Sunday, October 31, 2004

Watch out for the Zombie Loudoun Cabal

Unless you're reading this on Monday. They only have powers on Halloween.

The schedule's out
, courtesy of the Post. The home opener is still the day before my wedding.

Capitol Punishment
looks at the general manager candidates now that Bob Watson's out of the picture. It ain't pretty. Kevin Malone?! Pat Gillick just keeps looking better and better.

Speaking of GMs, Cubs broadcaster Steve Stone is no longer Cubs broadcaster Steve Stone. He is a man with ambition:
As for Stone, 57, he has never hid his desire to be a general manager or team president. With the Montreal Expos moving to Washington and seeking a general manager, Stone immediately becomes a top contender for that job -- though he has no front office experience.

''Washington is one of those jobs that seems to have no end of candidates,'' Stone said. ''I've always made a concerted effort to let people know that is something I would like to entertain. I will explore all possibilities.''

Stone seems like a pretty sharp guy. If he wants to be involved in the front office, fine. Hell, I'd even consider him for field manager. But there's no way someone with no experience in operating a ballclub should become GM. You know who has a lot of experience operating a ballclub? Pat Gillick.

General manager isn't the only DC baseball job open, mind you. This site has a whole list of positions to be filled. Unfortunately, I didn't see anything along the lines of "Wanted: sarcastic guy with Blogger account. Hawaiian shirts a plus!" I was surprised not to see listings for third base and shortstop.

Movement on the name issue. This message board thread reports that DC Sports 'n' Entertainment Commission head Mark Tuohey says the team will be named within three weeks and that it'll be Senators or Nationals (thanks to Washington Senator, if that is his real name). Meanwhile, Will "DC's Bid Is Dead" Carroll assures us in the comments to this Ball Wonk post that we'll have the Grays. As soon as I read that, I called Vegas and put everything I own on "not Grays." I do think it will be Senators, only because there's no reason to think that MLB will not take the obvious choice. And because Will Carroll's always wrong.

Eric Fisher has a stadium financing column in the Times, and I think it's important that everyone read it.

No close observer of District politics and the return of baseball to the city
would seriously suggest the stadium bill before the D.C. Council is doomed to
fail.

There you go. But what happens if the bill doesn't pass?

No hope of a Washington team. For more than three decades, MLB executives found just about every possible excuse not to give Washington a team to call its own. It ascertained an overwhelming need to expand into Seattle; Toronto; Denver; Miami; Tampa, Fla.; and Phoenix, then an overwhelming need to contract teams. Even the foibles of former mayor Marion Barry were effectively used as the excuse for years.
But actually turning down a stadium bill would trump all of that and create a permanent memory in the clubby fraternity that is baseball.
Keep that in mind the next time a stadium opponent claims he wants baseball in the District but doesn't want to pay for it. You can't have one without the other.

Speaking of Barry, George Solomon stole my joke.
Barry, on his watch, tried hard to return baseball to town, likes the game and probably would love seats near the field where he could hear dejected strikeout victims grumble on their way back to the dugout, "the catcher set me up."
Fortunately, the fact that I'm some dude with a blog rather than a columnist for a major metropolitan newspaper means that I get to say "the bitch set me up." I'm all about the edgy.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Sooner the Cards Lose This Thing, The Sooner We Get a Name

DC's MLB.com site is bringing the content. And lots of pictures of Tony Tavares.

Bob Watson is not our man. I must say I'm disappointed, if only because I thought I had a pretty good handle on the guy. I guess this makes Pat Gillick the front-runner again. Watson mentioned, quite understandably, that he "didn't want to leave my current job for a position with the Expos that might last only about three months." Gillick didn't seem to mind that possibility.

We have a ticket manager! Okay, that's not all that exciting, but it beats not having a ticket manager. Just one more step towards having a team that exists, and that was the goal all along.

More content: an interview with the aforementioned Mr. Tavares. He's a busy fellow, and tells exactly how busy. Moving on to stuff that interests me, Ryan:

MLB.com: Do you know how much money you are spending on players this offseason?

Tavares: No. We are working on that now. I hope to get that soon.

MLB.com: Do you think you will be active during the free agency period?

Tavares: That will depend on how much budget I get.

I'd be surprised if any budget increase they get is going to allow them to do much more than cover arbitration for a few of the guys.

MLB.com: The Expos have a lot of holes. How do you fix it?

Tavares: I don't agree with that. We've had a lot of injuries. I'll give you that. If Nick Johnson is healthy, he's playing first base. (Second baseman Jose) Vidro will be healthy, I'm certain. You have a question mark at shortstop. It doesn't mean we don't like Maicer Izturis. The question is, is he going to be ready at the Major League level? Third base, you have a question mark. We actually made an offer to Tony Batista. We'll see if he wants to come back. If not, you have a hole.

