land acquisition and ballpark construction at $435 million. The money would come from a new tax on the city's largest businesses, a tax on baseball-related income and lease payments by the team's new owners.

But some D.C. council members have claimed costs would be far higher, perhaps $600 million or more. District of Columbia Council Chair Linda Cropp postponed a Nov. 9 vote on the deal, saying the District should spend two weeks seeking private financing.

The council now has a vote scheduled for Nov. 30. The council must vote on the package a second time, as well, and that vote could come Dec. 14.

``Baseball is watching what is taking place here in the District, and if I were them, I wouldn't vote either,'' said Councilman Jack Evans, chair of the council's Finance and Revenue Committee.

``I've said all along that if the district fails to act, baseball will go elsewhere,'' Evans added. ``Their action, by delaying their vote, only reinforces the fact that if we fail to act, baseball will go somewhere else.''

That's not likely _ not with so much already invested in moving the team to Washington. When asked if he could see anything that would keep the team from playing in Washington next year, Selig replied, ``(I) do not.''

Selig declined to describe exactly what did delay the vote, but one could be baseball's negotiations with Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

Angelos had previously objected to having a team move just 40 miles from his Camden Yards stadium, but gave his blessing in September after reaching an understanding with baseball that protects him financially.

A baseball official, speaking on condition of anonymity, has said previously that an appraiser would value the Orioles franchise and the commissioner's office would guarantee its value for a period of time. The commissioner's office also would guarantee Baltimore's locally generated revenue for a period of time and assist in the creation of a regional sports network.

``That wasn't the real reason, but certainly I would hope that everything is completed before we vote so we can move on,'' Selig said of negotiations with Angelos. ``There's a lot of work to do.''

Baseball owners did not vote on the $223 million sale of the Milwaukee Brewers from Selig's family to Mark Attanasio because the commissioner's office has not finished processing the transaction. But Attanasio met with the ownership committee as well as members of the executive council, and Selig said he expected a vote soon, probably by conference call.

``They are proceeding expeditiously,'' Selig said. ``Hopefully we'll be able to bring that to conclusion in the very near future.''

Selig didn't give a timetable on when owners might vote on the proposed appointment of Jeff Moorad as chief executive officer of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Moorad, a high-profile agent, was picked by the team's controlling investors in August to replace founding CEO Jerry Colangelo, but cannot take over until other baseball owners approve.

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