Archive for the ‘D.C. Baseball’ Category

February 3rd, 2012

In Washington, Philly Fans Need Not Apply

The following note just turned up in my email box:

Dear Nationals Insider,

Let’s work together to keep Phillies fans out – it’s time to TAKE BACK THE PARK!

Starting today, single game tickets for the May 4-6 Nationals vs. Phillies series will be made available only to Nationals fans who reside in Washington, D.C., Maryland or Virginia.

To take advantage of this offer, click on the green Take Back the Park button below to register. Upon successful registration, you will receive an email with a one-time-use password to complete your purchase. Nationals fans may purchase up to eight tickets per game in one transaction, while supplies last.

We invite you to show your Nationals pride and TAKE BACK THE PARK!

Sincerely,
Andrew Feffer
Chief Operating Officer

Click here to view a picture of the announcement. Washington sports fan will recall this is a move straight out of the Ted Leonsis playbook. Of course, the easiest way to take back the park is to put a better team on the field, and all indications are that the Nationals will be a bit better this season.

Might be time to sell the wife on a partial season plan.

 
June 21st, 2006

The Unreadable Jim Bowden

I was blissfully unaware that Nats GM Jim Bowden was writing an occassional column for the D.C. Examiner. And now that I know what William F. Yurasko thinks about it, I don’t think I’m going to bother to read it:

I am already sick, the last thing I need to do is read another Jacques Demers-style column from the Nats GM.

Wickedly cruel, but funny. Something tells me William lost a few karma points with the big guy this morning.

 
April 18th, 2006

Nats GM Bowden Charged With DUI

Lots of my friends in the Natosphere don’t like team GM Jim Bowden all that much. Looks like they’re going to get a new cudgel to hit him with:

Nationals general manager Jim Bowden was arrested and charged with driving under the influence while in Florida during his team’s series against the Marlins last weekend.

The Nationals released a statement from Bowden on Tuesday in which he acknowledged what happened. He said he was arrested Sunday evening in Miami Beach.

“I intend to plead not guilty at a future date in a Miami-Dade court. I deeply regret any embarrassment that my arrest may cause the Washington Nationals and Major League Baseball,” Bowden said in the statement.

“On the advice of legal counsel, I will have no further comment regarding this incident until the court proceedings are complete.”

Bowden’s arrest comes as Major League Baseball closes in on announcing a new owner for the former Montreal Expos.

On the bright side, as reader Marc Hoff wrote to me, perhaps this explains the Alfonso Soriano trade.

 
March 20th, 2006

The Mess That Is The Washington Nationals

I haven’t paid very close attention to the Washington Nationals in Spring Training this year, mostly due to the NHL being back as Winter turns to Spring. But it’s also partly because this year’s team is shaping up to be an absolute train wreck. And when you look to apportion blame, look no further than Nats GM, Jim Bowden, the proverbial man without a plan.

In today’s Washington Post, Dave Shenin takes a closer look at the debacle that was the Alfonso Soriano for Brad Wilkerson trade. He uncovered the fact that even though the Texas Rangers refused to allow Bowden to speak directly with Soriano on whether he would be willing to move to the outfield from his preferred position at second base, the Nats GM went ahead with the deal anyway, leaving the responsibility for selling it to Soriano to Nats Manager Frank Robinson.

Here’s the reaction from Nasty Nats:

Bowden deserves to be run out of town on a rail for failing to recognize the situation and gambling the team’s season on making a big splash in order to garnish his reputation.

But I think we need to look at the bright side here. With Robinson’s track record of “senior moments” last season, there’s always the possibility that Frank will go “Junior Soprano” on Soriano without warning. Now that would be something to see.

For more on the impending disaster that is the 2006 season, visit Distinguished Senators, Ball Wonk, Oleanders and Morning Glories and Federal Baseball.

 
November 3rd, 2005

Letting Another One Get Away

I haven’t dealt much with the Washington Nationals in the last few months. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the home team, it wa just with the NHL back I didn’t have enough bandwidth to take it all in.

But now that Pat Gillick has been hired as GM of the Philadelphia Philies, I’m feeling a little annoyed.

Why? Because even though this team has been in town since a little after the first of the year, we still don’t have an owner, you know, somebody who might not have extended the contract of current GM Jim Bowden after so many of his acquisitions exploded in his face last season.

Like usual, the Nats blogs are all over this — I’m talking about WWN and Capital Punishment for starters. Read them to catch up.

