They were counting the hours in Miami, Denver and the four other cities where baseball expansion in 1993 remains a possibility. But, as of yesterday, they could be back to counting months.
Saying the cities need to be studied further, the National League announced a delay in its decision on the two expansion sites, which was to have been made at next week's owners meeting in Santa Monica, Calif. No new date has been set, but a decision is likely before the Sept. 30 deadline the owners have set for themselves, according to a statement by the National League yesterday.
"Although the [expansion] committee has essentially completed its task, the information to be reviewed by the ownership committee is extensive and will take more time than anticipated," said Pittsburgh Pirates chairman Douglas Danforth, chairman of the National League expansion committee.
Six cities still are being considered for expansion teams. In addition to Denver and Miami, which are widely thought to be the front-runners, they are Washington, Buffalo, N.Y., Orlando, Fla., and Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla.
Reaction in the competing cities ranged from relief to resignation.
Developer John Akridge, who leads a group trying to bring an expansion team to Washington, suggested that the announcement might show that Denver and Miami aren't assured ofgetting teams.
"I've been reading a lot about that in the press lately, and this seems to quash it," Akridge said. "If you want to believe what the press has been reporting, this is good news for Washington. There's been an awful lot of speculation. All along, we've been saying it's only speculation."
Don Hinchey, an official of the Denver Chamber of Commerce, said yesterday's developments "in no way" alter his city's efforts to get a team. "Naturally, we'd like to have the franchise granted, but it doesn't deflate anything," he said.
In a statement released by the group seeking a team for Tampa-St. Petersburg, investor Stephen Porter said he knew "no more aboutthe reasons for the postponement than were set forth in the official National League announcement."
The ownership committee's members are National League president Bill White, American League president Bobby Brown and executives representing four teams in each league. The American League members are Seattle Mariners chairman Jeff Smulyan, Milwaukee Brewers president Bud Selig, Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and Texas Rangers general partner George W. Bush.