Former major league first baseman and general manager Bob Watson has been offered what could be a temporary job as general manager of the Expos, who are scheduled to begin play in Washington next spring, according to a Major League Baseball source.
The source, who requested anonymity because Watson was still considering the offer, said an announcement won't be made until after the World Series. The source said he expects Watson to accept the job.
Watson is baseball's vice president of on-field operations -- MLB's disciplinarian -- and could return to the MLB office when the Expos are sold if a new owner wants a different general manager. Because the Expos are owned by the other 29 Major League teams, club president Tony Tavares must work with MLB officials in choosing a general manager.
Tavares, whose future is also linked to the sale of the team, reiterated yesterday that he would not announce a new GM until after the World Series and would not discuss candidates.
"I don't comment publicly on searches while they're ongoing," Tavares said.
Watson, 58, didn't return messages left at his New York office or his home yesterday. Tavares, though, has said he wants the general manager to be in place so that the future of the Expos' coaching staff -- including Manager Frank Robinson -- can be sorted out. Before becoming manager of the Expos for three seasons, Robinson held Watson's job with MLB, handing out suspensions and handling appeals for players and managers involved in on-field infractions.
Pat Gillick, the former general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners, said last week that he would be very interested in the Expos' general manager job.
Watson spent parts of 19 seasons in the majors as a player, including 11 as a regular, making a one-game debut in 1966 and retiring following the 1984 campaign. A hulking first baseman and later a designated hitter nicknamed "Bull," the bulk of his time came in Houston, and he hit .300 six times. He also played for Boston, the New York Yankees and Atlanta, finishing with a career average of .295 with 184 home runs and 989 runs batted in. He is the only player to hit for the cycle in both leagues.
Upon retiring as a player, Watson worked his way up the ranks as a coach with Oakland for four years, and then became the assistant general manager with the Astros. He served five years in the Houston front office and in October 1993 became the first black general manager in Major League history. He helped build the Astros into a contender in the National League Central, finishing second in his two seasons, strike-shortened 1994 and '95.
In the spring of 1994, Watson, 47, had prostate cancer diagnosed. He had surgery and beat the disease, returning to work by the end of the season. He later testified before Congress about the importance of early detection.
Watson last served as general manager of the New York Yankees for the 1996 and '97 seasons. He helped bring manager Joe Torre to New York for the 1996 season, when the Yankees won their 23rd World Series championship. After a tumultuous reign in which he was subjected to the constant pressure of working for owner George Steinbrenner, Watson resigned in February 1998, turning over the reins to current Yankees GM Brian Cashman.