 
July 14th, 2005

Winning In Spite Of Himself

And speaking of the Nationals, here’s Ball Wonk on the managerial dichotomy that is Frank Robinson:

During the course of any given game, Frank can be expected to cost the Nationals three or four outs with his boneheaded managing decisions. So we’re winning a lot of close games because Frank has cost us the outs we need to score enough runs to put the game away. We’re winning despite Frank, not because of him.

But then again, we’re only in a position to overcome his bad field managing because he has been such a genius in melding a bunch of players, none of whom are much better than “above average,” into a self-transcending win machine.

So Frank is truly the father of the Nationals. Like Washington, F-Rob is a singular team-builder. And like Washington, the team only he could build would win more handily if he was kept far, far away from the field.

That’s got to be the best capsule summary I’ve read so far.

 
July 14th, 2005

Wilson To Nats, D.C. Bloggers Not Happy

Looking to upgrade an offense that’s scored the fewest runs in MLB, the Washington Nationals dealt pitcher Zach Day and outfielder J.J. Davis to the Colorado Rockies for Preston Wilson. And the reaction from the Nats bloggers has been from neutral to downright hostile. Here’s Chris Needham:

You’re supposed to be happy when your team makes a trade, right? It shows that they’re committed to winning and all that crap.

So, why does the Preston Wilson trade only make me sad?

Uh oh. Here’s the Nats Blog only hours before the trade was announced:

[I]t means that Wilson would go into the starting lineup relegating star-in-the-making rookie Ryan Church to the bench. Now if we then trade Church for something spectacular, what you are about to read may change, but we have to assume for the moment that the plan is simply to “upgrade” Church for Wilson.
Let’s get one thing verrrry clear. Preston Wilson is an extraordinarily huge downgrade from Ryan Church.

(snip)

So, please, please Mr. Bowden. Do not make this deal unless something remarkable is up your sleeve–like turning around and trading Wilson to an even bigger sucker. We can’t afford to lose Church’s bat and glove for this guy.

Oleanders and Morning Glories isn’t pleased, but says we should wait for things to play out:

When you have a player hitting like Ryan has there are only two good reasons you bring in a potential replacement:

1) He

 
July 10th, 2005

Note To Ron Darling

When George Solomon notices your shortcomings, it’s a pretty clear signal that it’s time to raise your game.

 
June 30th, 2005

Trouble At The Turnstiles For The Nats

This morning, the Washington Post fronted a story recognizing that while the Washington Nationals have been a success at the gate so far in terms of tickets sold, team revenue is being curtailed due to the fact that the Nats have a slightly higher percentage of fans who buy tickets but fail to show for the games:

The Nationals sold an average of 32,019 tickets for their first 33 games, from their home opener in April through June 12, a pace that puts them on track to meet their preseason projection of about 2.5 million tickets for the season.

But the average number of people who attended those games was 24,679, according to data provided by the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission, which operates RFK. This figure, known as the turnstile count, is rarely divulged by professional teams but is closely monitored in the sports industry.

The rate of unused tickets at RFK was 23 percent, slightly higher than the 15 to 20 percent that a professional team should expect, industry analysts said. And the difference means less money for the city in taxes from parking spaces, hot dogs and all the other things fans buy at RFK.

So far, the higher no-show rate is being attributed to the large percentage of corporate season ticket holders who bought ticket packages, but aren’t using them. Further . . .

The unpredictable aspect of how many fans use their tickets might make Wall Street leery of giving the city a good rate on bonds that are financed by tax revenue from the stadium sales, said Natwar M. Gandhi, the District’s chief financial officer. He used this argument when he recommended that the city accept a private financing plan from Deutsche Bank. No decision has been made.

Which of course, would drive up the price of the new stadium before you can say, “eminent domain”. How much more, of course, would be up to the folks on Wall Street.

Left unsaid in the article is one bitter truth that I mentioned last October: If the revenue collected from the stadium taxes doesn’t cover the debt service, then the balance will have to come out of the District’s general revenues.

I don’t take any joy in this news. Now that the Nats are here, I want to see them succeed. I’ve already been to four games this season, and will probably be going to a lot more. But it’s still sobering to see that the warnings we heard in the run-up to approval of the stadium may very well come to pass after all.

UPDATE: A few days ago, Ryan at Distinguished Senators was wondering out loud why the first place Nationals couldn’t draw more than 40,000 fans to their last weekend series.