Sounds like my man Maicer will be starting the year in AAA. I wonder what cheap place-filler they'll get. Mike Bordick? Neifi Perez? Anyone else getting all tingly? And then there's third - bring back Fernando Tatis!
The outfield does not have holes. The way it projects right now is Brad Wilkerson in left, Endy Chavez in center and somewhat of a platoon between Terrmel Sledge and Juan Rivera. I don' have a problem going to war with that.
Well, I'm glad Tavares isn't the GM. The Expos outfield has more holes than Blackburn, Lancashire. Let's go from left to right: Brad Wilkerson is rad. He's 27, typically a player's prime. He walks, he hits homers, and he's got a great defensive reputation. Yeah, he strikes out a lot, but that doesn't mean anything in and of itself. So does Jim Thome. So did Reggie Jackson.

Endy Chavez is not rad. He ranks as maybe a slightly above-average defensive center fielder, but he'd need to be able to play all nine positions a la Bugs Bunny to make up for that .318 on-base percentage. He doesn't hit for average, hit for power, or walk. He steals a few bases. Chavez is the kind of player we're going to have to endure for a few years.

Then there's the right field platoon. The thing about a platoon is that right-handed hitters generally do better against left-handed pitchers and vice versa. In this case, though, both Terrmel Sledge and Juan Rivera hit righties better than they hit lefties. This is good for them, as Science informs us that most people are right handed. But you don't have a platoon if neither guy hits lefties. Sledge is a good guy to have on the bench, but Rivera, who hits better than Sledge against either flavor of hurler, should probably be the regular.

Let's go to the pitching: We have a lot of it. What we don't have is a lot of veteran pitching. Under ideal circumstances, you would be able to add in a veteran pitcher that is capable of eating 180 to 200 innings. I'm not talking about a stud. I'm just talking about somebody that is going to keep you in the game. You add that in and your rotation goes, (Livan Hernandez), (Tony) Armas, (Zach) Day, (Tomo) Ohka. Now you have a whole bunch of people fighting for backup jobs. You have decent depth for the first time. You have (John) Patterson, (Jon) Rauch, Claudio Vargas and Sunny Kim. You have Michael Hinckley that could win a job during Spring Training. You don't know you have Josh Karp, who everybody tells me is going to be a better Major League pitcher than he is a minor league pitcher.

Pitching, I don't have much of a concern about. You have Luis Ayala setting up and Chad Cordero closing. We are in pretty good shape. I think with a couple of key acquisitions, we are highly competitive.

If we have a little luck with injuries, pitching could be a real strength for us. Tavares wants an inexpensive innings-eater, but guys you can rely on to throw 200 innings tend to make a pretty good living. I doubt we could afford David Wells. I doubt we could afford to feed David Wells.

MLB.com: The way you are talking, you sound like Armas and Ohka are going to be with the team. Those guys are arbitration eligible. Are you close to signing them?

Tavares: We'll either sign them or go through arbitration. We are not going to give up good young pitchers like that.

I like hearing this. We're not going to lose anybody from last year's Expos except Einar Diaz and maybe Tony Batista. So, here's the team, based on what we know so far. I'm pretty hazy on the pitching staff. And I didn't bother with the bench.
C: Brian Schneider
1B: Nick Johnson
2B: Jose Vidro
SS: ? (Izturis?)
3B: ?
LF: Brad Wilkerson
CF: Endy Chavez
RF: Juan Rivera/Terrmel Sledge

SPs: Livan Hernandez, Tony Armas, Tomo Ohka, Zach Day, John Patterson
RPs: Chad Cordero, Luis Ayala, Francis Beltran, Jon Rauch, Sun-Woo Kim

Well, that's a lineup that's not going to score a lot of runs. Nope. Nick Johnson and Wilkerson are the only OBP sources, and there's very little power. But what the hell; they're cheap, they're young, they might finish ahead of the Mets, and you don't have to go to Baltimore to see them.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

New Blogs Day!

A pair of new DC baseball blogs was brought to my attention today. Actually, they're not brand new, which leads to make this request: if you start a blog or see one I don't have linked, let me know. I want to stay on top of these things.

Ball Wonk reads between the lines and concludes that MLB's going with Grays as the new name, which sparked another name debate over at BTF (by the way, if you're going to suggest that they keep "Expos," please just stay out of it). Ball Wonk's been around since the announcement in September, so make sure to dig through the archives.

Capitol Punishment talks today about Bob Watson, presumed general manager of our beloved team. The more I think about Watson, the better a choice he seems. He excels at finding cheap veterans to fill gaps in a team. The Expos have little money, few prospects, and lots of gaps - a perfect fit. Anyway, he'll be around for a year at most, so as long as he doesn't get it in his head to try and win the division and start acting stupid, it'll be fine.

