10/21/2003 7:46 PM ET
Expos reconsidering Puerto Rico
By Barry M. Bloom and Bill Ladson / MLB.com
MIAMI -- The Montreal Expos players, who last month rejected a proposal to again play some home games away from Montreal, are reconsidering their decision. The Expos are scheduled to have a conference call with the players association on Wednesday to review Major League Baseball's latest proposal.
That proposal calls for the Expos to play about 22 games again in San Juan, Puerto Rico's Hiram Bithorn Stadium. But, unlike this past season, all the games would be played in Puerto Rico before the All-Star break. The Expos had three homestands in San Juan this past season, with the final six games in early September.
"We still have a proposal out there and we'll see what happens," said Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer. "Nothing has changed yet. Hopefully it will by the end of the month."
Gene Orza, the No. 2 man in the players association, and Tony Bernazard of the union, will take part in the conference call and discuss whether there's a different consensus among the players or whether the Expos will play the entire 81-game home schedule in Montreal's Olympic Stadium.
"All of (the Expos) have been invited to participate," Orza said. "MLB has tried to give the players some assurances about scheduling, about payroll and about improvement in facilities down there that just might make some of them change their minds. We'll just see what happens."
Major League Baseball had been considering proposals from San Juan and Monterrey, Mexico, to host some Expos games next season, but Orza said that although Monterrey was not completely out of the picture, that bid is now a long shot. Monterrey, like San Juan, had made a proposal to host as many as 81 home games.
"Monterrey has not been ruled out, but let's not kid ourselves," Orza said. "Since San Juan stepped up to the plate once before it is entitled to do it again. I think there's some justification to go back."
MLB's relocation committee is still studying a long-term fix for the Expos situation and will begin in earnest again to study those options next month. Groups from Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and Portland, Oregon, have all made proposals to permanently take the team, but site selection and financing for a new ballpark isn't nearly complete in any of those areas.
The relocation committee will also accept new proposals from other communities in an attempt to determine the Expos' fate by the 2005 season.
The players balked last month at splitting the home schedule again after playing 103 of 162 games on the road. The Expos contended that the split schedule had an adverse effect on their chances of making the playoffs. The Expos were 13-9 in San Juan.
Since then, Orza and Rob Manfred, MLB's vice president of labor relations and human resources, have had back-channel discussions about how to resurrect the San Juan plan.
The Expos remained in the race for the National League's Wild Card berth until the end of August, when the players believed that the travel schedule caught up with them. There was also some discontent in the clubhouse when the team did not bring up anyone from the minor leagues when the rosters expanded from 25 to 40 players on Sept. 2.
The 22 games in Puerto Rico were deemed a success by MLB and drew an average of 14,222 and a total of 312,882. In Montreal, the 59 games drew 712,757, an average of 12,081 a game. The combined home attendance of 1,025,639 was the Expos' highest since 1997.
The Expos finished 83-79 for the second consecutive season under manager Frank Robinson, who is expected to return in 2004.
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