 
June 27th, 2005

More On George Soros And The Nationals

Just moved on Drudge:

Despite the Washington Nationals’ successful start to the season, to some Capitol Hill Republicans there is a dark cloud on the Nats’ horizon: the potential that their newly adopted home team could be purchased by billionaire financier George Soros!

Soros has joined an ownership bid being led by entrepreneur Jonathan Ledecky that is angling to take over the Nats, who are currently owned by Major League Baseball.

ROLL CALL reports: Soros pumped more than $20 million in the last cycle into groups seeking to unseat President Bush and elect Democrats and relates that the very prospect that Soros could have a stake in the team is enough to irritate Congressional Republicans.

I posted about this earlier this month, and I can’t say I’m terribly surprised.

UPDATE: Radley Balko is outraged. Jeff Cooper too.

 
June 15th, 2005

Frank Robinson And Saying It Plain

Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson on Angels manager Mike Scioscia after Robinson caught Angels pitcher Brendan Donnelly with pine tar in his glove and got the pitcher ejected from last night’s game betwen the two clubs:

“His guy got caught tonight cheating, and he was way off base,” Robinson said, “and he took me by surprise. To me, it’s a threat . . . I lost a lot of respect for Mike tonight, as a person and as a manager. There’s nothing he can say to me now. Nothing. I don’t even want him to approach me. I don’t want him to try to apologize to me. If he even thought about it, I will not accept it. I don’t want anything to do with it.”

This marks the second time this season that Robinson has worked the umps, and wound up with an extra mark in the ‘W’ column as a result.

I’m beginning to wonder if the umps might not be a little intimidated by Robinson. The guy is a baseball legend, and particularly famous for not taking any guff from anybody — just ask Tomo Ohka how much he likes Milwaukee.

Not only did I miss that, but there was also a Jose Guillen meltdown on top of everything else. Sheesh, you guys on the West coast get to have all the fun.

POSTSCRIPT: Chris Needham, who has been all over Robinson this season for his liberal use of bunting, among other pursuits, is being forced to reconsider his earlier evaluation of the Nats manager.

 
June 10th, 2005

Quote Of The Day

Here’s Chris Needham on last night’s Nats-A’s game:

Nick Johnson had the big hit. Again. He unloaded the bases with a shot that just went over the head of Mark Kotsay. Kotsay catches that ball 9 times out of 10. But, last night, for some reason, he took the great circle route for the ball, perhaps in search of the northwest passage to Bethesda.

Sounds like Kotsay hit that nasty ice flow just before River Road.

 
June 8th, 2005

Not The Only Game In Town

In the past I’ve written that I don’t generally read the Washington Post’s coverage of the Washington Nationals. After all, what’s the point if I can just get all the news and commentary I need filtered through the eyes of all the local Nats bloggers?

Here’s another example how things have changed from Yuda.org. Even though the Nats have only been playing for a couple of months, Yuda is already hosting gameday discussion threads that attract hundreds of comments.

It used to be the case that a local beat writer like Barry Svrluga at the Post (who, by the way, the Nats bloggers seem to really like) took to the field alone. That’s simply not the case anymore, and sports coverage is all the more exciting for it.

 
June 7th, 2005

At The Ballpark Tonight

I’ll be at the Nats-A’s game tonight at RFK, with the mighty Matt Haws in tow. We’ll be arriving a little late, sitting in section 318, row 14. Stop by if you like.

 
June 6th, 2005

Nats Fine Okha For Contempt

And just when I thought that could only happen in a courtroom.

 
June 3rd, 2005

George Soros And The Washington Nationals

Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: If George Soros’ ownership group manages to purchase control of the Washington Nationals, look for the White House to issue an order mandating that the President visit a different city every year to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

In alphabetical order.

 
May 31st, 2005

Robinson And The Home Run That Wasn’t

Tom Boswell wanted to give Frank Robinson a pat on the back after getting umpires to overturn Brian Jordan’s home run in yesterday’s Braves-Nats game.

Chris Needham doesn’t want to hear any of it.

There’s a reason why he calls his blog Capitol Punishment.

 
May 26th, 2005

Nats Notebook

Summer is going to be long. Time to add some regular coverage of the new local baseball team. Thankfully, we have so many aggressive Nats bloggers in town that my job of rounding things up is going to be comparitively easy.

Before we get to the depressing news on the field, where the Nats were crushed by the horrible Cincinnati Reds, 12-3, it was announced yesterday that former Secretary of State Colin Powell is joining the high powered Washington Baseball Club ownership group headed by Fred Malek.

