"Baseball will never go in D.C."
Baseball might not be success there, but it appears baseball -- as in the Montreal Expos -- is headed there.
Crunch time is coming for Major League Baseball and its 29 owners who co-own the Expos, as well.
The Expos begin their final home stand of the season tonight against the Florida Marlins. A large crowd of mourners -- er make that fans -- is expected, especially on Wednesday for the final game of Year 36 for Canada's first major-league franchise.
The final game, period? The people in Washington, D.C., think so.
As recently as July, MLB had hoped to create a bidding war between the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission and Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority. The Expos would go to the highest bidder.
Originally, the proposed site was in Arlington, Va., but that fell apart. Gov. Mark Warner didn't get behind proposed bonds to raise funds for the ball park and the Virginia Authority now plans to build a park in Loudoun County, near Dulles Airport. But that's regarded as being too far from central Washington.
This week, Gov. Warner took over the negotiations with baseball for Virginia's bid, saying that he is fully behind the effort to land a team and offered up an alternative financing proposal.
There are now deadlines to be met. MLB has to give Washington city council an answer by Oct. 3, to move ahead with refurbishing RFK Stadium and the funding on a new stadium.
For when the new council takes over in January, MLB does not have a chance. Three opponents of public stadium financing won in this month's Democratic primary.
Without a decision from MLB in the next week, there will not be enough time to pass stadium financing before those new members join the council or renovate RFK Stadium for baseball in time for Opening Day 2005.
The D.C. Commission has decided to build its new venue on the Anacostia River, which is as far away from nearby Baltimore as possible.
The new owners in D.C. face a problem a few miles away. It might be 40 to 50 miles from the new yard on the Anacostia to the Orioles home at Camden Yards, whereas the Virginia site was 60 miles away.
The 50-mile territorial right is one which Baltimore owner Peter Angelos will invoke. Not only that, he has begun to complain about what a second team will do to his TV advertising revenue.
Owners have been called dumb, stupid and whatever over the years by the players association, fellow owners and media. But we may have to find a new word for stupidity if they place the Expos in D.C., and wind up in court facing Angelos.
The O's owner made his money as a successful litigator on asbestos cases. Do, you think any of the 29 owners will want a deposition from Angelos?
Is there a chance that the Expos could remain in Montreal?
Sure, the Oct. 3 deadline might not be met, a deal with Angelos might not be reached and there is the matter of the lawsuit filed against former Expos owner Jeffrey Loria by minority shareholders of the team.
As we say about this time every year: It's time for our annual is-this-the-last-game-or-isn't-it home stand?
EASY TO SNICKER
It's easy to snicker at the plight of the Expos. No fans, no ownership, no future and, maybe by Oct. 3, no team.
Just remember that when the Blue Jays played their first World Series home game on, Oct. 20, 1992 at the SkyDome, it wasn't a former player or even the Labatt salesman of the month who was given the honour of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
The Jays asked Charles Bronfman, the original Expos owner, to make the first pitch before they took on the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the World Series.
The Jays front office reasoned at that time that there probably wouldn't be a team in Toronto without the success of the Expos.
And if Montreal could be left without a team, so could Toronto.