Ex-Expos in limbo

MIKE RUTSEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:49 AM ET

The happiest looking person at this week's general managers meetings is Omar Minaya.

The former GM of the Montreal Expos has a real job with the New York Mets. He even has a budget, owners to answer to and a stadium to play in.

What a concept.

Jim Bowden, the former GM of the Cincinnati Reds, is now the go-to guy with the Montreal-Washington Whomevers.

He is the latest actor in the comedy/tragedy that is the saga of the franchise that is little more than a bad joke.

The most recent poor punch-line for the franchise occurred this week when the District of Columbia Council delayed voting for the proposed downtown Washington stadium. Council chair Linda Cropp would like to look at a different site, with private developers footing most of the bill.

SEASON'S TICKETS

So the plans to build a new park are stalled, the money to re-furbish RFK not forthcoming, the owners yet to be picked and a season-ticket campaign yet to be launched.

"If I could get 25-1 odds I'd make a wager that they'll be playing baseball next year in Montreal," said a major-league executive who wished not to be named.

Bowden, meanwhile, is putting on a brave face and said those problems are not his concern. His focus is on trying to improve a team that went 67-95 and finished last in the National League East.

Back in Washington, the front office is working out of a hotel and also has rented commercial space where it can woo corporate sponsors.

The first hurdle, though, is to get the go-ahead for a stadium.

The franchise's agreement with Washington requires funding to be approved by Dec. 31. Washington mayor Anthony A. Williams called the current delay a temporary setback, saying he has the votes to push the original deal through.

It has to be done before the funds are freed to renovate RFK Stadium the club's temporary home for the next three seasons.

"It needs an estimated $15 million worth of renovations and none have started yet," Thom Loverro, a Washington Times columnist, said.

The renovations, though, should be completed long before baseball finds an owner.

"Apparently there are 20 groups that have filed expressions of interest with baseball to bid on the Expos," Loverro said. "Baseball will open the books for potential buyers to take a look at the financial records then establish a minimum bid, start a bidding process and it will go from there."

But it's not that simple.

There is another fly or two in the soup.

"Baseball is trying to establish a regional sports network and one thing they're trying to do is figure out how much of the cut the Baltimore Orioles would get and how much the Washington team would get," Loverro said. "I don't see how you can get prospective owners to bid on a team until that deal is made."

That leads to disgruntled Baltimore owner Peter Angelos who is concerned that the proximity of a team in Washington will have a negative impact on his franchise.

Angelos apparently still has dreams of the Washington plans falling apart.

Bowden, meanwhile, believes it would a grave error if the search for an owner went into an accelerated mode.

"The important thing is to get the right ownership group rather than hurry up and find an owner," he said.

MLB still has to deal with an attempt by the Expos' former limited partners to gain an injunction blocking a relocation.

A hearing on that is scheduled for Dec. 6 in federal court in Miami.


Videos

Photos