After a couple of weeks of ranting by local Nats bloggers, Washington Post beat writer Barry Svrluga has begun to question Frank Robinson’s decision-making in print:

Wednesday, though, provided the latest in a string of curious moves from Robinson. Over the past four days, he has pinch hit reliever Gary Majewski in the 10th inning of Tuesday night’s loss, even with hitter Tony Blanco on the bench; started left-handed hitting catcher Brian Schneider in the last two games against left-handers and right-handed hitting Gary Bennett in the last two games against right-handers; and given left-handed-hitting Ryan Church his first start against a lefty all year Tuesday, only to pull him after he struck out in his first two at-bats.

Wednesday, Brad Wilkerson led off the game with a double, an opportunity for the slow-starting Nationals to score early runs. With the count 1-1, second baseman Jamey Carroll followed by calmly bunting Wilkerson to third.

“I think we’re just trying to get a run there,” Carroll said. “Anything to start something.”

Even with Vargas on the mound, it sent a clear signal that the Nationals have almost no confidence in their stumbling offense.

“Hell, a single run would look pretty good,” Robinson said. “The lack of scoring? The way we’ve been going? A single run would look pretty good in that inning.”

The Nationals, though, didn’t get even the single run. With runners on first and third, Guillen, who finished the day with a pair of solo home runs and a double, struck out, and Church bounced to second. No big inning. Not even a small inning.

More from Chris Needham. Nats Fanatic isn’t letting Robinson off the hook for the team’s recent run of poor play:

Think hard Frank.

Think long and hard. And don’t go putting this all on the players either. You said, “All I can do is make out a lineup.”

Baloney.

All I can do is make out a line up. I’m just some schlub with a website. You’re one of the best managers out there. You can do a lot more than make out a lineup.

Basil from Nationals Review says it’s time for other Nats bloggers to stop whining about Orioles coverage in the Post. Ryan Moore from Distinguished Senators is now cross-posting at Capitol Dugout. DirecTV customers only saw half of yesterday’s game, thanks to what the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network termed, a “miscommunication”:

“We gave them the schedule of games. For whatever reason, there was a miscommunication, and it just fell through the cracks,” said Bob Whitelaw, MASN executive vice president and general manager. “This unfortunately is the sort of growing pains you go through as you start up and try to build something.”

Remember, here in Washington, you can’t see just about half of all the Nats games unless you’re a subscriber of DirecTV or the miniscule RCN Cable. Thanks to District of Baseball for the pointer. And finally, Nationals Review says it’s time for Mike Piazza to head for the glue factory — or just the American League.

 
May 25th, 2005

Second Guessing Robinson?

Chris Needham continues to beat on Frank Robinson like a drum:

Last night was full of the madcap hijinks we’ve come to expect when Frank Robinson is awake on the bench.

Combine Tony LaRussa’s penchant for overmanaging and asserting himself in the game, with a BPGer’s knowledge of strategy, and a healthy dose of quaaludes, and you’ll get decisions like those in yesterday’s game.

Chris has plenty of details, including more than a few mistakes that would seem obvious even if your only MLB experience is with six-sided dice and Strat-o-Matic. He makes the additional point that Nats beat writers aren’t tough enough with Robinson when it comes to his managerial lapses. I’ll have to take his word for that, because as I mentioned yesterday, I’ve outsourced my Nats coverage to folks who don’t have to worry about creating an uncomfortable moment over the pre-game buffet.

For more raps on the drums of war, check out Distinguished Senators.

POSTSCRIPT: It’s easy to see that Cristian Guzman is having a rough year in D.C., but the Nats Blog has taken a far more discerning look, and things are actually worse than you might imagine. Start here, go here and finish here.

 
May 24th, 2005

Is It Time For Robinson To Retire?

About a year or so ago, Jay Sokoloff, Off Wing’s Montreal-based correspondent, was more than happy to inform me that Frank Robinson had seen better days as a major league manager. While I can’t recall specific circumstances, a pointed critique of Robinson was something I could always count on when I got into contact with Jay.

Well, now that Robinson has decamped to Washington, his deficiencies as a manager are being put under the microscope. Here’s Chris Needham of Capitol Punishment:

Were I still a young, idealistic student, instead of a jaded bitter old man, I’d have easy access to Lexis Nexis, so I could see how many times the Washington newspapers have used the insipid phrase “Manages by his gut,” to describe Frank Robinson’s management style. Instead, I’ll make it up and say it was eleventy-billion times.

