Major League Baseball and Baltimore Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos moved closer to agreement on a compensation package yesterday as District officials prepared for what they hoped would be a formal announcement today that baseball would return to the nation's capital after a 33-year absence.
The broad outlines of an agreement were in place last night that would give Angelos certain financial guarantees to offset the impact of a team in Washington. Although the Orioles owner said more discussions were needed before a deal is finalized, District officials said they believed Angelos was no longer an obstacle to the Montreal Expos' arrival in the city in time for Opening Day 2005.
Major League Baseball President Robert A. DuPuy talks to the media after a meeting with Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos concerning the future of the Expos.
(Dudley M. Brooks - The Washington Post)
Mayor Anthony A. Williams said he expected to hear from baseball "in the next 48 hours."
By late afternoon, Williams had summoned key D.C. Council members to a meeting in his conference room to lay out a detailed itinerary for today's events.
According to two people who attended the meeting, Williams said he expects to receive a call from Commissioner Bud Selig sometime this morning and to make a formal announcement shortly after noon on the steps of City Hall.
Within hours, however, plans had changed again, sources said. The call from Selig would come in the afternoon. The announcement would take place at the City Museum, to be followed by a big celebration featuring a few members of the old Washington Senators ballclub. Afterward, festivities are scheduled to move to the downtown restaurant Georgia Brown's.
As they left the mayor's office around 5:30 p.m., council members declined to comment, saying only that they expect a "major announcement." Selig could not be reached to comment.
Council chairman Linda W. Cropp (D-At Large) said through a spokesman that the city has scheduled a news conference for 5 p.m. today and that she is "very hopeful."
An announcement on the Expos' fate was needed by the end of the week in order to give the D.C. Council enough time to approve the legislation for the stadium and the $13 million it will cost to renovate Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, where the team would play for three seasons. With that deadline looming, Major League Baseball President Robert A. DuPuy and Angelos met yesterday for six hours of negotiations in Angelos's Baltimore law offices. Angelos has indicated he would take legal action if the Expos moved without his agreement.
Angelos called the negotiations "a work in progress. We are trying to make a deal, but we have not reached a point of agreement."
Said DuPuy: "We had a very constructive dialogue and explored a number of areas of concern on his part, consistent with his desire to protect the franchise and protect the Baltimore community. No agreement was reached, but a number of ideas were offered for consideration. I'm going back to review those with the commissioner and members of our staff."
District officials were confident that an announcement was imminent.
Mark H. Tuohey, chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission and the city's point man on the Expos deal, said he did not believe the lack of an agreement with Angelos "has any impact on the decision [Major League Baseball] is expected to make. That is my sense from the various discussions I have had with Major League Baseball. It is a negotiation between baseball and Mr. Angelos. It is on its own track."
The city has promised to build a $400 million stadium on the Anacostia waterfront, where the Expos, who will likely be renamed by their new owner, will play starting in the 2008 season. Renovations to RFK, where the team will play until its new home is completed, will take at least three months, according to Tuohey.