MINNEAPOLIS – Bud Selig described Montreal as an “excellent” candidate to one day host a big-league franchise again, and praised the city’s fans for their strong showing during March’s two-game exhibition series at Olympic Stadium.
The outgoing baseball commissioner made his comments Tuesday during his annual all-star game session with members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. While the endorsement was qualified by his noting that many things must still happen locally and that no team is up for relocation, his words were far more encouraging than they’ve been in the past.
“It did make a great impression,” Selig said of the 96,350 fans who attended the exhibition games between the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets. “I was impressed and I’ve talked to a lot of people there and they have much work to be done, but that was very impressive, no question about it.
“Listen, there’s certainly in my case no hard or angry feelings towards Montreal at all, we tried to keep the team there for as long as the story goes, but I thought that was marvellous, but they do have a lot of work to do. I wish them well, and I think they would be an excellent candidate in the future.”
Back in November at the GM meetings, Selig was far more reserved in his comments on Montreal, which lost the Expos to Washington after the 2004 season. Asked then about the Montreal Baseball Project, a group fronted by Warren Cromartie, and its then plans for a feasibility study with the city’s board of trade, Selig said: “This comes from them, not from us. We don’t have any clubs moving and we certainly don’t have any expansion plans. I give them a lot of credit, there are people up there who really believe in this and good for them. I think it’s great.”
The study, conducted by Ernst and Young and released in December, envisioned a relocated team bought for $525 million playing in the American League East in a $500-million open-air stadium, and concluded that a new team “would be financially viable under a set of realistic assumptions, including a modest but competitive payroll.”
While the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics remain in limbo in their attempts to get new stadiums, Selig again shot down relocation talk Tuesday for those teams with a simple, “no.”