Regardless, last night’s game exposed it for the over-written cliche it is. What exactly does it mean? Until last night’s game, I was entertaining the offer that it meant he was using his thousands of games of experience to make informed hunches based on what he’s seen with his aging eyes.

When he famously boasted about not using computers, I mounted a casual defense of him, saying that it’s possible that the long catalog of game experiences he’s had serve as a sort of database in his mind.

Well, I was wrong.

The man’s a doddering idiot.

Plenty of specific examples follow.

Here’s a note for the folks at the big newspapers: when I follow the Nationals, I generally get my game recaps and box scores from the AP or ESPN.com.

But about 90 percent of everything else I read about the team, with the exception of the odd Tom Boswell column, comes from Chris, Ryan, Nationals Inquirer, Nationals Review and Ball Wonk, among others.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

 
March 2nd, 2005

Nats-Mets For Free On MLB.TV

Click here at 1:00 p.m. U.S. EST.

Beats writing about non-existent labor negotiations.

POSTSCRIPT: There will be three more free preview games on MLB.tv on Thursday, and another on Friday.

 
February 14th, 2005

And The Newest Nats Blog Belongs To . . .

Barry Svrluga, Nats beat writer for the Washington Post. He revealed the news in an online chat last week, expect it to debut in the paper on Wednesday.

Congratulations Barry, and welcome to the D.C. Blog scene.

Thanks to Chris Needham for the link.

 
February 8th, 2005

Braves Steal A March On Richmond

Interesting doings down in Richmond, home of the AAA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. Apparently, the big club has just found a home on the radio in the state capitol.

Last time I checked, Washington was a heck of a lot closer to Richmond than Atlanta. At least that’s what General Sherman tells me.

Thanks to Nationals Inquirer for the link.

Also, I had to pull this quote out of his latest post:

“Richmond’s ballpark is really, really old (it dates way back to 1985) . . . “

You know, 1985, back when they had the Walkman instead of the iPod.

I guess it really was that long ago.

 
February 1st, 2005

Nats Roundup

I guess the big story today has to be Murray Chass’ column in the New York Times claiming that MLB scuttled a Sosa to Washington deal in order to placate Orioles owner Peter Angelos. Like Chris Needham, I think it sounds plausible, especially since we’re still waiting on the details of Angelos’ indemnification deal with MLB, as well as the announcement of a radio and television deal for the Nats.

Nats GM Jim Bowden and four other players are scheduled to make an appearance tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. at the ESPN Sportszone in D.C. — bring stuff to be autographed. And Mark your calendar for Saturday afternoon for a Nats Fan Club meeting in Chinatown. Check Capitol Punishment for details.

Ex-WTEM host Phil Wood made his debut in today’s first issue of the new Washington Examiner and the reviews are mixed. Chris thinks Wood is putting on a good Tom Boswell impersonation; Josh at Nationals Review thinks Wood is better on radio; and Nationals Inquirer is just shrugging his shoulders.

The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission is looking for some new style when it comes to the Nats new home, and District of Baseball (soon to be added to the Blogroll) doesn’t think that’s a bad idea. Thanks to the Nats Blog for the link.

And over at Capitol Dugout, Rich Tandler continues his series introducing the team’s 2005 lineup. Today’s focus: Vinny Castilla.

There are reports, once again, that Bill Collins head of the failed effort to bring the Expos to Virginia, is making a bid on the team. And I can’t help but notice that a lot of Nats bloggers have grown fond of using the term (first coined by Ryan at Distinguished Senators), “Loudoun Cabal” to refer to Collins and his fellow investors.

Here’s something I think you guys should remember — long before there was any formal announcement that baseball was coming back to this area, the one name who has been connected to the effort since the late 1980s was Bill Collins.

Say what you will about the merits of the plan for a Loudoun ballpark (I thought it was a disaster too), or whether or not Collins would be the best owner for the team now (I think he’s a longshot), but the fact of the matter remains that for many years he was the one public figure who kept working to keep the idea alive that baseball belonged back in Washington.

He deserves better.

 
January 28th, 2005

Caveat Emptor

Saw something odd in this morning’s edition of the Washington Post Express on my way into work today. On page 5, you’ll find an ad for Citizens for Washington Baseball:

We are ordinary citizens, your neighbors, seeking to bid on the “Nationals.”

You could become an owner too.

Do you believe that the ownership of Washington’s baseball team should be broad, diverse and fan-based? We do.