Some people are just assuming that our team is going to be run by idiots, for some reason. Steven Goldman of the YES Network and Baseball Prospectus is a heck of a writer, but I don't know that he's ever said anything about DC baseball that wasn't snide and ill-informed. In his Pinstriped Bible column today, for instance, he comments on the Yankees' CF situation thusly:
And where is Bernie Williams going to play? The only position at which his bat is an asset is center, and if he can't play center…Then there's that Lofton guy, who everyone assumes will be traded. Sounds like the Washington Expos are going to be taking on a lot of bad contracts.
Is there anything in Watson's history that suggests he'd be willing to clean up the Yankees' mistakes for them? It fits neither his professional profile nor his history with Steinbrenner, not to mention being out of step with the financial position of the team. I shouldn't let off-hand comments like this get to me, but I guess it means I'm a fan.

A near-endless City Council hearing (ten hours?!) about the financing plan is coming up this Thursday. Off Wing Opinion (which also pointed me to Capitol Punishment) has a run-down of this and other issues, including the whining of the DC United. That's a soccer team, apparently.

The Washington Baseball Club is sending an email around to get people to show their support for the city's team-buying largesse.
Here's the next way you can help: on Thursday, October 28, the D.C. City Council will hold a public hearing at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., beginning at 10:00 a.m. Your presence at the hearing will help to show support for the ballpark financing package. Furthermore, if you are a D.C. resident or operate a business in D.C., you can make your voice heard directly bytestifying at the public hearing.
If you are interested in attending the public hearing this Thursday, please email us back or call us at 202-266-6613 and we will contact you with more information, or you can simply show up at the Wilson Building on Thursday! Attendance for the whole day is certainly not expected; one hour of your presence (or more if you'd like) will go a long way in showing support for the ballpark financing bill.
I won't be there, on account of having a job and the fact that listening to the "concerns" of "community activists" is something I wouldn't want to do for ten minutes, let alone ten hours. (Thanks to reader Buzz for the email, which I didn't get for some reason. I guess the WBC found out I'm trying to buy the team out from under them.)

UPDATE! This is from Gammons on ESPN:
Bob Watson will meet with Bud Selig in St. Louis to discuss becoming the interim GM of the Washington Kerrys. But Watson is telling the commissioner that he doesn't want it on an interim basis, that he will want to meet with prospective buyers and have some long-term commitment.
Hmm . . . I can understand where Watson is coming from. I have no idea if he would be a good long-term GM; his two previous tenures were too short. He's never built a team from scratch, but he's never had the chance. I'm willing to give him a shot. It'd be better than Cal Frigging Ripken, in any case.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Agincourt Day

Enjoying the World Series? I'm not. For one thing, the Cards are getting whipped. This makes Ben Affleck happy and me unhappy. The worse part, though, is that Bud Selig's understandable ban on news during the World's Series of Base Ball has us just sitting around, twiddling our thumbs and watching Fox on mute because we can't stand Joe Buck (perhaps I only speak for myself here). There's a good chance that the dessicated mummies who run baseball already have a GM (Bob Watson) and a name (Senators) picked out, but we're not going to know until after the Cards complete their shatteringly ironic comeback after falling behind 3-0. And I don't have anything to say because that thing I wrote about Watson exhausted me; it was the first time in a while I had to look things up instead of just stealing crack jokes from Dave Chappelle.

There are a couple things I've been meaning to mention, so here goes.

This Post story from last Wednesday is sweet, sweet music.
Opponents of a publicly funded D.C. baseball stadium conceded yesterday that they are unlikely to stop the project, while aides to Mayor Anthony A. Williams said they are developing detailed plans to show how tax revenue generated by the ballpark could help schools, libraries and recreation centers. . . .

"It's an uphill battle," Lazere said of stopping the stadium. "Our chances, if we had a vote today, are pretty slim. I don't think we'd win."
There are still hearings and all that coming up, but this thing's in the bag. I gather that there are those among reluctant to start celebrating. What are you worried about? RICO? Marion Barry? This bitch is set up, as Marion would say, and there's nothing any Canadian lawsuit enthusiasts or porn-defending councilmen can do about it.

We now have our own team site on MLB.com right here. There's a big picture of Tony Tavares, if that's your thing, and some half-assed attempts at history and merchandise. That jacket looks pretty sweet, but I don't know if it looks $600 sweet.

I want us all to get over this weird Orlando Cabrera obsession. It's over. Move on. Figure out how to pronounce "Maicer."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

JIMMY BY GOD EDMONDS! WHOO!

Wouldn't Ric Flair make a great sports commentator? Yes, of course he would.

These playoffs are some exciting stuff, all right. That's not what I'm excited about, though. I'm excited about DC baseball.

