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Bright lights attract Marlins with dim outlook at home


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So where do the Florida Marlins go from here?


Boise? Binghamton? Bismarck? Belize?


OK, we all know it will be none of the above. As anybody who followed the quest to move the Expos knows, the Marlins have more options to move Carlos Delgado than they do to move the franchise. So what are those options? Let's take a look:


LAS VEGAS -- There are rumblings that the folks from Vegas were on the phone to the Marlins within minutes of Tuesday's announcement. And let's just say there is major mutual interest. Team president David Samson told ESPN.com he would "expect us to make a trip [to Vegas] within the next two weeks." And according to one longtime friend of owner Jeffrey Lorie, he has long viewed Vegas as "a gold mine."


But Vegas does have its obstacles. One is those pesky little gambling issues, which the commissioner and Loria's fellow owners would have to resolve. But an even more practical issue is the same one that faces the Marlins in Florida: Lack of a real ballpark.


The minor-league park in town, Cashman Field, is barely adequate to house a Pacific Coast League game, let alone a big-league game. And while there has been lots of talk about building a park near the fabled Strip, nobody has thrown out the first jackhammer -- or blank check.


One baseball man familiar with the situation says there is "no way" Vegas could get a ballpark up and operable before 2010. But since the Marlins have a lease in Florida till then, they could, in theory, stagger through four lame-duck seasons while they're waiting for the moving vans. It's not a perfect situation. But people who know Loria continue to predict that if Vegas builds it, the Marlins will come. ODDS: 2 TO 1.


PORTLAND, ORE. -- Portland made a serious run at the Expos. And while it never made it beyond baseball's Plan B list, the city at least positioned itself as a landing place for The Next Team Looking to Move.


But Portland is yet one more city that would need to build a ballpark. And inside baseball, folks were privately skeptical that the city's announced financing plans for a park to house the Expos were politically viable. Nevertheless, there were immediate noises out of Portland on Tuesday that it was still interested. So you can bet you'll be hearing plenty more about that possibility over the next few months. ODDS: 25 TO 1.


NORTH JERSEY -- As a native New Yorker, Loria has always fantasized about lugging a team up the Turnpike to the Meadowlands. But that fantasy is already stuck in traffic, without ever getting a chance to pull out of the Vince Lombardi rest stop.


After the deal MLB cut with Peter Angelos and the Orioles to sign off on the Expos' move to D.C., just imagine what George Steinbrenner and the Wilpons would ask before they'd allow another team to move to North Jersey. Heck, it's a figure that would make A-Rod's contract look like subway fare. So forget that. ODDS: 2.9 TRILLION TO 1.


MONTERREY, MEXICO -- Believe it or not, this is one of the MLB power brokers' most preferred destinations. Monterrey has 3 million people hanging around the neighborhood. Many of those people seem to have some decent affection for baseball. And enough of them have money in their checking accounts that MLB looks at Monterrey as its No. 1 destination for international expansion.


But does that mean Loria has any interest in moving there? From all indications, it sure isn't at the top of his list. ODDS: 50 TO 1.


PARIS -- As the global art-dealing kind of guy he is, Loria loves Paris almost as much as he loves winning the World Series. Too bad most of those 2 million Parisians wouldn't know a sacrifice from a sacre bleu. ODDS: 78 GAZILLION TO 1.


SOUTH FLORIDA -- Samson made a point Tuesday of telling anyone paying attention that it's still the Marlins' preference to stick around and play under the palm trees. And in a perfect world, that's what should and would happen.


It's wrong. All wrong. But without a real ballpark, with a real retractable roof, it ain't happening. So it's awfully hard to blame the Marlins for announcing what they announced on Tuesday, after all these years of trying to build a stadium that apparently is destined never to leave the architect's pad.


"We had to do something," Samson told ESPN.com. "We've come to the end of the line. Time has run out."


Those South Florida ballpark proposals aren't 100 percent dead, Samson said. But it's close.


"It's like the great Billy Crystal line from 'Princess Bride,' " Samson said. "It's mostly dead. And by mostly dead, that means it's somewhat alive. So there are some situations that are still percolating. But you need a stethoscope to hear the heartbeat, because it's so faint."


The Marlins didn't do what they did Tuesday because they're hell-bent to leave. They did it because it was the only way they could let their community know: It's now or never. Figure it out -- or somebody else will.


We're not convinced yet that someone in South Florida won't figure out some new idea, some new formula. So we'll place the odds at a way too optimistic 5 TO 1.


But if we were betting men, we'd bet that by 2010, the Florida Marlins will be known as the Vegas Craps Rollers. Or something like that. And we bet the sports book at Caesars will be happy to take that wager, too.


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