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Council Makes Move, Baseball Is Up, And Clock Is Ticking

[February 8th] -- Will the sounds of backhoes, jackhammers and potty-mouthed construction workers soon fill the air in and around the site of the Nationals' new stadium?

Well, maybe.

A few hours after the D.C. City Council reversed their bad-faith, 8-5 vote that all but doomed baseball as a viable presence in the city, blurry-eyed owners, politicians and fans are trying to make sense of what exactly happened in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

The city council said no. Then they said yes. Major League baseball got angry. Then they were happy. Now they're non-commital. MLB says that because there were so many changes, they're just not sure at this point if the deal agreed to is acceptable. They would let us know sometime this afternoon. "We'll see what it looks like and how it impacts our contract with them, and we'll comment on it tomorrow,'' said DuPuy Tuesday night. "I cannot comment until I see it and see what impact if any it has on the contract they approved a year ago December. They have amended it repeatedly tonight so I am not really sure what it says.'' I'm not terribly sure that some council members fully understand exactly what they agreed to last night either. If you want to try to read some tea leaves, this quote may ease your pain. After the vote, Mark H. Tuohey, chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, approached Cropp and told her: "Good job, you really pulled this through, and DuPuy says thank you."

(Insert author's head shaking slowly in disbelief here)

If Bud Selig and his merry gang want baseball in Washington, they'll agree to this deal and name an owner very soon, perhaps in a matter of days. The city council blinked first and made concessions that were quite out of character for them. Baseball needs to bridge the remaining gap and get the deal done. If they say no, if they find fault with any part of the lease, then I fear that baseball in Washington, even if the team stays, will be forever damaged.

I don't believe that Major League Baseball ever intended to "destroy" baseball in Washington as some have asserted. It has nothing to do with the city, or politics, or power. It has everything to do with money. MLB purchased the Expos in 2002 for about $180 million and are poised to sell less than four years later for $450 million, a profit of roughly $30 million per team. To ensure that windfall, Selig believes that the lease has to be just "so" to make sure that the prospective owners don't balk at paying so much money for the franchise and then being forced to take on a large debt-service in the form of stadium costs. No, follow the money. That's all they care about.

The city council has designated March 6th as the "drop dead date" for Bud Selig to agree to the lease. It concerns me that if Selig waits until then before accepting the deal and announcing the new owner, any hopes for a miracle signing this season will be dashed. It's "possible" that new ownership could sign one of the high profile players remaining (Jeff Weaver?) as a good faith gesture to the team's weary fans. Waiting until March will dash those hopes.

I feel more comfortable about baseball's future in D.C., but until the title transfers to the new owner, until he holds that first press conference and smiles broadly for the cameras, until he makes his first major decision, I'm going to be cautious with my feelings.

They've been hurt too many times during this process.

Good blog! I always come here to check out what's going on with my beloved Nats!

I don't think you can talk about 'a profit of roughly $30 million per team.' Those same owners have also picked up the tab for the Expos's losses for 2002-2004, which has to reduce their profit somewhat.

I haven't seen a published list of those losses, and I doubt it entirely erases each owner's profit, but I bet that it is significantly below $30 million.

Keep up the good work.
We can disagree on "bad faith" or "bad decision" with regard to the first vote, but it really should be noted that the second vote was on a measure that contained a provision not included in the first vote.

I think it's too simplistic to say that they said "no" and then said "yes." One can doubt the sincerity of Brown/Gray/Schwartz/Barry for suddenly changing course, but one also has to acknowledge there was a route that caused them to do so.

More broadly, and I concede this is a matter of opinion, I don't see the bad faith attached to voting down a measure seemingly everyone involved agreed the Council was mandated to consider---and I confess I find the charge a bit strange considering you've at least mentioned approvingly the prospect of refurbishing RFK. Under the Baseball Stadium Agreement, if the Council were to insist on that, that would be bad faith.

Overall---and I really don't aim this at you, Farid; I just don't have the motivation to turn it into a blog post right now!---I'd like to echo Harper's comment at my blog. There's too much villifying and praising of people on an issue that, but for our pure and true love of baseball, we might very well consider largely debatable.

To put it into context, the vote last night dealt with how to handle costs IN EXCESS of the money the Council agreed by law to allocate to the project 13.5 months ago. People can disagree on the policy---and disagree fervently---but it's a legitimate discussion.

That said, I'm obviously pleased with the way things are turning out---and I'll note that the bill that DID pass gives the District (at least nominal) protection that the measure in the first vote DIDN'T.
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