"Well of course you are, jackass. You're the one with the blog," you're probably saying. And sure, I guess that's true, but for months now my pure, childish glee has been buried beneath deadly-dull talk of relocation committees and city council votes and lawsuits and freaking middle of nowhere Northern Virginia. But soon, dear reader(s), soon we'll really have something to talk about. You know, a real, live baseball team, with players and announcers and management to whom we can attribute incompetence and/or malignity. Go read this article in the Times. We'll have a name and a general manager after the World Series (Astros in six, and good for them). Tony Tavares is about to hire a guy to get a radio deal. MLB is setting a land speed record in getting some ownership up in here, and we could be saluting our new overlords by the end of the year. I look forward to nothing more than having an actual team to talk about, and I finally feel like we're about to have one.

So today I will talk about our apparently probable general manager, Bob Watson. Watson, who scored the one millionth run in MLB history, has had two previous GM stints. He ran the Houston Astros from October 1993 to October 1995 and the Yankees from October 1995 until February 1998, when he was replaced by Brian Cashman, who could well wind up as his successor in Washington as well. Looking at his record, Watson tends to avoid big-name, high-dollar free agents and excels at picking up still-useful veterans.

With both teams, Watson inherited a club bound for glory with most of the most important bits already in place. The 1993 Astros already had Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Shane Reynolds, and Mike Hampton. The 1995 Yankees had their core in place, with Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte already with the Yanks (say what you will about their scrilla-spreading ways, but the Yankees' recent run has been powered far more than usual by homegrown players).

Watson's Astros tenure isn't all that interesting. There was one huge trade: on December 28, 1994, the Astros acquired Derek Bell, Doug Brocail, Ricky Guiterrez, Pedro Martinez (no, not the one with the Jheri curl and the midget), Phil Plantier, and Craig Shipley from the Padres in exchange for the late Ken Caminiti, Steve Finley, Andujar Cedeno, Roberto Petagine, Brian Williams, and Sean Fesh (much thanks to Baseball Reference - now with 2004 stats!). Bell had some good years for the 'Stros (two 125 OPS+ seasons), but the Padres did better out of this deal. Caminiti won the 1996 MVP and slugged over .500 in each of his four years in San Diego, and Finley had three very good years and one not-so-good. There is one acquisition that presages his real knack for picking up useful veterans: in 1995, the Astros signed Dave Magadan, then 32 years old, to play third base for them. For the low, low cost of $360,000, Magadan put up a .428 on-base percentage and 127 OPS+. He was much worse than this the year before and the year after, but Watson didn't didn't hold onto him for the bad parts.

Moving on the Yankees, Watson pretty much kept the club on an even keel. They had most of the parts they'd need, having made the playoffs in 1995. Watson and Yanks had an excellent draft in 1996, selecting Eric Milton, Nick Johnson, and Zach Day. That none of these players are currently Yankees is a testament to George Steinbrenner's mindset. It is also worth pointing out that Joe Torre was hired as manager under Watson's watch.

The Yankees made two important trades before embarking on the reign of terror that still darkens the baseball landscape. In late 1995, they sent Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock to the Mariners for Jim Mecir, Jeff Nelson, and Tino Martinez. As you probably know, Martinez won four World Series at first base with New York, while Jeff Nelson was an effective reliever for five years with the Yanks. John Wetteland was acquired in April 1995 from the Expos for Fernando Seguignol, who wound up with only 178 career games. Wetteland supplied the Yanks with 81 saves in two years (including postseason) before giving way to Mariano Rivera.

Waton's free agent signings were mixed. David Cone must be considered a rousing success, however. Cone was acquired from Toronto in the middle of the '95 season for three guys you've probably never heard of. He subsequently resigned with New York in the offseason, and, with the exception of his last year with the club, was superb. In his five and a half good years, his ERA+ was between 120 and 176 (with 100 being league-average). Wade Boggs, resigned in 1995, was effective, as was Darryl Strawberry. On the other hand, Kenny Rogers had one good year and one bad year, but was flipped for Scott Brosius in 1997. Joe Girardi kept Jorge Posada on the bench longer than he should have been, and Hideki Irabu just sucked. Still does, for all I know.

Where Watson really shone was in picking up effective veterans to supplement his homegrown core. I already mentioned Strawberry, who put in five years of above-average offense (except 1997, when he played only 32 games) and never made more than a million dollars. Tim Raines, traded to New York for nothing (no offense to Blaise Kozeniewski) in 1996, supplied yet more above-average offense for three years. Chili Davis pitched in at DH for a couple years with two 115 OPS+ seasons. Watson got one year, 15 wins, and a 117 ERA+ out of Jack McDowell before letting him depart for free agency and ineffectiveness.

