MLB puts off contraction, buys Expos

By Blair Lovern
February 14, 2002

In an unprecedented move, Major League Baseball owners voted 30-0 for the league to own one of its teams, the Expos, for 2002. It also approved the sale of the Marlins to a group led by Expos owner Jeffrey Loria.

The announcement came days before spring training, resulting in Montreal's new leadership scrambling to build a front office. Almost all of the 100 or so front-office positions need to be filled because Loria was expected to move much of his staff, including manager Jeff Torborg and general manager Larry Beinfest, to Florida.

Commissioner Bud Selig named 62-year-old Hall of Famer Frank Robinson as Expos manager. Robinson had worked in the commissioner's office as vice president in charge of discipline for on-field misconduct. Omar Minaya, 42, became baseball's first Hispanic general manager. He had been senior assistant general manager of the Mets. Tony Tavares was named team president and Claude Delorme was named executive vice president of business affairs.

Selig said he was surprised at the “intense interest” of those wanting to work for the Expos, expected to be sold and moved next year or eliminated altogether. Baseball called off contraction plans for 2002 on Feb. 5.

“It's going to be a unique kind of year, an interesting kind of year and hopefully the people (in Montreal) will enjoy themselves,” Selig said.

Selig said Major League Baseball will not meddle with the Expos this season, and the team will operate on a budget on par with those from the past few years. According to MLB figures released in December, the Expos' revenue was $34.171 million in 2001, lowest of all 30 teams. It had expenses of $72.690 million, including $37.676 million for players. The team received $28.517 million in revenue sharing.

Montreal drew a major league-low 619,451 last season to Olympic Stadium, an average of just 7,648 a game.

“Hopefully they will be able to increase the revenues in some degree,” Selig said. “If things are better than expected then we'll tackle that at the appropriate time. We have said we plan to proceed with contraction, and this is part of a plan that will hopefully lead to an orderly contraction.”

Selig said the Expos will conduct no fire sale this season and that a player such as outfielder Vladimir Guerrero would not be sent to, say, the Yankees.

“We need to be cautious and sensitive here,” he said. “That would set up a series of scenarios that would be extremely troubling. The only baseball decisions made by Omar and Frank would be in the best interest of the club. There's been no conversation about fire sales. Hopefully the club will get better as the year goes on.”