Is Montreal's Grass Greener?
The Expos should not leave Montreal. Read that again and get used to the idea. A year ago—hell, last month—the chances of the Expos staying north of the border seemed nil. Commissioner Bud Selig openly acknowledged the franchise's pathetic plight. Expos players were saying that other cities could offer neat little perks like, say, fans. Olympic Stadium was rusting by the hour. William Collins, a millionaire representing northern Virginia interests, was battling the Washington (D.C.) Baseball Group over which site would better suit the transplanted Expos. It was not a matter of if but when they'd move, before next season or in time for Opening Day 2001.
In the last two weeks, however, the Quebec provincial government offered as much as $8 million a year for 20 years to help finance a new stadium in downtown Montreal. In addition, Labatt has said it would pay $100 million to have its name on the new park, and orders for luxury suites now total some $40 million.
Perhaps the best argument for staying in Canada came last Friday and Saturday, when Washington hosted exhibition games between the Expos and the Cardinals. Only 20,465 fans showed up at 45,000-seat RFK Stadium on Friday, and even though 30,112 turned out the next day, the bigger crowd hardly made up for the lumpy outfield grass and rotting dugout steps, a malfunctioning scoreboard and an unintelligible P.A. system. If they relocated to D.C., the Expos would have to play at least two seasons in RFK
"You have to take into account a lot of factors," Washington Baseball Group spokesman David Low said of the turnout. "It's Easter weekend, it's Passover, people have to work...." The Cable Guy was on HBO. It was raining in Idaho. Bottom line: Washington struck out.