Baseball owners voted unanimously to extend the contract of Commissioner Bud Selig through 2009 during two days of meetings here.
The owners also announced the formation of a Baseball Channel television network that starts next year and approved a World Baseball Cup, which is not likely to begin before 2006.
"I can't imagine a higher honor than being commissioner of baseball," said Selig, 70, who has been running Major League Baseball since 1992. He was acting commissioner from 1992 through 1998, when he signed a five-year contract. He extended the term through 2006 and, this week, through 2009.
Baseball revenues have grown from $1.6 billion to $4.1 billion during his tenure, and Selig has overseen a massive construction of new ballparks, most of them funded by taxpayers. Selig's family owns the Milwaukee Brewers and presently has the team up for sale. In addition to expanding revenue sharing and initiating interleague play, Selig presided over a 232-day strike that shortened the 1994 season and resulted in the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years.
Selig also addressed the nettlesome problem of finding a new home for the Montreal Expos, which has lost tens of millions of dollars since the league's 29 owners took ownership of the team in February 2002. The league had hoped to resolve the Expos issue last season, and some owners said privately that it appears a decision might not be made until the next quarterly owners' meeting in November.
"You're moving a franchise into markets where stadiums don't exist, where there's much work to be done, where the areas competing for it themselves have a lot of work to do," Selig said. "Let me make that point: They are still doing a lot of work."
Selig said he expects to receive a recommendation from the relocation committee and then take action, but he would give no timetable. Selig has stated on several occasions that the Expos will be in a new market before next season.
And while it has been widely reported that Washington and Northern Virginia are leading the pack of candidates, owners and baseball officials said yesterday there are still six candidates in the running: Las Vegas, Norfolk, Portland, Ore.; and Monterrey, Mexico, in addition to the two Washington area locations.
"Nobody has been ruled in, and nobody has been ruled out," said Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who heads a relocation subcommittee focused on Washington and Northern Virginia.
However, baseball officials are expected to intensify their negotiations with select cities over the next week or so, with most of the attention being given to Washington, Northern Virginia, Norfolk and Las Vegas. Representatives from three of those cities said yesterday they have been contacted by baseball for further meetings next week.
Bids from Washington, Northern Virginia and Norfolk are in varying states of completion, and baseball is trying to move those ahead, said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer. Washington does not have its stadium financing legislation in place, and in recent days questions have been raised by Virginia politicians regarding the state's willingness to back bonds to build a stadium in Loudoun County. Baseball officials have said privately they are concerned about the size of the Norfolk market and whether it is capable of supporting a major league team.
Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos is opposed to moving the Expos into the Washington region, saying it would dilute the market and financially hamstring both franchises. Reinsdorf said the impact of a Washington team on the Orioles is "under consideration."
San Francisco Giants majority owner Peter A. Magowan said yesterday he understood Angelos's situation, but said that Selig must take into account the best interests of the entire league.
"I am sympathetic to any franchise that would be adversely affected by a decision by baseball," said Magowan, who has his own concerns about a team moving to San Jose. "But this decision is going to be made by Bud Selig."