As reports mounted yesterday of a breakdown in negotiations between New Orleans businessmen and Oakland A's owner Charles O. Finley over the sale of the baseball club, Finley said the future of the club is more uncertain.
"I don't know what the next year looks like," Finley said from his Chicago apartment where he is recovering from open-heart surgery performed in September. "We might be in Oakland, New Orleans, Washington or Denver.
"The only thing I know is that if the club stays in Oakland, we're going to continue to lose money. It's just a question of how much money."
Finley said he did not want to discuss the New Orleans talks. But A. Ray Smith, head of the group trying to purchase the A's for a reported $12 million, has been quoted recently as saying, "We're a long way from a transaction."
As he has many times in the past, Finley said he "would have an interest in Washington if something opened up. But no club can come to Washington because of Jerry Hoffberger and Baltimore."
Oriole owner Hoffberger has American League territorial rights and could bar the A's another AL club, from moving to Washington.
Because of this right, some baseball club executives suggested last year that the A's switch to the National League and the two leagues have limited interleague play. But Hoffberger threatened in March to sue baseball if such a plan were approved for "doing to me indirectly what they can't do directly."
Hoffberger also suggested at that time that the Orioles join the NL, a suggestion that did not please either major league.
If anyone in Washington wants to buy the A's, Finley said yesterday, "Let them get in touch with me. I'm not going to get in touch with anyone in Washington."
Developer Theodore N. Lerner is considered the most likely purchaser of a baseball club for Washington.
As a result of the apparent territorial statemate with Baltimore and the uncertainty of what Finley might do, there has been some discussion in the National League about a possible expansion into Washington and Denver in 1979. Many NL owners, however, are known to oppose expansion at this time.
Hopeful that the expansion foes could be persuaded to change their minds, the governor of Colorado and the mayor of Denver made a pitch to baseball officials meeting in Phoenix this week.