11/20/2002 10:28 pm ET
Expos to play in Puerto Rico
Three homestands, 22 games scheduled
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
DALLAS -- The Expos will move 22 of their 2003 "home" games from Montreal to San Juan, Puerto Rico, Commissioner Bud Selig said Wednesday after the annual one-day owner's meeting following the season. The other 59 home games will be played in Olympic Stadium. Addressing the seasons beyond '03, Selig has formed a committee to determine a long-term plan, including whether this will be the team's last season in Montreal.
"Los Expos" Caribbean home games will be played in 20,000-seat Hiram Bithorn Stadium, scene of the 2001 opening game of the regular season between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers. Major League Baseball, which owns and operates the Expos, is negotiating a per-game financial compensation package for the 22-game schedule that will include a 10-game homestand in April and six games each in June and September.
The exact schedule will be released at a later date upon approval by the Major League Baseball Players Association. According to the Associated Press, the Expos are tentatively scheduled to meet the Mets (April 11-14), Atlanta (April 15-17), Cincinnati (April 18-20), Anaheim (June 3-5), Texas (June 6-8), Florida (Sept. 5-7) and the Chicago Cubs (Sept. 9-11).
"We believe these games will generate considerable excitement in Puerto Rico and throughout the Caribbean region," Selig said. "We have attempted to balance the need for home schedule certainty with this opportunity to stage attractive games in a city and region renowned for its production of players and the enthusiasm of its fans."
San Juan has long been the home of Winter League Baseball and will be the host of the 2003 Caribbean World Series, to be played the first week of February.
The money earned from the San Juan portion of the schedule will help offset the Expos' operating losses this season, and MLB is projecting that the team may break even. Last season, when the Expos drew 812,536 people to Olympic Stadium, the team lost about $30 million.
Tony Tavares, the team's president, said the Expos can now move forward with a tentative budget and determine the shape of the roster for the 2003 season.
"We have a ballpark idea of what we can spend," Tavares said. "We have a mandate from baseball which basically says to operate this club as cost efficiently as we possibly can and also keep in mind the long-term valuation of the team because it will be sold in the future. The added revenue from the San Juan games is going to help."
To that end, Selig said he has appointed a committee to define the Expos' long-term future by thoroughly reviewing the options and making recommendations to the Commissioner and the 29 other teams at a yet to be determined date.
The committee includes owners Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox and Wendy Selig-Prieb of the Milwaukee Brewers; Bob DuPuy, John McHale, Tom Ostertag and Jonathan Mariner from Major League Baseball; and consultants Corey Bush and Bob Starkey.
"The committee has already had two meetings and sifted through voluminous materials," Selig said. "I have asked the committee to conduct its work sensitively, thoroughly, expeditiously and perhaps most importantly, without any public comment until they have completed their work to ensure the fairness of the entire process."
MLB's move into Puerto Rico for at least a portion of the season is part of its globalization plan. Selig also announced Wednesday that the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics will open the 2003 season in Japan's Tokyo Dome. The New York Mets and Chicago Cubs opened in Japan in 2000.
Before the Blue Jays and Rangers opened the 2001 regular season in San Juan, $600,000 in improvements were made to Hiram Bithorn Stadium.
The Montreal franchise, a candidate for contraction last winter, will remain in existence for at least the next four seasons by virtue of a clause in the new collective bargaining agreement tabling the elimination of any teams until 2007. MLB bought the Expos from Jeffrey Loria last February, when Loria purchased the Florida Marlins.
Selig wouldn't say whether the Expos would move in time for the 2004 season. "We don't have a goal," Selig said. "I just told them to report back to me. They have a lot of work to do."
Washington, D.C., which has two ownership groups vying for the franchise and two plans for new ballparks -- either in the District of Columbia or Northern Virginia -- seems to be a prime candidate. Washington hasn't had a baseball franchise since the second Senators franchise moved to Arlington, Texas, after the 1971 season. The original Senators moved to Minnesota in 1961 and became the Twins, the same year the AL created the second Senators team.
Portland, Ore., has also made overtures about being the new home of the Expos.
The Expos can now begin season-ticket sales and sign a lease to play an abbreviated home schedule next season at Olympic Stadium. Frank Robinson, who managed the team to an 83-79 record and a second-place finish in the National League East, announced Tuesday he would return for another season.
Barry M. Bloom is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.