Thursday, December 16, 2004


Baseball in DC?

I see great things in baseball. It's our game - the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us. ~Walt Whitman

The DC City Council evidently doesn't see "great things" in baseball or baseball as a blessing. At least seven members of the council see Major League Baseball as a gigantic rip-off. I am not naive enough to see Linda Cropp and her supporters on the council as guardians of the public fisc. Does anyone really think that if the stadium/Washington Nationals deal is dead, that the DC city council will appropriate $550 million extra dollars on the city's pathetic schools or streets? No, Ms. Cropp, Mr. Fenty, Mr. Catania, Ms. Schwartz, Mr. Mendelson, Mr. Graham, and Ms. Patterson are not about to rescue the city's streets and schools; they are trying to politically posture and embarrass the mayor.

No one can argue the direct economic benefits of a baseball stadium with a straight face. The jobs that it provides are marginal. The direct tax benefits, in the case of DC have been "mortgaged". It is the indirect and psychic benefits of a baseball stadium that cannot be easily measured. In the case of DC, a new stadium would be a lure to new businesses and non-residents to come to a part of the city that now combines the charm of a concrete batching yard with the delights of gay strip clubs and a pornographic movie theater.

In 1997, Governor Glendening paid over $200 million to bring the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. It was a deal that was so one-sided that the Rockefeller Foundation found that he had virtually given away the store. Yet very few Marylanders regret the deal today.

The $550 million price tag for the DC stadium is not being paid out of general revenue funds. It is proposed to be financed by rent, taxes on stadium concessions and parking, and a special gross receipts levy on the city's most prosperous businesses. As proposed, not one cent of monies which would otherwise be spent on schools or libraries is to be spent on the stadium.

It is easy to rant and rail against Major League Baseball. God knows, I've done it for years. The only thing dumber than a baseball owner is 29 baseball owners. The only thing greedier than a baseball player is a baseball owner. I've lived through the Senators' ownership of the late Calvin Griffith and late Bob Short (both of whom should be burning in one of the lower depths of Hell) and the unspeakable Orioles' ownership of Peter Angelos. Baseball is a Supreme Court sanctioned monopoly. It acts like a monopoly. It has used DC as a punching bag and a stalking horse for the last 33 years. Mayor Williams did not negotiate with MLB from a position of strength. If MLB were dying to get into the DC market, it would have done so years ago. DC for a number of reasons (some of them, sadly, racist) has never been perceived as a "baseball town". Ms. Cropp and her council buddies have succeeded in confirming this perception.

Today, I ordered a Washington Nationals logo shirt on-line (the team store has suspended operations). I will either wear it as a supporter of Washington baseball or as an ironic comment on the crass stupidity of politicians.

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