Expos front office implodes

By Michael Levesque

MONTREAL–With pitchers and catchers on the verge of reporting for spring training, the immediate future of the Expos remained unclear. The team was about to have a faceless owner, no general manager, and practically no front office at all with Expos owner Jeffrey Loria in the final stages of negotiating a $158 million purchase of the Marlins from John Henry.

Loria has invited the entire Montreal organization to join him in Florida. With a majority consenting to follow him to the Marlins, the Expos front office–including the scouting and player development staff–numbered a grand total of three in late January. Triple-A Ottawa manager Tim Leiper, pitching coach Randy St. Claire and assistant farm director Adam Wogan are the only employees that have decided to remain in Montreal.

There may have been more, but after Leiper and St. Claire informed management of their intent to stay, Loria sweetened the incentive for staff to join him, giving everyone a $5,000 bonus. The scouting staff was also told there wouldn't be jobs for them if they remained in Montreal.

“No matter how you slice it, the ownership is pure evil,” one baseball official said. “There are a lot of good people in the organization, and it's a shame they've been put through this.”

A couple of members of the organization decided to take their chances with other teams. Highly respected farm director Tony LaCava resigned in the second season of a three-year contract. He was essentially forced out, but was hired quickly by the Indians as a national crosschecker. Baseball operations assistant Mike Wickham left to take the Padres' assistant scouting director job. It was still unclear what avenue vice president and director of international operations Fred Ferreira would take; he was still in a holding pattern trying to decide.

Major League Baseball, set to take over the franchise, was expected to appoint a chief executive officer to run the Expos this season. That CEO would then hire a general manager. Candidates to run the organization who have working knowledge of the personnel include former director of professional scouting and assistant to the GM Mike Berger, who was ousted after a well-orchestrated campaign by the current baseball hierarchy, and former farm director Donnie Reynolds.

The Expos have the fifth overall selection in the 2002 draft. With scouting director Jim Fleming and the rest of his staff Florida-bound, it still wasn't clear whether MLB planned to assemble a scouting staff to run the draft or rely on the Major League Scouting Bureau.