Thursday, September 30, 2004


Don't rent the U-hauls just yet

It's a sad day in Exposworld. The thought of no more Youppi hits one like a hammer, or more appropriately, like a Vlad Guerrero swing. It makes one do crazy things, such as try to figure out why this couldn't happen.

There have been press conferences and talk on SportsCenter and in newspapers, it must be fated right ? Well...

Here is my view. From the very beginning of the moving saga MLB wanted the team to be in DC. They may have flirted with other girls at the dance, but DC has the largest population, the wealthiest population, the history, and the cache of being the nation's capitol. The question really never was Vegas vs DC, or Portland or Norfolk or Billings. These were back-up plans in case, I don't know, Washington DC was lifted up into space by aliens. The battle was only between Northern Virginia and DC. In their minds, DC vs DC. They would rather officially be in DC, but if NoVA made them a sweetheart deal, MLB would "suck it up" and move there.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum with Mark-Linn Baker, though. Virginia could not support the certain bond requirements that were deemed necessary to build the park (boring stuff about "moral obligation" and bond ratings, basically all you need to know is the sweetheart deal became an impossibility) . It became all DC, all the time. But things weren't happening in the manner that they wanted. The government was iffy on financing the stadium, Angelos wasn't being cooperative in any manner. I believe they finally got fed up waiting and agreed to move the team to Washington with the hopes that everything would work out in the end. Stupid and short-sighted? Sure, but tell me when MLB hasn't been with the Expos

There are four conditions that need to be met for the Expos to move smoothly
1) Owners have to be found
2) A stadium has to be funded and the land purchased
3) Any Expos lawsuits have to be dealt with
4) Angelos has to be dealt with so he won't sue

#1 is the easiest for MLB. There are always rich people that want into the sports business. Rich boys and their rich toys. Even if there wasn't, or they couldn't get the price they wanted for the team, MLB could own it until it found the right buyer. I don't think they want to (because they'd actually have to support the DC team - unlike the Expos) but they aren't going to let a little thing like "no owners" stand in their way of moving the team.

#4 is harder but all it is is money. Eventually the MLB will throw enough money at Angelos to shut him up. It's not a question of "if", just of "how much".

#3 could be trickier. If the case against Loria does not get dismissed (which it shouldn't, Loria is one shady bastard) then the MLB/Loria will have to take the same approach to the plaintiffs as to Angelos. However, Angelos just wants financial security so money will work for him. There is no question here. The plaintiffs could want something entirely different and just paying them off may not be as successful a solution. Of course, a few million is a siren song to the vast majority of people. I'd expect this to eventually go away (costing MLB a pretty penny in the process)

#2 is the hardest part. The governing body of DC seems to have very strong opposition to using public funding to pay for the stadium. Always have. But MLB has increased the pressure. Now instead of going the "You approve and maybe we'll build there" route, we've gone to a new level. The "We're moving here. All you have to do is sign here and it's yours" path. It's much more enticing, but it's far from the position of power sports leagues usually have. The opposition has numerous studies over the past 15 years proving that sports venues do not help the local economy as much as it costs. That hasn't stopped any stadium yet, but it's getting closer (see No VA) and eventually it will. Will DC be where the public draws the line in the sand?

Also there is some issue with the land they want to use for the part - considering its owned by 20+ Private parties and the goal is to have it seized for public use - a situation with it's own set of massive legal problems.

It's not clear to me that this will go down smoothly - I think it's very likely that the Expos play in RFK next year with no guarantees of a new park and hence no owners - just to increase the pressure on the DC government. Then it could begin looking for a new sweetheart deal somewhere else - making DC just a stop over on this crazy train the Expos are riding.

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