[October 6th] -- The worst of all possible ownership senarios may be just around the corner, and there isn't a thing that Nationals' fans can do about it, and Jerry Reinsdorf's leadership in picking the new owner is making things even worse.
Reinsdorf, the owner of the Chicago White Sox, now says that he's not going to finalize the sale of the Nationals until his team is out of the playoffs, making it very likely that the Nats will spend a great part of the free-agent "signing season" again with no real owner. Also, without an owner in place, Nationals' GM Jim Bowden will likely have a payroll a little higher that last year, but certainly not enough to fix any of the real problems the team faces going into 2006.
Now, the "worse" part. Hints, loud hints, emanating from the MLB offices suggest that Major League Baseball, with Reinsdorf as its front man, may announce that Indiana businessman Jeff Smulyan could be the new owner.
Smulyan has no ties to the D.C. area. Smulyan doesn't have deep pockets. Smulyan has indicated that he will use corporate cash to buy the club.
I lived in Seattle when Smulyan owned the Mariners. He had a lot of great ideas, and created a sense of excitement that was never felt under previous owner George Argyrous. But he didn't have any money to spend, and underfunded ideas don't win many games. Smulyan also seriously looked into moving the Mariners to Tampa Bay when he couldn't get Seattle officials to give him financial concessions on his Kingdome lease. He also questioned the "intelligence" of the typical Mariner fan.
Being an "out-of-towner," Smulyan has no real concern as to his reputation in Washington.
By using his corporations money, he is going to look at his profit-and-loss statements before considering wins and losses. Each year will be like the Marlins, an almost continues process of "slash-and-burn" until the kids begin to win, when its time to start the cycle all over again. He was underfunded in Seattle, and things haven't changed that much over the past decade. So why is he in the lead to buy the team? Because he's a close friend of Jerry Reinsdorf.
Does this remind you of someone else from DC baseball past? Many many years ago, a man from Minnesota bought a baseball team based in Washington. He was underfunded, and had a history of trying to move, and then finally moving, another sports franchise he owned to another city. He tried to get concessions on his lease with the stadium authority, and failing that, began to question the "intelligence" of the fans in Washington. Two years after he bought the team, he moved them.
I don't think there is much of a chance that the team would move from DC unless some cataclysmic event were to occur. But that doesn't mean Smulyan couldn't run the team like Vince Namoli did in Tampa, where with the lowest payroll in the major leagues, he turned a profit on the backs of the Devil Rays fans.