Given his track record, Watson would seem to be a good fit for Washington. Our next GM would be an interim GM; the most important task is to rebuild the farm system, but our MLB-appointed general manager probably won't be given time to do it (especially considering that local boy Brian Cashman is about a week away from suffering the wrath of Steinbrenner). Watson will be able to fill in the really obvious gaps in the team (third base, bullpen, etc.) without really mucking things up (say, trading Tomo Ohka and Maicer Izturis for Vinny Castilla because we need veteran presence or throwing a four-year contract at Juan Gonzalez). I'd like to see Pat Gillick given years to build the Senators up, but we could do much worse than Bob Watson in the short term.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

It's Divine's Birthday! Celebrate As You Will.

Things are proceeding apace, and I suggest that if you haven't started gloating in the direction of any non-believers you may have run into, start now. Tony Tavares, one of approximately one employees of our beloved home team, is taking care of the important stuff first.
Major League Baseball's new Washington franchise wants to start selling tickets for the 2005 season in mid to late November, team president Tony Tavares said yesterday.
...
Mr. Tavares is in "advanced negotiations" with both Ticketmaster and Tickets.com to become the team's ticket distributor, with a final choice expected in the next few days. Other key parts of the ticketing infrastructure, such as setting up a sales office and hiring a box-office manager, also are close to being finalized, he said.
"This is still a guess, but I would say we're looking at the 15th of November or something toward the end of November [to begin selling tickets]," said Mr. Tavares, who arrived in town last week from Montreal and is working out of the Washington Hilton.
But what if you're a serious high-roller, and mere tickets aren't enough for you? Well, call up Bud and put in an offer.
We've gone crazy and we're slashing prices!!!! Major League Baseball announced today it has begun the preliminary process that will lead to the sale of the Washington Baseball franchise. Expressions of interest and requests for application materials should be made by contacting: Thomas J. Ostertag, Senior Vice President for ignoring RICO and General Counsel, Major League Baseball, at dcbaseball@mlb.com, or at 245 Park Avenue, New York, New York 10167, or by calling 212 931-7855, or by going on E-Bay. Requests should be made by November 1, 2004.
I've already put together my bid, and let me assure you that it's well into the three figure range. My lawyers advise not to say if those figures include cents.

A ringing blow has been struck in the team name war. Recently, Gerald Ensley of the Tallahassee Democrat and Eric at Off Wing Opinion have made the case that the Expos should be renamed the Grays. Both put forward cogent, convincing arguments, but they pale in comparison to the tacit endorsement of Elgin, leader of the Lil Saints Crew, in You Got Served. It's a fine film, perhaps the third best breakdancing movie I've seen, and it climaxes in a $50,000 dance-off, which is as rad as it sounds. Even radder when you learn that the winner gets to appear in a Lil Kim video. What sort of hat does Elgin (played capably by Marques Houston of Goodburger fame) choose to rock while he's dishing out a heapin' helpin' of servin' to those move-stealing Orange County bastards? Homestead Grays. Debate's over.

Monday, October 18, 2004

One Town's Very Like Another

I'm back from a long weekend in Ocean City. Call me a misanthrope, but I prefer places when there aren't any people there, so the OC in October is okay by me.

Speaking of (the opposite of) places with no people, Mayor Williams and his NoVa-smacking posse have shuffled off to China for some reason. At the "We Win" press conference, Jack Evans was saying something about how now that he's returned baseball to the District, his next challenge will be to test himself against the world's greatest martial artists, so that might have something to do with it. Depending on how much ass Evans wants to kick, don't be surprised when the Post reports tomorrow morning that Williams has been named Mayor of China and that the Marlins will be playing in Beijing.

Anyway, I don't know what this trip has to do with anything, but everyone seems to be bitching about it. It's a shame they didn't take Marion with them. Just imagine the kind of hell he could raise during one night in Bangkok, which can make a hard man crumble. Or indeed, the tough guys tumble.

Thom "Tom" Loverro is reporting that Bob Watson, former Astros and Yankees general manager, is now the leading candidate for the Washington GM job. I don't know much about this guy, but he ran the Yankees from 1995-1998, and those were pretty good years for the Highlanders (ooh, pretentious!). Anyone have an opinion? Step right up.

Oh, and this is cool: Selig also said his goal is to have an owner selected for the relocated Montreal Expos by the end of the calendar year. MLB has been getting things done pretty fast lately, so I'm not completely sure this couldn't happen. How's that for a vote of confidence?

If you're still worried about RICO, here's some movement on that front:
A hearing on the lawsuit aimed at blocking the Montreal Expos' move to Washington will be held in Miami on Dec. 6, the day before the D.C. Council is scheduled to vote on a renovation proposal to make RFK Stadium ready for baseball next season.
I don't have much to add, except that this thing isn't going to send the Expos back to Montreal.