We are Citizens for Washington Baseball, LLC

A trip to the Web site doesn’t reveal much (there isn’t a stitch of contact information, other than an email address). There is a Web form where you can give this mysterious group your name and address so they can get in contact with you to solicit some money by January 31.

The only identifying information I could find was the name of the Web designer, Robert A. Kohute (just hit VIEW SOURCE in your browser) — and information on him is pretty sketchy too.

A trip to the WhoIs doesn’t do much good either, as the identity of the registrar is private. And finally, a Google search on them turns up nothing.

What to think? Well, are you in the habit of giving out personal information to anyone who doesn’t display some level of transparency in their operations? I guess you have your answer.

 
January 27th, 2005

New Feature: The Mark Sterne Award

Named in honor of the WTEM-AM radio personality who in the course of detailing the starting lineup of the Washington Nationals during a public rally in support of D.C. Baseball, forgot to include 1B/CF Brad Wilkerson in his rundown.

And don’t forget, as Tony Kornheiser says, “We kid because we love.”

And the inagurual award goes to: Tom Boswell of the Washington Post, who, while detailing the 2005 Nationals lineup in his column this morning . . . Aw heck, I’ll let Nationals Inquirer handle the honors:

Yo, Tom! You are the lead baseball columnist for the Washington Post! Your city is now a big-league city! This is your moment! This is what you’ve pined for! Your city, our city, the whole city, the whole nation . . . we’re looking to you!

SHOULDN’T YOU KNOW THAT JUAN RIVERA WAS TRADED TO THE ANGELS????!!!!!!

Congratulations to Tom on this singular achievement! Welcome to the D.C. Baseball Blogosphere, and don’t forget, we’re always watching!

 
December 22nd, 2004

Blogroll Update

Now that the Washington Nationals are a permanent part of the D.C. sports scene, I thought it was time to add a special section to the blogroll. So please welcome Distinguished Senators, Ball Wonk, Capitol Punishment, The Nats Blog, Nationals Pastime and D.C. Baseball.

In addition, I’m dropping William F. Yurasko’s William World News into the blogroll too. Each one of these folks did great work on the Nationals story, and they’re all worth your time If anyone feels left out, let me know, as I generally stuck to blogs that had been updated frequently during the City Council debate.

UPDATE: Finally got a chance to clean out the reciprocal link list. With this update, I’m probably still about a year behind. As always, if you’ve sent me a request for a link, don’t be offended if I haven’t responded as of yet. Email traffic is rather heavy, and I often can’t answer everyone in a timely fashion.

UR Blog
William World News
The Econoclast
Vodkafish
Houston’s Clear Thinkers
Linux And Things
Thistle And Maple Leaf
Professor Chaos
Kumar’s Blizznog
Matt Law
Mistakes, Errors And Outright Failures
Andrew Raff
Scary NY
CodeBlueBlog
Beaneball
Sports And Bremertonians
Chris Lynch
Mr. Irrelevant
Balls, Sticks & Stuff
CoachSpeak
Bush League
Can’t Stop The Bleeding
Rhubarb
Sports Prof
Sports Blah
James Mirtle
Red Line Sports
Breakaway Beach
Jes Golbez
Ranger Pundit
Boltsmag
Tasca’s Take
soveryobsessed
Rooftop Report
Give Me The Rock

 
December 21st, 2004

D.C. Baseball Winners And Losers

Winners

1) Major League Baseball — I’m sure when it comes to the other 29 owners in MLB, it seems like decades since they engineered the Jeff Loria/John Henry/Expos/Marlins/Red Sox swap. Now that they’ve got a a city and a stadium, they can start thinking about unloading the team at a nice multiple from the $120 million purchase price.

2) Mr. “X” — The moniker for whoever manages to purchase the team from MLB. Free stadium + Baseball starved populace = Money Machine. Look for the original owners of the new-style Nats to unload the team not long after they move into their new stadium in 2008.

3) City Council Chairman Linda Cropp — Though she might think otherwise, die-hard Washington baseball fans will never really forgive her for her role in the stadium deal. But in her calculus, those folks never really mattered much anyway. And unlike former Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly, she stood up to a “billionaire bully,” and won — something she’ll say the current Mayor was unwilling to do. Has to be considered the number one challenger for Mayor in the next city-wide election

4) Ward 4 City Councilman Adrian Fenty — Shoved out of the way by Cropp’s deft political manuvering, he may have to wait out an election cycle or two before he gets an honest shot at City Hall. But a comparitive youngster, Fenty can afford to wait, and if anything goes wrong with the execution of the stadium plan that redounds negatively on the city budget, he’ll claim he was right all along.

