The group hoping to bring a National League expansion franchise to Northern Virginia charged yesterday that Baltimore Orioles owner Eli Jacobs is actively opposing its efforts.

Jacobs has said the Orioles are neutral about the prospect of a club being located in the Washington area, and in June he said if the Orioles' vote was "the swing vote, we would not be opposed."

But in a letter telecopied to his New York office yesterday, Capital Region Baseball Inc. informed Jacobs it has learned he allegedly has been discouraging potential investors from joining the Northern Virginia group.

Jacobs did not reply, but an attorney for the Orioles late yesterday hand-delivered a letter to Capital Region Baseball reiterating Jacobs's public position and saying it was "offensive and defamatory" to allege Jacobs's private position differs from his public one.

In a calmer development, Capital Region Baseball attorney Tom Newell said the group's leader, Mark Tracz, will be meeting "one on one" this week with John Akridge, one of the organizers of a group seeking a team that would play at RFK Stadium.

A merger of the two groups is widely viewed as a key to Washington's chances of being awarded a team. However, they have been unable to compromise about where a Washington franchise should be located. Akridge's group has a letter of understanding with the D.C. Armory Board for the use of RFK Stadium should it receive the franchise. But members of Capital Region Baseball have questioned whether baseball's owners view RFK Stadium as a viable facility and whether a team can economically survive there.

Facing a $95 million entry fee and total start-up costs of $115 million to $140 million, Capital Region Baseball investors have been speaking with potential investors from New York. In the course of these discussions, Capital Region Baseball vice president and general counsel Bart Fisher said, the issue of Jacobs's alleged opposition was raised repeatedly.

"I got sick of hearing it," Fisher said. "I wrote the letter to tell him to back off."

In the letter, which was approved by Tracz, Fisher wrote: "Several investors we have approached . . . have indicated that you {Jacobs} have made comments indicating that you oppose our efforts to bring Major League Baseball to the Washington, D.C. area. One investor, specifically, quoted you as saying, 'Washington, D.C. will get a Major League team over my dead body.'

"Needless to say, we are very disturbed with the private tenor of your alleged comments, despite the publicly neutral stance being taken by the Baltimore Orioles organization."

The letter also said Capital Region Baseball views Jacobs's alleged comments "as an interference with our proposed business venture" and the group is requesting that Jacobs "cease and desist from making negative comments about our efforts to bring baseball to the nation's capital."

Fisher declined to name the potential investor he referred to in his letter.

Jacobs's response took the form of a letter from Brendan V. Sullivan, a partner in the Washington law firm of Williams and Connally -- the firm co-founded by Edward Bennett Williams and in which Orioles President Larry Lucchino also is a partner.

"Mr. Jacobs and the Orioles remain neutral on the issue" of an expansion franchise being awarded to the Washington area, Sullivan wrote. He added: "Your statement that Mr. Jacobs has taken one position in public and another in private is offensive and defamatory. We trust that you will avoid any such statement in the future."

A source said the Orioles passed on the correspondence to Major League Baseball, as is routine.

Asked whether his letter might hurt his group's chances of receiving an expansion franchise, Fisher said: "I don't feel it was inflammatory. I don't feel it was reasonably inflammatory. It was reasonable to inform them {the Orioles} they are interfering with a commercial opportunity. One reaches people in a number of ways. This is one way."