Distinguished Senators, the Washington Nationals Blog That Is Great

Saturday, August 14, 2004

RICO Suave

Not to navel-gaze or anything, but I've been thinking about how pretty soon everything I've blogged for the last two months is going to be completely worthless (except for the Latin team names, of course). I take in solace in the fact that, whatever MLB eventually announces, Will Carroll is already wrong.

I just heard Brad Wilkerson on the Baseball Show on ESPN Radio. The main topic of conversation was the 2000 Olympics, but they discussed relocation a bit. Bwilk (that's his nickname. He doesn't know it yet) said he has no idea where the Expos are going, and he sounded pretty bummed. He really likes playing in Montreal.

Jayson Stark never fails to cheer me up. His latest Rumblings and Grumblings column has a hefty chunk in the middle pertaining to us.
Peter Angelos' cries of protest get louder by the day. And that, says a longtime
Angelos watcher, "usually means things are not going his way."
That's exactly what I've been saying! I didn't get all that upset when Angelos flew off the handle and starting bitching about DC, and that's why. He wouldn't be talking like that if he were winning.
There is no doubt now that Selig wants to move the Expos to Washington or
Northern Virginia.
No surprise there, no matter what Bob DuPuy says.
There are rumblings that Comcast could create a second regional sports network, which would allow Orioles games to continue being shown in the Washington-Virginia metropolii. Angelos then could be offered a bigger chunk of the revenues from that network than the Expos for some lengthy phase-in period.
Two things: "metropolii" is not the plural of metropolis. If you want to be pretentious and keep it all Greeky, it would be metropoleis.
The other thing: Holy crap would this be cool! Regardless of how one feels about the Orioles, the more baseball on TV the better. I even wish I got the YES Network (though you can bet I'd watch it muted). I've always thought that one of the downsides to DC getting a team, minor as it may be, was that we wouldn't get the Orioles games anymore. This would be completely awesome.

The intense conversations between MLB and the Northern Virginia group these days appear to be a sign MLB is now in overdrive, trying to determine if this is really a feasible alternative to putting a team in Washington.

But there is trouble on that front, too. Earlier this year, MLB was assured by the Northern Virginia delegation that land and financing for their ballpark was a done deal. Uh, maybe not.

He then goes on to talk about the lack of actual ownership of actual land by the Loudoun Cabal and the staunch opposition to funding provided by the Speaker of the Virginia House. Loyal readers of this blog already know all about this (as do loyal readers of the sites I steal all my news from).

Finally, MLB always dismisses talk that this decision is affected in any way by the racketeering lawsuit filed by Jeffrey Loria's one-time limited partners in Montreal, which claims, essentially, that Loria devalued the worth of the franchise (and, therefore, their own investment).

But a ruling by an arbitrator related to that suit has been postponed again, until September or October. And one source involved in the relocation discussions admits that the timing of that ruling has become "part of the equation."

This is interesting, as it's the first time I can think of that a mainstream sportswriter has brought up the RICO suit. The whole mess was detailed in that multi-part Selig hit piece in the Post, but basically the former minority owners of the Expos are suing MLB over the Red Sox/Marlins/Expos team-swap that went down 1000 days ago. Anyway, Stark concludes that the owners' meetings next week will be the backdrop for another delay. He's certainly not going out on a limb there.

The Post had an article on Friday about the Las Vegas bid. I'll spoil the ending for you: they got nothing. Also, the mayor of Vegas is a former mob lawyer. Anyway, this is interesting.
Baseball officials contend the competition remains wide open. They said the decision has been complicated not only by the Orioles issue but also the inability of all the bidders, including D.C. and Northern Virginia, to put forward a completed financing plan to build a new ballpark that baseball has made a pre-condition for relocation.
Take THAT, Cabal! What is actually kind of heartening about this whole mess is that no city (or suburban gravel-pit, for that matter) has agreed to just build a stadium and hope that MLB is kind enough to give them a team to put in it.

Hat enthusiast Tracy Ringolsby wrote a column about Bud Selig's commisionership and contract extension.
First, they need to make sure Selig is in charge, and not in a lame-duck position, before they tackle the issue of whether the Expos go to the Washington area or Las Vegas.
Hmm . . . could it be that Selig is waiting until he has job security to tell Angelos where he can stick his territorial rights? Let's hope so.
Word is the relocation committee will endorse a Washington home for the Expos, but there's a catch. Selig doesn't like strong opposition.
Don't get too excited. He seems to be including NoVa in "Washington home."