Losers

1) Mayor Anthony Williams — A well-meaning, intelligent and even erudite man who simply lacked the retail political skills to get the stadium deal that he wanted. Instead of bringing Cropp into the deal early, and perhaps sharing some of the credit on the front end, he wound up getting punk’d at the 11th hour. Oops!

Now he just looks weak, and in the eyes of the folks who go to the polls on Election Day, he was ready to give away the store to MLB. Perhaps mortally wounded politically, and it’s a shame too, as he’s compiled a solid record when it comes to getting the District government to work in the post-control board world.

2) Ward 2 City Councilman Jack Evans — One month ago, he was a local version of Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, deftly guiding the stadium financing bill through his finance committee. And at every public event concerning baseball, was always at the right hand of Mayor Williams. Well, that sure as heck wasn’t Evans sitting beside the Mayor last night at the District building, was it? Won’t suffer any lingering pain at the polls, but he’s not shining nearly as brightly today as he probably thought not very long ago.

Incomplete

1) Baltimore Orioles Owner Peter Angelos — He’s been very quiet lately, hasn’t he? We still don’t have any details on his reported compensation package, or exactly who is going to be paying for it. As for that regional cable sports network, we’re waiting on that too.

2) Washington, D.C. Taxpayers — The only question here is the limits of the damage. Will the pain remain the sole province of the small business owners for whom the gross receipts tax is more than a petty nusiance? Or will cost overruns drive the price of the stadium so high, that the current funding mechanism won’t be able to cover the debt service on the bonds, forcing the city to dip into general revenue to fund the difference? Stay tuned . . .

 
December 21st, 2004

Williams, Cropp, Reach Deal On D.C. Stadium Financing

At least that’s the word from the Washington Post at this late hour:

Details are still emerging about the new agreement between Cropp and Williams, but the full 13-member council will be asked to vote on an amended plan today.

After a day of negotiations among the two politicians and baseball officials, Cropp left the John A. Wilson Building at about 7:45 p.m., as Williams and his aides were still working on terms of the proposed agreement on the sixth floor. She returned to the building around 10 p.m.

“There’s movement but we’ll see,” said Cropp as she left.

Keep in mind that this story was filed before Midnight, and could very well change drastically before morning (and I can’t imagine it won’t in some way). As for me, I spent a good chunk of Monday evening sitting in an auditorium at AFL-CIO HQ just a block from the White House with a few hundred expectant Nationals fans for what had been billed as a town hall meeting with Mayor Williams to support baseball.

But what it turned into was an episode of the waiting game, as co-hosts Charlie Brotman and WTEM Radio’s Mark Sterne stalled for time hoping the Mayor and Council Chairman Cropp would stride up the center aisle with a signed agreement in hand to build a ballpark.

On more than a few occasions, both Brotman and Sterne teased the crowd with hints that a positive announcement was imminent, filling the time with jokes and testimonials from local baseball supporters including former Senators Fred Valentine and Chuck Hinton.

One of the more entertaining moments of the evening came early on, as a couple of folks less than friendly to the stadium bill put some heated questions to Sterne and Brotman. To their credit they stuck to the talking points, and it wasn’t long before a number of stadium partisans stood up and made themselves heard.

After a little more than 90 minutes, I decided to take off and gamble that the Mayor and Cropp weren’t going to show for the big moment in front of the cameras. It looks like I made the right call. As I left, a line of Metropolitan Police Cars stood at the ready in front of the building. According to a cop I spoke with briefly on my way back to the Metro, they’s been ordered to stand by for the Mayor and a motorcade that never came.

Whatever happens, it looks like it migth be all over by tomorrow morning. Stick close for updates.

UPDATE: Here are some more details from an AP story:

Williams spokesman Chris Bender said the mayor assured Cropp that private funds could be secured.

“I think she’s gotten what she wanted,” Bender said. “Now she has a level of assurance that there’s viable private financing. It’s not just this concept.”

The discussion included ways to limit penalties the city would face if the stadium is not completed on time, staffers said. Those changes were negotiated in a telephone call with baseball officials.

“They want to get it done as much as we do,” Bender said. “So I think they’ll hear us out.”

In return for their agreement on private financing, the mayor wants Cropp to remove language from last week’s bill that would have the ballpark financing plan become void if private financing isn’t secured.

