Major League Baseball is still trying to decide where the Montreal Expos will play next season, and it is premature to say that the team will be moved to the Washington area, according to MLB president and chief operating officer Robert A. DuPuy.
"There's nothing yet that we can tie a ribbon on and sign," DuPuy said. "I wouldn't characterize anyone as the leading candidate at the moment."
DuPuy's comments came at a hotel here after a 90-minute meeting of baseball's relocation committee, which has been charged with finding the Expos a new home for next season. The relocation committee's meeting included discussions with Commissioner Bud Selig, who is here as part of baseball's quarterly owners' meetings.
DuPuy would not set a firm date on when baseball will make a decision on the Expos, but the league is long past its original target of last month's All-Star Game in Houston. He said each of the six cities are in various stages of readiness, but discussions may intensify with certain candidates in the next 10 days.
"Eventually, these discussions are going to have to evolve to a point where either we say or the municipality or government said, 'We're as far as we can go. This is the deal that we've got before us.' And we'll go from there," DuPuy said, adding that he is confident a decision can be reached in time for next season.
In addition to the District and Northern Virginia, the other potential locations are Norfolk, Las Vegas, Portland, Ore., and Monterey, Mexico.
Senior baseball sources have said that the relocation committee is focused mostly on the Washington metropolitan area, Norfolk and Las Vegas. DuPuy said Wednesday that various financial and logistical information continues to pour in, including data received in the last day or so from Washington, Portland and Norfolk.
One of the issues complicating the relocation process is what effect a Washington area team would have on the Baltimore Orioles.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos was here to attend the owners' meetings and repeated his opposition to placing a team in the Washington area, which he said would dilute the market and make it difficult for either team to compete effectively. Angelos favors moving the Expos to Norfolk and has made the case to Selig by telephone in recent weeks, according to people familiar with those talks.
"It's a great area," Angelos said.
DuPuy and other baseball representatives met with Angelos in the Baltimore-Washington region earlier this month, according to people familiar with the talks. Those discussions, initiated by the league, focused on how moving the Expos to Washington could enhance the Orioles' revenue from broadcasting, presumably through a regional sports network. Angelos was not convinced, according to baseball sources.