Approval will require a 22-7 vote among the 29 owners, and, at least initially, there figure to be at least seven negative votes against the Washington area, even if Northern Virginia is the site chosen.

There's Baltimore, which doesn't want a team in its territory, and six other teams who would fear a precedent that opens the way for another team to be added to their territories - the Mets, Yankees, White Sox, Cubs, Dodgers and Giants.

I wonder about this. Ringolsby certainly has some sources, but is this list based on inside information, or just whatever's going on under his hat? For one thing, Seattle is the team with the most to worry about. I expect the American League to expand to 16 teams at some point in the near future, and it would surprise me if Portland weren't one of the finalists, a prospect that can't sit well with the subnormals who run the Mariners. Also, does anyone think Chicago is anywhere close to getting another team? There has been talk (though little actual action) of northern Jersey, but wouldn't the Mets or Yankees have a veto over either an NL or AL team in Jersey? L.A. already has two teams, as does the Bay Area. I don't understand the logic of this list, but maybe Tracy knows something I don't.

Field of Schemes discusses another option: the Expos move to RFK but continue to be owned by MLB. There's a pretty significant flaw in this reasoning:
It would be a bizarre announcement for several reasons, not least because with Virginia's stadium-funding bill due to expire at the end of 2004, a conditional move to RFK would effectively be the same as handing the team to D.C. without a stadium-funding vote there.
A lot can happen in a year, though, and even more in two. Maybe Portland or Vegas will get their acts together. Maybe DC or Virginia will cave and give Bud whatever he wants. What I think makes this pretty likely is that it would let MLB delay the decision for years, and they seem to get a real kick out of that.

1 comment:

StevenJB said...

I agree that the likely scenario is that MLB will announce that it is permanently relocating the Montreal Expos into the District of Columbia but that it will continue to own and operate the franchise for at least one additional year. MLB will then rename the Montreal Expos the Washington Senators or Nationals (Nats). The Nats might have a payroll of at least $60 million and will be allowed to become fully competitive in their pursuit of free agents and making trades.

This will allow both MLB and the District Government the luxury of additional time to negotiate and push for stadium financing. A team in hand will act as leverage and will demonstrate MLB's good faith commitment to finally bringing baseball back to Washington.

MLB wants the Benjamin Banneker Overlook site for their new ballpark and as the Nats owners with a team actually taking up residence in the city it could and would now proactively push for the Banneker site with both the District and Federal governments. MLB would no longer be looking in from the outside but would be acting on the inside in their own best interests. In the meantime, MLB would be operating the Nats in Washington before crowds of 35,000 per game instead of the Expos in Montreal before crowds of 5,000 per game.

MLB will sign a long term lease for RFK Stadium with the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. But, the lease will contain an escape clause which could specify that unless the District passes new stadium legislation and commences the construction of a new ballpark within an agreed period of time the lease would be null and void and MLB could vacate and relocate if necessary.

MLB will also negotiate and sign a contract with Comcast Sports Network which will provide for a pooling of Nats and Orioles revenues into one revenue sharing pot. This method will provide the Orioles with a guaranteed revenue floor. Peter Angelos will not receive any upfront compensation because there will not be any sale of the team for at least one year. This will allow MLB an opportunity to study the effects of the Nats on Orioles attendance and sponsors. Peter Angelos would then be required to provide hard proof of actual losses for the year, which if supportable, would be factored into the final negotiations for the sale of the Nats to private ownership.

By owning and operating the Nats in Washington, MLB will be having its cake and eating it too. This scenario allows MLB the luxury and benefits of the best of both worlds. It won't be losing $30 million a year anymore in Montreal and it can actively pursue its dream of a ballpark in the shadow of the national monuments while it plays in one of the richest and most powerful cities in the world. This will please and build up good will with the Congress now that baseball has returned to the Nation's Capital and cement that relationship and safeguard MLB's antitrust exemption as it passes out thousands of free tickets to Capitol Hill and the Washington power elite.