Speaking of trying to send the Expos back to Montreal, Field of Schemes looks at what Marion Barry actually can do to undercut stadium financing.
The challenge, then, will be for the lame-duck council and Mayor Williams to both pass a stadium bill and sell stadium bonds before the new council meets for the first time in January. If they succeed, D.C. will be contractually bound to keeping the new stadium taxes in place until the bonds are paid off - no matter what Barry, D.C. voters, or Barry's hat have to say about it.
It's like I said on Thursday. It's one thing to try to stop the funding before it happens. But to revoke it after it's been passed is political suicide, and I have a hard time believing that a sound financial policy is more important to Barry than his political career.

In non-crackhead news, congratulations are due to Dr. William Yurasko, so give them heartily. Opa!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

e. e. cummings day

The Expos are finally in DC! Well, two of them. Sorta.
Team headquarters for now is a humble hotel room in downtown D.C., but the new Washington baseball franchise -- technically still known as the Expos until a new name is chosen -- is officially up and running in the District, team president Tony Tavares said Wednesday.
Tavares and Kevin Uhlich, who was Tavares's chief operating officer when both worked for the Anaheim Angels and who is serving as an outside consultant for the Expos, arrived in Washington on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday began getting the team's business operations up and running.
...
Former Baltimore Orioles GM Pat Gillick has emerged as a leading candidate for the Washington team's GM job, but Tavares said he has not yet spoken to any potential candidates. Gillick has expressed public interest in the position, even if it is on an interim basis while MLB sells the franchise.
That's fine by me. Brian Cashman could be available if the Yankees blow the ALCS and incur the wrath of Steinbrenner, but it's not something we should bank on.

Meanwhile, Marion Barry is under the delusion that he can stop this thing.
Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry said he plans to block construction contracts and legislation for building a baseball stadium in Southeast, even if the city seals a deal with Major League Baseball before he likely joins the D.C. Council in January. "I'm going to do all I can to stop it at the council level and at other levels," Mr. Barry said during an interview with The Washington Times. "We have a lot of opportunities to stop this." He then delighted the reporters present with his trademark catchphrase. "In conclusion, I want to assure you all that the bitch set me up! Thanks, you've been great. Tip your waitress."
I made some of that up. Can you guess what? Anyway, Barry shows a remarkable grasp of not knowing what the hell he's talking about. "I'm going to stop this baseball stadium and take the money and spend it on housing and schools," Mr. Barry said. What money? You think Anthony Williams has a money bin he dives into every day after work? That he's just going to fill a couple of sacks with dollar signs on them and buy a stadium? One is tempted to believe that this is mere demagoguery and not a serious argument at all.
Though his intended efforts could spoil the deal to return Major League Baseball to the city after a 33-year absence, Mr. Barry said he supports baseball in the city. He said baseball officials would move the team to the District without the "sweetheart" deal offered by Mr. Williams. "He didn't just give away the store, he gave away the city," Mr. Barry said of Mr. Williams' agreement to publicly finance the cost of a $435.2 million ballpark. "That bitch set us up!"
It's reassuring that Marion Barry knows more about what MLB will do than the people who have been dealing them for years do. Maybe crack is like the spice in Dune - it lets you see into the future or something. No stadium, no team.

So, can he stop it? The financing is almost certainly going to pass. They have the seven votes they need on the current council. The problem is that Marion Barry, Kwame Brown, and Vincent Gray join it in January, and they're all anti-stadium. Could they repeal the business tax and leave the District unable to finance a new stadium? I doubt it. Imagine this: it's January, the financing has been enacted, and the Expos have moved and been given their new name. The schedule's out, the papers are counting down the days until spring training, and Jose Vidro is already doing Senate Auto Insurance commercials. Jerseys, hats, and season tickets were the most sought-after Christmas presents in two states and a district. What politician is going to have the stones to get up and tell everyone "Sorry for the false alarm, but it's off. You can get your tickets refunded, though"? I don't care if they're complaining about the money now, only a fanatic would be willing to put himself in that position. So why is Barry bothering with this? Hey, any publicity that doesn't come from a hidden police camera is good publicity, as they say.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Happy Birthday Luke Perry

Alleged presidential candidate Ralph Nader is taking time from his busy schedule to complain about DC's stadium financing plan. This isn't the first time he's done this (I commented on his last foray here), but this time it neatly reinforces what I was talking about yesterday.

Nader's minions have issued this press release, from which I shall excerpt the bits I like, as is customary.
Baseball in DC–YES! Public Financing–No!
Nader: “Lucrative deal for fat-cat owners is corporate welfare run amok”
Yeah, of course he's in favor of baseball. He's not a commie or nothin'. More on this later.
“Baseball and Washington, DC are a great match, the capitol area is wealthy, has a large population with lots of potential fans and television marketing. There is no need for DC to provide the most expensive public financing for any team in the country. Mayor Williams has given away the store and will do long-term damage to the district’s economy if his proposal is approved by the City Council,” said Nader.
Sound familiar? This is the same tack those NoTaxes people used. It's so obvious that DC is a great place for baseball that MLB should be thrilled to put a team here, free stadium or no free stadium. You know, just out of the goodness of their hearts. Their cold, black hearts.

