Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Commonwealth of Whores

Strong words, but I don't pass on a PJ O'Rourke reference when it's sitting right there.

The big news today is that a posse of jockjaws out in the boonies of northern Virginia has finalized a plan to make damn sure the Expos never draw any fans. You can read about it here or here, among other places. I'll be referring to the ESPN version unless otherwise noted, and I'm skipping around.

HERNDON, Va. -- A proposal by state and local officials to move the Montreal Expos to the nation's fastest-growing county features a public-private partnership that requires no new taxes to pay for the $442 million ballpark, proponents said Monday.
The proposal gives northern Virginia a leg up on the other regions bidding for the Major League Baseball franchise because it is the only site competing for the Expos with a fully financed funding plan on the books, said Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority Chairman Keith Frederick.
Monterrey never had a chance. Moving on . . .
The plan calls for building a 42,500-seat stadium near Dulles International Airport, on the outer edge of the Washington, D.C. suburbs. The ballpark would be part of a town square-style development that would include residential, retail and commercial space.
Translation: suburban stripmall.
The Dulles site is one of five that has long been under consideration for a northern Virginia ballpark, but it had once been considered at the bottom of the list because of traffic problems. The fast-growing county already suffers from traffic that often approaches gridlock, and public transportation does not currently extend from Washington. In fact, Monday's rally to announce the plan was delayed by about 10 minutes because traffic slowed the arrival of some VIPs.
Ha! The overwhelming power of irony is becoming something of a theme around here.
The problem is that no matter how much money these yuppies throw around, the traffic is still going to be awful.
Loudoun County appears to be welcoming the possibility of a ballpark. Supporters cite transportation improvements under way and under consideration, including a possible extension of Metrorail to the site by 2012. The ballpark would be built in 2008, with games played at Washington's RFK Stadium until then.
Oh, well that makes it okay. DC gets the team for three years until the yuppies are ready for them. Then maybe we get to go see them five years later.
Supporters now also cast the Dulles site's distance from Washington as a plus, saying it should assuage concerns of Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos that a D.C.-area team will hurt his franchise.
You people are already guilty by association, then. Here's a rule of thumb: if Angelos approves, you shouldn't be doing it. Which is why I try to sign as many Cuban defectors as possible.
Major League Baseball had been concerned that requiring an owner to make a large upfront payment for a ballpark would reduce the ability of any ownership group to pay a competitive price for the Expos.
I wonder if they're as concerned about the go-away money Angelos is supposed to get.
Stadium Authority Director Gabe Paul said the financing plan would be solvent even if the franchise drew only 1 million fans a year.
"We could have the lowest attendance in baseball and this plan still works," Paul said.
NO IT DOESN'T YOU DUMBSHIT! One million fans is failure, no matter how much cash you sling around. For a newly relocated team, one million fans is a huge, amazing failure. Look at that quotation again: this asshead would be happy with the LOWEST ATTENDANCE IN BASEBALL, as long as a few suburban families don't have to go downtown.

In a way, I can't blame these people. They want a baseball team in their backyard. They want to be able to take their kids to see a real, live baseball team without having to go into the city, where the wild things are. They don't care if no one in Maryland or DC comes - they can pay for their toy. The crime of it is that this is being seriously considered by baseball. The Expos could move downtown and draw two and half million, easy, and THAT should be MLB's concern. Suppose an eccentric billionaire wanted to buy the Expos. He could pay double what anyone else could. However, he would insist that all home games be played on the grounds of his estate and would not be open to the public. Is that good for business? Obviously not. Yet this reductio ad absurdum shows what is happening here. The Loudounites don't care that their stadium wouldn't be any more accessible to those in Montgomery and PG Counties than Camden is. Major League Baseball absolutely should be.

Here is a comlete list of MLB teams that drew one million fans or fewer in 2003:



That's right, none. One million fans in this day and age would be a disgrace. What Gabe Paul is suggesting would be an embarrassment to baseball and a monumental disservice to the Expos, who may as well stay in Montreal if they want anyone to watch them.

This is from the Times:
The revised vision of baseball in Virginia will go against a decade-long trend of urban-centered ballparks and build a new town center in which a ballpark is the centerpiece.
That decade-long trend is probably the best thing to happen to baseball AND to cities in a long time. I dearly hope MLB isn't as entranced by a free stadium as I'm afraid they are.
At a press conference, prospective team owner William Collins was bold in assessing how a team at the Dulles site would be marketed. And in a slight nod to the remoteness of the site, Collins said he didn't plan to market the team extensively to fans in the District, Montgomery and Prince George's counties and Southern Maryland.
"We've always looked south and west of the [Potomac]," Collins said. "Nothing has really changed there. In this area, you do not want to cross any bridges."
Does this strike anyone as delusional? One thing about major sports franchises - they like cities. Some of them, like the NY football teams, may play in the suburbs, but at least profess to belong to a city. These trifling bastards think they can have a purely suburban major league team. Has that ever worked? Has it ever happened at all?

There is no argument in favor of this that is not based on short-sighted greed and/or blatant self-interest. Why would MLB do this, costing themselves millions of fans and a team in a large, wealthy urban center? A free stadium. Why would anyone in the area be in favor of this? Well, if you live Loudoun County, you'll be able to get to the games in ten minutes, and the riff-raff on the other side of the river can go to Hell.

Well, it's time for our millionaires to get cracking and stand up to theirs. Write to the Washington Baseball Club and tell them to get their act together. Write to the papers. Hell, write to your congressmen. Some morons got Strom Thurmond to write a letter to get Joe Jackson into the Hall of Fame - get your representatives to start exerting some federal pressure on Bud Selig. It's time to stand up. Washington DC has a 1-0 record against Virginia, and we won't lose this one.


Further reading: Peter White has a better-written and far less vitriolic take at All Baseball. Off Wing Opinion has a favorable read, as well as a media conspiracy I really hope is true.

Sorry about the swearing.

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