This isn’t exactly sounding terribly definite all of a sudden. As always, stay tuned.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Nationals Pastime has just posted some factoids from the press conference that Williams and Cropp held — a press conference that it seems might not have been held at the AFL-CIO as it was originally planned:

Until a real article appears, here is what I have heard on the radio so far:

  • The ability to cover half the construction costs with private financing.
  • Liability evenly divided between MLB and the city if there are overuns.

Looks like everything ouught to be clear by morning. More then, if warranted.

LAST UPDATE BEFORE BED: Just watched the report on WJLA-TV minutes after the end of Monday Night Football. Not much new, other than an unconfirmed report that an unnamed Fortune 500 company has stepped forward with $100 million to help finance the stadium. That, and other “cost saving measures,” helped seal the deal. And, as I suspected, the press conference was held at the City Council chambers, not the AFL-CIO, which was filled with a crowd of folks not exactly thrilled with Cropp (my speculation).

Now, bed. More in the morning. But if you still want more, here’s one last AP dispatch.

UPDATE: Some other moments from last night’s aborted Town Meeting that shouldn’t just go down the memory hole:

WTEM’s Sterne forgetting that 1B/OF Brad Wilkerson was an everyday player, and then getting berated by one fan for not knowing that Zach Day probably belongs in the starting rotation. Sabermetricians take note.

Other eager fans sharing some excrutiating marketing and advertising ideas. I won’t go into any details, but lets just say I hope the team hires some out of town help.

An impassioned speech from Hank Thomas, grandson of Senators great and Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, urging whoever builds the stadium to include a statue of his grandfather throwing a pitch to Negro League great Josh Gibson.

An agitated Aviva Kempner, director of the excellent, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, implying that bringing baseball back to Washington was a fulfillment of the legacy of Robert F. Kennedy (Huh?), and that we shouldn’t let, “the curse of the Bambino” be replaced by the “curse of the Council.”

When I asked one fan decked out in a Senators hat and a Phillies stadium jacket if I could take his picture for Off Wing, he replied that he would only agree if I would, “compensate him for the use of his image.” I declined. He seemed proud of himself.

One clarification: It seems clear now that the “unnamed Fortune 500 company,” that WJLA reported last night was willing to come forward with $100 million to help privately finance the stadium was actually referring to the parking deal that had previously been reported.

UPDATE: It’s official, as the amended stadium financing bill passed the City Council by a 7-6 vote. Here’s the meat of the concessions that Cropp got out of Major League Baseball:

Under the final deal, the city will continue to search for private money to cover at least 50 percent of the cost of the ballpark. The District and Major League Baseball will share the cost of insurance against cost overruns. And the city will be liable for $5.3 million for one season of compensatory damages — compared to $19 million or more in the original deal — if the stadium does not open by March 2008.

And here’s the roll call:

Voting in favor of the stadium financing were Cropp, Harold Brazil (D-At Large), Evans, Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6), Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7) and Sandy Allen (D-Ward 8).

Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), David A. Catania (I-At Large), Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3), Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) and Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) voted against it.

So after 33 years of waiting, Washington, D.C. once again is a Major League City, or so some might say. As far as I’m concerned, it’s always been Major League, even in that moment that the Senators left for Texas forever.

But will it be worth the cost? Last night, at the town hall meeting that I attended, the grandson of Walter Johnson said that while he was no expert on the economics of the plan, that a new team and ballpark would provide, “intangibles” that can’t be seen on a “ledger sheet.” And I’m sure for him, and many hundreds of thousands of others, that’s certainly the case.

But when it comes to responsible municipal government, the ledger sheet is one of those critical pieces of data — not unlike OPS and on-base percentage — that give us an idea of how our public servants are performing.

In the end, I hope that I’m wrong about the effect of the stadium on the city and the local economy. I hope the stadium comes in on time and under budget. I hope the gross receipts tax has been set at such a level that it’s high enough to generate enough revenue to fund the stadium, but also low enough that small and medium sized businesses are driven from the city.

We’re probably not going to know the answer to those questions for a number of years. So play ball . . .

By the way, has anyone heard from Peter Angelos lately?

 
December 20th, 2004

Stadium Added To D.C. City Council Agenda

D.C. City Council Chairman Linda Cropp announced that the stadium financing bill will be placed on the agenda of the Council’s last meeting of the year, scheduled for tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.

The Post report also says Cropp met with Mark Tuohey, chairman of the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission, and that Tuohey will have some new details to discuss with Cropp later in the day.

Looks like this is going down to the wire. Stay tuned.