This press release and the "fact sheet" from yesterday both go to great pains to ensure everybody that they're totally for baseball; it's just the public money they don't like. Now, every Nader voter I've ever known hasn't given a rat's ass about baseball. It's a generalization, but I'd be willing to bet if you polled people involved in the Nader "campaign," at least three-fourths of them couldn't tell you who Randy Johnson plays for. Ditto for the NoTaxes crowd. The fact that they're bothering to make yay-baseball noises indicates that the return of baseball is extremely popular in the District.

Because of this popularity, Jack Evans (upon whom the Brad Pitt character in the hit movie Troy is based, incidentally), has taken the position that opposing to the free stadium equals opposing baseball in DC. If he and his ilk can convince District voters that the choice is not between a $500 million stadium and a $200 million stadium but rather between a $500 million stadium and nothing, they'll win.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

No Stadium, No Team

The stadium financing plan has been submitted to the DC City Council, and the bitching has begun in earnest. Councilman David Catania, much concerned about porn-availability for his constituents, thinks the Mayor has it on lock.
Catania is convinced that Mayor Anthony Williams will find the support he needs to secure the deal.

"I think [Williams] would be perfectly happy to make these decisions on his own," Catania says, adding that the mayor and Major League Baseball "will get the seven votes they need. I see at least seven ironclad votes."
That's not going to stop people from opposing the financing plan, obviously. I'm not concerned with making a definitive defense of the Evans Doctrine, but stadium opponents are making one argument in particular that just doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
Adrian Fenty thinks the District should make its new team play in RFK indefinitely. Adrian Fenty doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.
"Where else are they going to go? They've already left Montreal. And no one else has a stadium ready."
Actually, they haven't left Montreal. The offices are still there, and there's nothing to stop them staying up there if their DC deal falls through. Montreal and San Juan have stadia ready, which Fenty would know if he had paid attention to this issue before trying to get himself some air time.

The argument seems to be that DC didn't have to give MLB nearly as much as they did; the Northern Virginia bid was falling apart, and there were no other options. An anti-stadium organization's web site features a "fact sheet" with this info:
DC's strengths should allow it to get a team without heavily subsidizing a stadium: DC is one of the largest and wealthiest metro areas in the nation, certainly the largest area that currently has no team.
Note the use of the subjunctive here: "should." These people think that DC's strength as a market should be able to get us a team all by itself. I'm surprised anyone can think that given what's happened in the last 33 years.
Anybody who's been following relocation for these many years knows how wrong this argument is. MLB kept the Expos in Montreal in 2002, against all expectations and commons sense. They did the same in 2003. They did it again in 2004. Now, all of a sudden, we're supposed to think that DC is the only place the Expos could have gone for the 2005 season? Bud Selig held out until he got the stadium deal he wanted. If that deal winds up not materializing, DC doesn't get the Expos. They'll go back to Montreal and be contracted in 2006 or shipped off to a more welcoming locale. Jack Evans gets mocked for accusing stadium opponents of "trying to kill baseball," but that is exactly what they're doing. No stadium, no team.

You can argue to your heart's content about the economic and demographic wisdom of a publicly-funded stadium in DC. However, the idea that MLB is going to put the Expos here no matter where we want them to play isn't going to fly.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Happy Birthday, Neils Bohr

News is skimpy lately. Except for finance talk, which bores the hell out of me.

We don't get to play the Orioles next year. The announcement came so late that our "rival" is still Toronto. It's really too bad. I was talking to a bartender at the Wharf Rat near Camden Yards, and he was practically salivating at the prospect of the Senators coming to town. He recognized my Nats hat, too. That guy rocked. I want us all to keep in mind that most Orioles fans are not like the guys insulting Washingtonians on message boards.

Thom "Tom" Loverro had a column in the Times yesterday about all the great former Expos. Well, they're not all great. I don't see what all the fuss is about Orlando Cabrera. He's a nice defensive shortstop with no bat and back problems. Sure Boston loves him, but let's not forget that his attitude wasn't so great until he got traded to a winner. Besides, the Expos already have a slick-fielding, sick-hitting SS who's five years younger and millions of dollars cheaper. From John Sickels on ESPN:
Maicer Izturis is a 24-year-old Venezuelan, originally in the Cleveland Indians farm system. He came to Montreal in a little-noticed spring trade, but he emerged with an excellent season at Triple-A Edmonton. In 99 games for the Trappers, he hit .338 with a .428 OBP and a .423 SLG. Now, this is the Pacific Coast League, so you have to account for statistical inflation due to thin air and hitter's parks. Izturis didn't show a lot of pop in his bat, hitting 19 doubles, two homers, and three triples for the Trappers. But he showed good contact hitting ability and some very good plate discipline, drawing 57 walks while fanning only 30 times in 376 at-bats. Scouts have always loved his glove; he has excellent range, a decent arm, soft hands, and quick infield reactions. If he can add some offense to his glove skills, you'd have a very fine player.
He struggled in the majors this year, but he sounds like a nice fit for a non-contending team building for the future. If he develops, great. If not, it's not like we blew a bunch of money on him.

