Commissioner Bud Selig said Tuesday that Major League Baseball will not schedule regular season games in Puerto Rico next season for the Montreal Expos, another strong indication that the team will be relocated before next Opening Day.
For the past two seasons, MLB, which owns and operates the Expos, has moved 22 Expos home games per year to Puerto Rico as a means of generating revenue for the franchise.
"We made a deal [with Puerto Rican promoters and the Major League Baseball Players Association] to accommodate this situation, and now we'll let the future take over," Selig told reporters at the end of a question-and-answer session with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America at the All-Star Game.
MLB had hoped to have decided the future of the Expos by this week, but officials are now targeting an owners' meeting scheduled for Aug. 18-19 in Philadelphia. Washington and Northern Virginia are considered the favorites to land the franchise.
Selig also spoke of the Expos' management team in the past tense, praising the job performances of Manager Frank Robinson and General Manager Omar Minaya for keeping the team competitive under difficult circumstances, but saying, "Now, it's time to move on."
Selig did not address the relative merits of the municipalities in the running for the Expos -- in addition to Washington and Northern Virginia, those are Las Vegas; Portland, Ore.; Norfolk; Monterrey, Mexico; and San Juan, Puerto Rico -- but said, "Whoever gets [the franchise] will get it on merit. They will get it because they should get it."
Selig also said contraction is "off the table," and that the cities that fail to land the Expos this time could get relocated teams in the future.
Among other topics Selig addressed:
* He hinted he may continue in the role of commissioner beyond the end of his current term following the 2006 season. He had previously indicated he would step down.
* He reiterated his support for a stricter steroid-testing policy for the sport, one that would include year-round testing of players and penalties for first-time offenders -- such as the policy that governs minor league players.
* He will pursue an extension of the current all-star game format, in which the winning team earns home-field advantage for its league in that fall's World Series. The format has been used on an experimental basis this year and last.
* He said he remains hopeful a planned international World Cup tournament can still be held in March, despite rejections from professional leagues in Japan and South Korea.
* He no longer supports expanding the playoffs by two teams.
Last Cuts for Williams?
Even as Houston Astros Manager Jimy Williams, a coach on National League Manager Jack McKeon's staff, was hitting fungoes on the field prior to the All-Star Game, speculation was running rampant that Williams would not put on his Astros uniform again.
ESPN.com reported that Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker planned to meet with owner Drayton McLane on Wednesday to discuss the status of Williams and his coaching staff. The team is in fifth place in the NL Central.