I have said that baseball in Washington DC is not a great idea once you factor out the nostalgia and sentimentality dimensions. But after about 25
years of pursuit, MLB acquiesced to the begging and said they would bring their Expos/Nationals here.
Hizzoner Mayor Williams assured MLB execs that he had the votes to pass the legislation needed to fulfill the city's end of the deal; it was a "slam
dunk"; he said he had 10 votes of the 13 members on the City Council in his pocket. Two weeks ago, the Council passed the first phase of the
legislation needed to fund the stadium that was promised by a vote of something like 5-4 with 3 abstentions. Yesterday they met again to finalize the
funding bill and they made significant changes to it and the headlines call the changes "DC Baseball's Potential 'Deal Killer' ". So, when you hear
all the hand-wringing poetry from people who think that it would be idyllic to have baseball within sight of the US Capitol dome, just remember that
the city fathers are the ones who may not want it bad enough to pay what it takes to get a team.
Memo to MLB:
If they change the terms of the stadium financing, how can you be sure they won't change the other terms in the deal that relate
to the ongoing financial health of the team?
You can't - - and they will!
For the readers who do not live in the DC area, the stadium and associated infrastructure will cost about $500M and could creep over that number. The
District of Columbia has a school system that would be embarrassing if it were in a third world nation; crime is rampant; the roads are a mess; the
city-run/funded hospitals are frightening. So, some of the folks here think that building a stadium for a baseball team is the way to spend $500M of
the DC treasury. I have suggested in the past that a comprehensive DNA study of the MLB owners might reveal a close linkage between them and sea
slugs. Nonetheless, in this contretemps, it is the owners who are the more evolved life form.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Las Vegas was at the baseball winter meetings in Anaheim with showgirls and an Elvis-impersonator trying to drum up support
for Las Vegas to be the next city to get a baseball team. I've said all along that I'd put the Expos there instead of in DC - knowing that would mean
realignment so that Las Vegas would not be in the NL East. At the moment, Las Vegas is the stalking horse for the Florida Marlins as they try to get a
new stadium and a new deal out of the taxpayers of Miami; but if the DC deal were to fall through, I suspect that Las Vegas could have that stadium
built in no time flat. These folks can build a 1,500 room hotel/casino in 18 months; by comparison, a stadium is like a training course for the
Greg Cote in the Miami Herald had this to say about the possibility of the Marlins moving to Las Vegas:
"The Marlins relocating to Las Vegas? It just seems wrong. But it has its upside. Think of all the losses magician Lance Burton could make
disappear... They've already arranged for screeching Celine Dion to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. It will be two octaves too high."
Speaking of baseball and some of the futile posturing that goes on in that orbit, we now have the Commish and the Union and the Congress coming
together to clean up the steroid mess. Thanx, folks. What an unholy triumvirate this is. The Commissioner's office (and the owners) had to know that
there was some steroid use going on for the last decade; so did the Union; the Congress actually may not have known because they seem not to know
anything about everything until someone else blares it on the front pages of a newspaper and then the Congress gets an opportunity to emote. Everyone
here will say that they are making whatever changes are made in large part "to protect the children". Every time you hear that, remember this; they
are trying to get you to focus on the future here because if you focus on the past you'll find that all three of these parties were asleep at the
switch while all this was going on. I can see it now; there will be ads on TV telling kids not to use steroids - especially if they are using them and
marijuana together just before a weight lifting session... Imagine Barry Bonds as the spokesperson for that campaign. That would be about as credible
as the famous assertion by President Clinton that he had tried marihuana a time or two but didn't inhale.
Now for some on-field baseball stuff...
Syndicated columnist, Tom FitzGerald had this to say about the Oakland/Pittsburgh trade involving Jason Kendall:
"Jason Kendall for Arthur Rhodes and Mark Redman? Maybe it just took this long for Oakland to get back at Pittsburgh for the Immaculate Reception."
Why is there a spiraling salary market for questionable pitchers this winter? Kris Benson is going to make more than $7M a year; how does that make
sense? Well, I guess it makes as much - or as little sense - as Jared Wright making $7M a year. And Carl Pavano is worth something around $10M a year
for the next four years because his career record is just under .500; or did I miss something here? Pedro Martinez was a dominant pitcher four or five
years ago; last year he was a very good pitcher but clearly no longer the pitcher he was; so of course, he is worth a 4 year guaranteed offer of $55M,
right? Finally, David Wells is going to the Red Sox for a mere $8M a year; he must have taken a discounted contract because he really wanted to be in
the clubhouse that nips on Jack Daniels before each game...
The Atlanta Braves traded for a closer. Does that mean they are going to take John Smoltz out of the bullpen? Why?
I read a report on Rick Ankiel's work in the Puerto Rican Winter League playing for the Carolina Gigantes. He has started four games and has a 1-1
record. In 20 1/3 innings, he has an ERA of 2.63 with 25 strikeouts and 3 walks. Unfortunately, when you are talking about Rick Ankiel you also need
to include the stats that he has hit 4 batters and thrown 2 wild pitches.
Juan Gonzales is a free agent again. How desperate would a team have to be to offer him any contract beyond the league minimum? His clubhouse
reputation is anything but "constructive"; he misses about 80 games a year with injuries; and in the field, he is a huge liability. But if GMs will
pay $40M for a pitcher who is under .500 for his career, someone will toss money at "Juan Gone".
Finally, one more observation from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:
"Parting thought. It has been revealed that some horses used in the Athens Olympics have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Suspicions
first arose when a horse won the javelin throw and the 100-meter butterfly."
But don't get me wrong, I love sports...
Copyright The Sports Curmudgeon