Go watch the playoffs.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Dammit, Gammons

Here's some random crap. Yes, that is different from how it usually is.

From Peter Gammons' ESPN column today:
MLB has assured that the Washington Lobbyists will not be among the bidders for free agents, since there won't be any ownership in place in the shopping season.
Ha ha! Lobbyists! That's almost as funny as the thousands of other Washington-themed names everyone suddenly feels obliged to come up with. Anyway, whom has MLB assured? I don't expect beautiful prose from my sportswriters, but Gammons' grammar is so bad that it tends to obscure his meaning. Whatever direct object you stick in there, though, this is not so good.

The gay community is up in arms that the proposed stadium site would deal a death-blow to the city's "homosexual entertainment" district (by the way, what do you think your average imam thinks of the phrase "
homosexual nightclub mecca"?). I wonder if Michelle Malkin knows who her bedfellows are on this issue. Ha!

The Distinguished Senators Playoff Preview: Go Cards!

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Stand Pat

I may have spoken too soon about the delay in getting some owners. From the Baltimore Sun (which, along with the Washington Times, scooped the snot out of the Post on Wednesday morning):

Major League Baseball wants to move fast. "They hope to have the new owner in place before the end of the year," Mark Tuohey, chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, told reporters yesterday. "I think Major League Baseball is pretty well organized on this one and they'll do it."
Can they get through the bidding process and approval in three months? That might depend on whether Bud Selig has already decided who's going to win, which he's been known to do. Well, I don't mind a little chicanery if it means this team will have its act together by April. In other hasty accomplishments news, Angelos is almost taken care of, and Anthony Williams sent the finance plan to the City Council last week. It's amazing to see everything happening so quickly after the months and years of inertia.

There's still the matter of who's going to run this operation, and I'm actually pleased at some of the names that have been mentioned. It started slow, with Cal Ripken and Steve Phillips being bandied about, but it's picked up with Brian Cashman and Pat Gillick as candidates.

Buster Olney on had a column on ESPN about Cashman, who attended Georgetown Prep and Catholic University. He has a reputation as a sharp guy, and he hates George Steinbrenner. There is little evidence, though, that the guy is a great GM. This article at NewYorkMetro.com tries to make the case but trips over the facts (it does make a good case that Steinbrenner is a complete jackass). For one thing, Cashman has nothing to do with the draft. That's a pretty big part of a GM's job, as readers of Moneyball are well aware, and Cashman apparently has no experience. His trades? Well, he picked up Javier Vasquez, Esteban Loiaza, and Kevin Brown this year, and look how well they turned out. Cashman took over in 1998, and Yankees have never been as good as they were then. Cashman apologists want to point to Steinbrenner as the man behind the bad moves, but he's also the one spending the $190 million to keep them in first.

There's also this:
Brian Cashman, the Yankees' GM, has a contract that expires at the end of next season . . . Whether Cashman becomes a candidate will depend on how quickly the ownership of the D.C. franchise is identified and whether the team would be willing to wait for Cashman. If ownership was selected in the middle of next season, for example, it would be only a few months before Cashman became available.
That might be too long to wait.

Pat Gillick is apparently interested in the job, according to this story in the Times. He's willing to start immediately, too:
But Gillick said he is still interested in the Expos' position, even as it exists now.
"I love the game," he said. "Any way I could help, I probably would. I've been around this game for a long time. If somebody asked me to do it and put things together and get things on an even keel for a while, I probably would. I'm still working for Seattle, but I am always interested in a challenge."
Gillick has one hell of a track record. He built Toronto up from scratch, and they won two straight titles under his guidance. He moved on to the Orioles in 1996, which just happened to be when they got good. Most recently, he ran the Mariners from 2000 to 2003, the best time in the history of that franchise.

Pat Gillick has won with three different teams, and he's willing to start immediately. He's cautious ("Stand Pat"), but I like caution, and the rehabilitation of the Expos is going to be a long process; patience will definitely be a virtue. Cashman, in his favor, has won championships, has a real understanding of what makes offenses go (the A's haven't been the only team focusing on on-base percentage), and isn't even 40 yet. But Gillick has a better track record and seems ideally suited for this unique situation. Sign him up.