Rarely has such an honest and accurate statement been made in baseball.
Minutes after the cash-strapped Montreal Expos traded away NL Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez and second baseman Mike Lansing last November, general manager Jim Beattie declared: "We do not intend to win next year."More than three weeks into the season, Beattie's statement stands unchallenged. The Expos went into the weekend with a 7-13 record, a few home crowds under 7,500 and an uncertain future.
Does Beattie regret his remarks?
"No, not really," he said. "I knew there might be some reaction to it. But I couldn't trade away two top players and then turn around and tell our fans I thought we'd be a first-place team.
"I didn't say we wouldn't try to compete. We're out there playing hard every day. I just said I didn't expect we'd win now, and that we'd instead try to build a championship team for when we move into our new sta-dium."
Expos owner Claude Brochu wants to know by the end of June whether the team will have enough corporate support to help build an outdoor ballpark in downtown Montreal. Brochu hopes to raise $100 million of the $250 million cost for the 35,000-seat stadium; if not, he intends to move the franchise.
The Expos expected a difficult season. With a major league-low payroll of just $9.1 million - by contrast, the Orioles are at $69 million - Montreal lost 14 straight exhibition games, then lost its first seven games of the regular season.
Brochu, though, is not about to give Beattie a few extra bucks to spend.
"I had no problem with what Jim said," Brochu said. "Unless you have a $60 million payroll, you will not win. It's that simple.
"I've said the ultimate mistake in baseball is to have a payroll between $35 million and $40 million. There's no sense in it. You will not win and you will lose money."
In the meantime, manager Felipe Alou again will try to make do. Nearly a quarter of his players are rookies.
"We are in a hole," he said early in the season. "These kids didn't dig that hole. Some of them were in Double-A when that happened. But they have to understand the situation. We're not going to get any help, and we're going to face teams like the Cubs and the Braves by ourselves."
The Cubs brought in several high-priced players in the offseason. One of them was Henry Rodriguez, an All-Star outfielder traded from Montreal to Chicago.
Rodriguez joined a long list of former Expos stars who left in recent years, a lineup that also includes Larry Walker, Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, Jeff Fas-sero and John Wetteland.
"The players they have now, they're young and I think they're going to be good in 3-4 years," Rodriguez said. "But it's nice to be over here, knowing we have a chance to win a championship this year."
WHERE THERE'S A WILLS . . .: In his heyday, Maury Wills made opposing teams edgy because of his speed on the bases. Years later, his knowledge is enough to bother some people.
Yankees manager Joe Torre had Wills thrown out of the Toronto dugout Monday night during a game at SkyDome.
The problem began when Wills, a special baserunning instructor for the Blue Jays - but not one of their official coaches - was calling out advice to Tony Fernandez in the ninth inning.
"I was a little uneasy because the main part of their game is basestealing," Torre said. "He started getting up and making gestures to the runners. He's not a coach and he shouldn't be allowed to coach."
The Blue Jays had not asked permission to have Wills in the dugout. When Torre complained, the umpires evicted Wills.
"I felt like I was thrown out of my home, my own life," Wills said. "They are trying to win a ballgame, I might have done the same thing. If he thinks we got a competitive edge because I was there then he's flattering me. I didn't know I was that good."
While Wills and Torre shook hands before Tuesday night's game, Blue Jays manager Tim Johnson and GM Gord Ash weren't so forgiving.
"It was odd. I've never seen that happen. It probably hurt Maury more than anything else," Johnson said, adding he would not speak to Torre the next night. "I've been in this game too long and I respect people."
Ash described Torre's actions as "technically correct" and "well within the rules." But the GM said, "I don't think it's a move that I could consider appropriate."
MILWAUKEE MAGIC: The Brewers have made a smooth switch to a new league, leading the NL Central going into the weekend. Phil Garner credits his team's age - not his managerial style - for the early suc-cess.
Under Garner, Milwaukee liked to run and bunt more than other clubs in the AL. His approach has fit right into the NL way of doing things.
"I think we're a little more mature, we're a year older than we were and we should be playing better no matter what league we're playing in," Garner said.
BARRY'S BUDDY: Charlie Hayes is listed as a third baseman on the Giants roster, though he holds another position that might be even more important to the team.
He keeps Barry Bonds happy.
Hayes has the locker next to Bonds in the San Francisco clubhouse and considers it part of his job to make sure the All-Star left fielder is in a good mood.