Fans Insulted

By Jack Todd/The Gazette

If Expos fans were playing Survivor, Jeffrey Loria would be the first person they'd vote off the island of Montreal. Mr. Loria seems far too devious, scheming and manipulative to be trusted by anyone in this city.

The Expos' managing general partner has slapped Montreal baseball fans in the face by refusing to renew an option on the downtown parcel of land earmarked for a new stadium. He can hardly use cost as an excuse. Renewing the option with the property owners, Canada Lands Co. Ltd. and Molson Inc., would cost about $70,000 a month - not even $1 million a year. That's less than the average major-league salary for a single ballplayer. For that small outlay, Mr. Loria could have sent a signal to Montreal baseball fans that he was keeping the stadium dream alive. Instead, he sent excuses.

One excuse is that Canada Lands was pressing him for a precise date on which to build the stadium. Not so, according to Canada Lands vice-president Gordon McIvor. The company is prepared to be patient and to work with the Expos to make the stadium project a reality, he said.

The other excuse from Mr. Loria is that he can't move forward with the stadium project until he settles an ownership dispute with his local partners. That, too, won't wash. According to Jacques Menard, co-chairman of the Expos' ownership committee, a deal for Mr. Loria to buy out the local partners has already been negotiated.

Mr. Loria doesn't have a shred of credibility left. He has done everything humanly possible to diminish the future of the franchise in this community

Just look at how he's spending his money. He's happy to invest in anything that might preserve the value of a transferable major-league franchise, but he won't spend a nickel on things that would keep the team in Montreal.

So, while refusing to renew a $70,000-a-month land option, he's committing $19 million to absorb the team's operating losses this year. While refusing to sign local radio and TV contracts, he's signing first baseman Lee Stevens to a two-year, $8 million deal.

This tells the average baseball fan that Mr. Loria not only doesn't care about the future of baseball in this city, he'll do just about anything to prove to major-league baseball that the franchise can't succeed in Montreal and, therefore, has to be moved.

Of course, owners of private businesses can operate any way they like. But sports franchises are as much a public trust as a business. Mr. Loria is insulting Montreal fans with his antics. He owes this city some explanations

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